LOCKPORT - A Niagara County Court jury made the right decision in 2012 when it found Matthew A. Davis of Niagara Falls guilty of murder for causing the death of a man he robbed and assaulted, the state's highest court said Monday, reinstating Davis' conviction in the death of Antoine M. Bradberry.
The State Court of Appeals' ruling also restored Davis' sentence of 25 years to life in prison for "felony murder," which is defined as causing a death while committing another felony. In the Davis case, he was convicted of burglary and robbery and sentenced to a flat 25 years for those crimes.
Before the Court of Appeals' ruling, Davis, now 42, was able to count on being released after serving 25 years. Now, Davis may spend the rest of his life behind bars, although there remains a chance of parole after 25 years. In the meantime, he's serving his sentence in Attica Correctional Facility.
"They correctly decided that we proved our case beyond a reasonable doubt," said Assistant District Attorney Thomas H. Brandt, who handled the appeal.
Bradberry, 41, was an obese man with a history of heart problems. Davis entered Bradberry's apartment on Rainbow Boulevard in Niagara Falls in the early hours of Aug. 22, 2011, to rob him of a stash of marijuana.
In a fight, Davis broke Bradberry's jaw and nose, and inflicted other bruises and facial lacerations. A family member found Bradberry dead at the scene two days later.
However, in March 2015 the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Davis' murder conviction should be invalidated because the prosecution didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the beating Bradberry took from Davis caused him to have a fatal heart attack.
Monday, the Court of Appeals decided in a 6 to 1 ruling that there was enough legally sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that the assault caused Bradberry's death. Erie County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Dianne Vertes testified, although she didn't perform the autopsy herself, that the stress caused by the fight and the injuries, "given Bradberry's underlying heart disease, led to his death."
There also was plenty of blood spattered around the room, and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote in the majority opinion that "the proof was sufficient to permit the jury to conclude that the victim's heart failure, induced by the extreme stress and trauma of such a violent assault, was a directly foreseeable consequence of (Davis') conduct."
Justice Jenny Rivera dissented. "It is not foreseeable that a 41-year-old who appears overweight but was sufficiently able to engage his attacker would die as a result of the struggle where the injuries from the assault were a broken jaw and nose, lacerations and bruises," she wrote. "The autopsy report states that these injuries themselves are not the type that would cause of contribute to death."
Patricia M. McGrath of Lockport, Davis' appellate attorney, could not be reached for comment.