Sep. 30-LOCKPORT - A Niagara County Court jury that had been deadlocked in its deliberations Wednesday night, took just 90 minutes Thursday morning to find a Falls man not guilty of second-degree murder.
After declaring that they were "unable to come to a unanimous decision" in the case on Wednesday, the jury of nine women and five men, made short work of the murder indictment against Xavaier M. Crayton. He had been accused of the stabbing death of Xavier Travis, in what prosecutors had characterized as "revenge for a spitting incident."
In total, the panel deliberated just 5 1/2 hours, over two days, to reach its verdict.
Crayton, who has been in custody since his arrest in April 2021, was released immediately after the jury verdict. His defense attorney, TheArthur Duncan, described his client and his family as "very happy."
Before sending the jury home for the night on Wednesday, Niagara County Court Judge Caroline Wojtaszek had told the jurors she was sure no other jury would be more qualified to decided the case. Duncan, in his opening statement in the case, had challenged the jurors to make prosecutors prove their case.
"Hold the people to their burden. Hold them to their obligation. They will not be able to prove Xavier Crayton is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Duncan said.
On Thursday, the defense attorney said his client had been vindicated.
"I believe our position was successful. I believe my client was innocent," Duncan said.
Prosecutors had admitted that the case lacked "traditional" physical evidence.
"There is no weapon, no DNA, no cameras. But the only person who was close enough to have (stabbed Travis), was Xavaier Crayton," Assistant District Attorney David DeChellis had argued.
With a case that relied on eyewitness testimony, the jury asked for two read-backs of of that testimony during their deliberations. Both were from witnesses who described a confrontation between Crayton, 21, and Travis, 19, that took place around 10 p.m. by the intersection of 16th Street and Weston Avenue near Gluck Park on April 8, 2021.
"I don't believe their witnesses were credible," Duncan said. "My condolences to the family, but I think they just wanted someone to pay for the death of their loved one. I don't believe my client did the crime."
Niagara County District Attorney Brian Seaman declined to comment on the outcome of the case.
Crayton's trial began Monday morning, with final testimony and closing arguments wrapping up on Wednesday. Wednesday also saw a change in the jury as one juror was excused for a medical issue and was replaced by one of the two jury alternates who had heard the case.
While initial reports the night of Travis' murder linked his death to a fight over money during a dice game, prosecutors told the jury that he was killed in apparent retaliation for a "spitting incident."
DeChellis argued to the jury that Travis died because of "the choices that this defendant (Crayton) made."
"He chose violence over forgiveness," DeChellis said said. "Payback over peace because a woman spit in his face."
The assistant DA said Travis' older sister, Alexsandra "Nyda" Travis, had spit in Crayton's face earlier in the day on April 8, 2021, as she broke up a fight between her 16-year-old son and Crayton and some of his friends. DeChellis said the "senseless" murder occurred when Crayton returned to the scene of the earlier confrontation and demanded "a fight."
The prosecutor said Crayton even brought his sisters along to fight Travis' sister. But then Travis showed up at the scene.
Witnesses testified that they saw Crayton and Travis "square-off" in the street and then saw Travis crumple to the ground. Medical testimony showed that Travis died from a stab wound to his left side that punctured his heart.
Crayton was taken into custody by members of the U.S. Marshals Violent Felony Fugitive Task Force at a home in Buffalo, almost two weeks after Travis was killed. Investigators said he had emerged early on in the investigation as the prime suspect and they believed that he had fled from the Falls immediately after the slaying.