The makers of Burberry button-down shirts call their plaids "iconic," and the distinctive nature of that pattern may have helped convict Jaylin Wiggins Tuesday.
An Erie County Court jury determined that Wiggins was the person wearing white pants and a beige patterned shirt who walked up to Laron Watkins on a sidewalk next to Sperry Park and fatally shot the 21-year-old in the neck in 2016.
Jurors convicted Wiggins, 19, of Buffalo, of second-degree murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon.
Jurors deliberated for two days and watched replays of a video shot from a school security camera in the early morning hours of Aug. 4, 2016.
The jury also found Wiggins guilty of assault in the shooting of Brandon Dobbs a few blocks away on Maple Street. Dobbs was shot about an hour before Watkins. Dobbs was shot 10 times in the legs and arm. He reluctantly testified last week that he didn't get a good look at the person who shot him, but that the person was wearing a light-colored, button-down shirt.
Dobbs, who spent weeks in the hospital and had to have his knee rebuilt, testified that he did not know Wiggins.
A cousin who was with Dobbs in the moments before he was shot, and who also saw a person get out of an SUV and walk in their direction, testified that, while he didn't recognize the shooter as someone he knew, he could tell he was wearing a beige shirt with other colors in it. The cousin also picked Wiggins' image out of a photo array and identified him as the gunman, although he testified he may have seen Wiggins' picture online before that.
Long-sleeved, button-down Burberry plaid shirts are not common casual wear in Buffalo in August, but on the morning before Dobbs and Watkins were shot, Wiggins had been in court on another charge.
Wiggins wore a beige-plaid, long-sleeved Burberry shirt to court, according to video from the courtroom that day.
Forensics evidence indicated the bullets that hit Dobbs came from the same weapon used to kill Watkins. That gun was found in a trash bin months after the shootings but nowhere near the crime scenes.
Jurors had to weigh the evidence of a witness who refused to testify, a young man who, according to police and prosecutors, previously gave a statement identifying Wiggins as the person who shot Watkins.
The witness was held in contempt and brought to court more than once in handcuffs, but each time he was put on the witness stand he would answer "I refuse" to every question, including whether he was with Watkins when he was shot, whether he saw who shot him and whether he ever gave that information to investigators.
An earlier trial in the case ended in a mistrial because of a technicality involving identification evidence. Defense attorney Leigh Anderson had sought a mistrial again on Monday after the lone African-American on the jury raised concerns about possible bigotry among her fellow jurors.
While discussing the case's identification problems, another female juror had remarked that "black people all look alike in the dark," the African-American juror said. She also voiced concerns about a possible effort to intimidate her by a man seated opposite the jury in the courtroom gallery, a man she said kept staring at her during the proceedings.
Judge Michael Pietruszka denied the motion for mistrial. Jurors heard read-backs of testimony from witnesses on the scene and they watched surveillance video from Sperry Park eight times before returning three guilty verdicts. They also found Wiggins not guilty of attempted murder in the shooting of Brandon Dobbs and not guilty of attempted murder in the shooting of Kenneth Sweat, who also was hit by five times by gunfire at Sperry Park as he fled with others at the scene.
Sweat also had testified that he didn't see who shot him. Sentencing is scheduled for June 5.