Jurors in the murder trial of a Buffalo man accused of fatally shooting 15-year-old Dominique Maye started deliberations Wednesday afternoon, with graphic images of her death and lessons in street gang life.
The prosecutor, in closing arguments, said the girl died in front of her aunt, struggling for breath, seconds after a bullet pierced her heart.
The defense attorney claimed her client was an expendable member of the Gangster Disciples and the victim of testimony by fellow gang members that was filled with lies.
Kevin J. Davis II, a 25-year-old Navy veteran and member of the Gangster Disciples, is charged with second-degree murder in the Sept. 30, 2010 slaying of the teen as she sat at a computer in the front room of her aunt's Bailey-Kensington residence on Hewitt Avenue.
Davis allegedly sprayed 19 rounds from an AK-47 military-style rifle into the house, where he had gone to seek revenge against the girl's brother, Cardricus Maye, a fellow member of the violent street gang, because he was believed to be a snitch.
The brother, however, had left the house moments earlier. Instead, his sister, a student popular with the teachers at Riverside Institute of Technology, was killed.
Deliberations began Wednesday afternoon and will continue today, after a nearly three-week trial in Erie County Court that included 15 prosecution witnesses and none from the defense.
Before receiving instructions from Judge Michael F. Pietruszka, jurors heard closing arguments from lawyers in the case.
"Davis delivered a message of terror, disgusting street violence," prosecutor Gary W. Hackbush said. "The final image Dominique's aunt has is of her with a bullet through her heart and desperately gasping for air."
Davis, he said, got out of a car driven by his friend, Janae Parker, held the gun to his shoulder, "military style," and began shooting.
Defense attorney Emily P. Trott pleaded with jurors to consider who had testified against Davis: fellow Gangster Disciples who conspired to make her client the scapegoat.
The prosecution, she said, "made a deal with the devil" by allowing Parker, Samuel Lias and Michael Sweat to testify in exchange for no charges being brought against them in the fatal shooting.
"The primary evidence is based upon the words of a female gangster who has no problem driving someone to a house with an AK-47 rifle. Do you really think an oath on a Bible means anything to her?" Trott said of Parker.
Picking up the murder weapon and holding it in front of jurors, Trott said, "This gun was loaded into her car by someone. This gun takes up half the back seat. Parker said, 'I didn't know it was there.' Do you honestly believe that girl?"
The defense lawyer pointed out that, based on a Hewitt Avenue neighbor's statement, the headlights on Parker's car had been turned off when the shooter fired the rifle, a fact that Parker did not volunteer during her testimony.
After the shooting, Parker returned to 81 Minnesota Ave., the home of Davis' girlfriend, where gang members were congregating and turned the gun over to them, Trott said.
"Nae-Nae [Parker] is smart enough not to get charged. Freedom is the most important thing," Trott said, adding that Parker did not come forward until police tracked her down after receiving a tip weeks after the shooting.
Even then, Parker initially refused to cooperate, Trott said.
Hackbush told jurors that it is a well-established fact that gang members are reluctant to become snitches, but that in a crime as reprehensible as this one, even the gang members were eventually moved out of disgust to cooperate with authorities.
Dismissing claims of a conspiracy, Hackbush said Davis had made a decision to be a member of the Gangster Disciples.
"Those were his friends. He chose them. We didn't. He raised the AK-47, standing a matter of feet from the Hewitt Avenue house and fired round after round," Hackbush said.
Four months after the killing, with his conscience bothering him, Davis requested a meeting with homicide detectives, but once with them repeatedly changed his story, according to Hackbush.
Davis, the prosecutor said, claimed to have no knowledge of the shooting, yet fellow gang member Lias would end up testifying that Davis had told him to "watch the news" the night of the shooting and, in another encounter, confessed to Lias that he had done something "really stupid" that resulted in the death of an "innocent little girl."
Davis, during his interview with homicide detectives, said he had never touched an AK-47 rifle, then later said he had touched that type of rifle once, Hackbush said.
Davis also claimed he did not participate in a "beat down" of Dominique's brother, Cardricus, then said he did participate but claimed he saved Cardricus' life by stepping in between him and Sweat, the alleged local leader of the Gangster Disciples, who was preparing to shoot Cardricus, Hackbush said.