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Killer's conviction upheld, but term reduced

An appeals court lopped 15 years off the sentence of a convicted killer Friday.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Darnell D. Carter, of Niagara Falls, in the 2009 slaying of Robert R. Biggs, but the court ruled that Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas imposed an illegal sentence.

Farkas gave Carter 25 years to life in prison on each of two counts of second-degree murder, and she made those run concurrently. But then she tacked on 15 years for second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

The Rochester-based appeals court ruled 4-0 that Farkas couldn't do that. The gun possession charge was part of the same crime, and Carter's only purpose in having the gun was to rob Biggs, so the sentences had to be concurrent, the appellate panel said.

The impact of the ruling is that Carter, now 26, will be eligible for parole 15 years sooner than his current date of 2047.

Biggs, 39, of Maple Avenue, Niagara Falls, was shot March 20, 2009, in the course of a robbery attempt that occurred on Pierce Avenue in that city, between the Hometown Market and an apartment building Biggs owned.

Biggs, shot once in the upper arm, ran from the scene. But the bullet had struck a major artery, and he collapsed and bled to death about two blocks away, in a backyard on Whitney Avenue.

On March 31, 2010, a jury found Carter guilty of murder, robbery, weapons possession and criminal use of a firearm.

Carter, testifying in his own defense, accused another man of shooting Biggs, but surveillance video from the market showed that man heading in the other direction as Carter walked toward the parking lot where Biggs was. The actual shooting was not caught on tape.

In another ruling Friday, the Appellate Division upheld the conviction of Adam J. Hamilton for shooting his girlfriend and two Niagara Falls policemen in a shootout Feb. 7, 2009, on South Avenue.

Hamilton, now 37, was convicted Feb. 16, 2010, of three counts of attempted murder and sentenced by Farkas to 75 years to life in prison. The appeals court upheld that sentence, finding it was "not unduly harsh or severe."

Hamilton will not be eligible for parole until he is 106 years old. According to the state prison website, his earliest possible parole date is in 2080.