Ocean Hill

Overturning a Brooklyn man’s 2006 murder conviction could come down to his haircut

November 21, 2019 Noah Goldberg
Brooklyn Supreme Court. Eagle file photo
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A Brooklyn judge is mulling over whether or not to overturn a man’s 2006 murder conviction — and his innocence could depend on a haircut he had more than a decade ago.

Attorneys delivered closing arguments on Wednesday in the case of James Davis, who was accused and convicted of murdering Blake Harper at a Jan. 2004 party at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple. Davis’ lawyers argued that not only was Davis not present at the party when the shots were fired, but that he also had a different haircut from the described shooter. 

Eyewitnesses described the shooter as having braids, but Davis’ lawyers argued in front of Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun that their client had a “low Caesar haircut” at the time.

“It did not match the description of the shooter, who was said to have braids,” said Susan Epstein, one of Davis’ lawyers. Davis’ lawyers even put the defendant’s former hairdresser on the stand to testify about his hair length.

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Davis’ case is being handled by the Legal Aid Society. It is the first one to be worked on by the public defense organization’s new Wrongful Conviction Unit.

His team brought eight witnesses to the stand as part of the hearing on his conviction, many of whom testified that Davis drank too much at the party that night and left before the shooting happened.

Prosecutors, who maintain Davis was the shooter, argued that none of the witnesses brought by the defense actually saw him leave the party.

“The defense has failed to establish that the defendant is actually innocent of Mr. Harper’s murder,” said Ernest Chin, the prosecutor on the case. Chin argued that all the witnesses coming forward at hearing also had personal ties to Davis as friends or acquaintances.

One of the main witnesses in the case deliberately lied to the NYPD to implicate Davis, the witness’s mother claimed at the hearing in June. Her daughter, Tina “Titi” Black Jr., admitted years later that she lied to cops because she was upset at Davis at the time.

“She said she lied,” Tina Black Sr. testified in Brooklyn Supreme Court. “I said, ‘Why would you do something like that?’ And she said he pissed her off.”

Chin asked in June why Black Sr. did not come forward earlier with the info that her daughter lied as Davis sat in jail. Black admitted she didn’t tell anyone because she didn’t think anything could be done.

The closing arguments were delivered just one day after another Brooklyn man had his murder conviction tossed by Judge Dena Douglas in the same courthouse.

Judge Chun will issue a ruling on the case on Jan. 24, 2020.

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