Antone Herrod testified in his trial that he shot Christopher Pratt in self-defense, and at least some jurors found his story credible. The panel took three days to find him guilty of second-degree murder for killing Pratt on Dec. 1, 2014.
The jury’s difficulty with the decision was not reflected in the sentence Erie County Judge David Foley handed down on Monday. He decided that Herrod, 32, should spend 25 years to life in prison.
According to testimony at the trial, Herrod and Pratt did not even know one another when they met in the early hours of that winter morning on Rother Avenue. Herrod was coming by to see someone in connection with his business of selling drugs. Pratt was in the neighborhood with a woman he had only met that night, and they were looking for drugs.
However, Pratt and Herrod’s girlfriend knew one another. She believed he was the man who shot and paralyzed her mother. He believed she was the person who identified him as the shooter in another drive-by case. In fact, that night Pratt, 25, was free on bail and awaiting sentencing for another shooting over a dice game, one which left the victim blind. Pratt also had a prior felony conviction for attempted arson.
When Pratt saw Herrod’s girlfriend in the car, he made threats and went toward his vehicle while saying: “Watch this.”
Herrod, of Buffalo, testified that on the East Side, if someone says “Watch this,” you don’t stand and watch. Herrod ran to the back of his car, pulled a long-barreled gun from the trunk and fired. He and his girlfriend then fled in their car.
No one ever saw a gun in Pratt’s hands. Police officers on regular patrol found the mortally wounded Pratt just minutes later, even before anyone reported a shooting, and also did not see a gun.
With no weapon seen and no explicit threat heard beyond Pratt’s alleged statement to “Watch this,” Assistant District Attorney John Feroleto disputed Herrod’s contention that the shooting was an action of last resort.
It took the jury three days to agree, with the divided panel sending multiple message to Foley for guidance. This was Foley’s first jury trial since he became a judge in January.