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Alphonso Davis

Other Albany County, New York exonerations
At about 10:30 p.m. on June 3, 2001, 17-year-old Jovan Morton was sitting on the steps of a flower shop at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Third Avenue in Albany, New York, when 17-year-old Shakira Chambers and 18-year-old Stephanie VanDeBogart passed by. Morton warned them that there had been a shooting “uptown” earlier in the day and there was a danger of a retaliation in this, the “downtown” neighborhood. Chambers ignored the warning and joined Morton on the steps. VanDeBogart kept walking.

Moments later, two men with hoodies cinched tightly around their faces walked up and opened fire with handguns. Chambers was killed and Morton was wounded.

Police found six .22-caliber shell casings, five nine-millimeter shell casings and two spent bullets. Three bullets were later removed from Chambers during her autopsy.

Within days, Albany police began to receive tips from informants that Morton was the intended target, and that the shooting was in retaliation for the murder earlier that day of Broderick Greene, a member of an uptown gang. One informant said the shooters were 21-year-old Sherrod “Sonny Bono” Craft and a youth named “Mickey.” The informant said that Craft was a good friend of Greene.

One witness who lived on Elizabeth Street told police that she saw the two hooded men come around the corner of Cuyler Street, just south of Third Avenue. She said they walked north on Elizabeth Street toward Third Avenue. Another witness said that she saw the flashes of gunfire, and the two men then ran south on Elizabeth Street and turned onto Cuyler Street where they went out of sight.

On June 7, 2001, a witness told police that he heard the gunshots and then saw two men running on Cuyler Street. Both of them got into a car and sped away. The witness said that the person in the passenger seat was someone he knew as “Up Top.” The witness said that the day after the shooting, “Up Top” confronted him at a mall and threatened him to keep quiet.

Police knew “Up Top” was the nickname of 18-year-old Anthony Malloy. On June 19, 2001, Malloy was in the police station on an unrelated case. Detective Kenneth Wilcox, who was the lead investigator on the shooting case of Chambers and Morton, interviewed Malloy. Wilcox later reported that Malloy first denied any knowledge of the crime. But subsequently, Malloy said that he was at the memorial for Greene when a car containing Craft and a man known as “John-John” drove up. According to Wilcox, Malloy said that Craft told him that he and 22-year-old Alphonso Davis “did the shooting on Elizabeth Street.”

Malloy claimed that Craft had carved an admission about the shooting on a park bench. Police later looked at the park bench, but found no carving. Detectives did not try to interview Davis or to find “John-John.”

On July 23, 2001, police arrested Craft and took him to the police station. During an interrogation, Craft repeatedly denied involvement. He later said that Detective Wilcox was yelling at him and calling him a “punk.” Eventually, according to Wilcox, Craft said, “I didn’t mean to shoot the girl.” Craft then was charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder and criminal possession of a firearm.

On July 26, 2001, Yasmine Jackson, who had formerly lived with Craft in a house at 6 Theater Row in Albany, was interviewed by police. She said that when she learned Greene had been shot, she went to the hospital and then to Greene’s mother’s house. She said that Craft, Malloy and Ameek Nixson were there. Nixson, according to Jackson, was nicknamed “Mickey.”

On November 1, 2001, police arrested 19-year-old Samuel Frazier on a drug charge. Frazier’s cousin, Shanasia, was the mother of Davis’s son. Frazier was brought to Detective Wilcox, who interrogated him and emerged with a statement from Frazier saying that Davis and Craft had each confessed to him in two separate conversations.

In the statement, Frazier said that on the morning after the shooting, he ran into Davis. Frazier said Davis was “real hyped and his eyes were open real wide and he just telling me, ‘Yo, I just did the damn thing last night.’”

Frazier also claimed that several days later, he was visiting a friend when Craft walked into the house, struck up a conversation, and spontaneously admitted he was involved in the shooting.

Police did not pursue Malloy as a suspect even though a witness had identified him as being in the passenger seat of the car that fled from the scene.

Despite the statement from Frazier, police did not attempt to interview Davis until nine months later, on August 21, 2002.

Detective Wilcox said that he and other officers located Davis at home and that he voluntarily came to the police station, arriving around noon. Davis denied involvement in the crime. Wilcox said he began showing Davis police reports where his name was mentioned. According to Wilcox, Davis implicated himself after seeing the statements. Wilcox claimed that Davis denied involvement for only about 10 minutes before implicating himself. Wilcox emerged from the interrogation room two hours later with a two-page statement.

In the statement, Davis said that after Greene was shot, Craft rode up to Davis on a bicycle and said that he was “going downtown to shoot a couple of [obscenity) and he wanted to know if I was down” to take part. According to the statement, Craft and Davis rode their bikes to Craft’s house. “I believe the street was called Theater Row.”

According to the statement, Craft gave Davis a gun and a hooded sweatshirt. Craft was the first person to start shooting, the statement said. Davis was charged with the murder of Chambers and attempted murder of Morton.

On March 31, 2003, Davis went to trial in Albany County Supreme Court. There was no forensic or physical evidence connecting him to the crime. A police firearms examiner testified that three of the bullets removed from Chambers were fired by a nine-millimeter pistol.

Frazier’s testimony was notable for his inability to recount the conversation during which Davis had allegedly confessed. Frazier said he was on parole for a drug conviction. He said he had been sentenced to three to six years in prison, but had been released.

Asked by the prosecutor what Davis said, Frazier replied, “Like what did he say? He said that–that did I hear about what happened last night, or whatever, and I–let me see, what else? That did I hear about the girl that got killed and the kid who got shot? And I’m like, yeah. He, like, yeah. Well, we did that…and I said --- that was basically the whole conversation.”

The prosecutor asked, “What exactly did he tell you?”

“Just what I told you,” Frazier said. “That was–that’s basically–that’s everything he said, summed up into one.”

Shown his written statement, Frazier still could not, even after seeing it, verbally recount any additional detail about the conversation. After watching the prosecutor attempt several more times to push Frazier to give specifics, the trial judge, Thomas Breslin, called the attorneys to a sidebar and told them he was going to admit the statement itself into evidence. “I think he’s scared to say it,” the judge said. “That’s the only conclusion I can come to.”

Davis’s defense attorney, Fred Santiago, objected, saying there was no evidence that Davis was doing anything to scare Frazier.

“Fine,” Judge Breslin said. “Take out the word ‘scared.’ All I know is, he’s been shown the document four times. It’s six lines. He…said that’s exactly what I said, but won’t say the words that are contained in it after reading it.”

When Santiago persisted in his objection, the judge relented. “Fine. Keep going,” the judge said. “Do it as long as he wants. Objection sustained.”

The prosecutor then had Frazier read the statement aloud.

During cross-examination, Frazier said that although he had been arrested on a drug offense, once he signed the statement for Detective Wilcox, he was released. He claimed that he had not received any consideration for his statement and that the three-to-six-year sentence was for the arrest that prompted him to speak to Detective Wilcox. Santiago noted that the prison term was imposed for an arrest in January 2002, not for the November 1, 2001 arrest.

Detective Wilcox was allowed to testify, over defense objection, that Malloy had implicated Craft and Davis in the crime. While testifying about how he came to obtain the statement from Frazier, Wilcox said, “Like I said, when we started our oral interview–we went over the oral interview a number of times about what he knew. He was asked to tell us exactly what he knew about the incident that happened. We went through the entire incident numerous times. We got done–when we got to a point where he was sticking to his story that he was telling us, we informed him that …we were going to start up a statement.”

Wilcox said it took two more hours to reduce the two-page statement to writing.

Asked during cross-examination whether Ameek Nixson, known as “Mickey,” had ever been a suspect, Wilcox said that after an interview, he ruled Nixson out. “[H]e was eliminated when we interviewed him. He indicated that he wasn’t a part of it, he didn’t have anything to do with it, and our investigation continued.”

Wilcox said a report of the interview was in the case file. The defense objected, noting that the only report turned over prior to trial regarding Nixson said that officers had tried to locate Nixson, but were unable to find him. Judge Breslin suspended the trial and told the prosecutor to find the report.

When testimony resumed, Wilcox admitted there was no report of a meeting with Nixson. But he insisted that Nixson was arrested in August. “He was arrested for, like, a loitering charge.”

Wilcox admitted that when police arrested Craft, Malloy was present, but fled. Police did not pursue him because they believed he was carrying a gun, Wilcox said.

During the closing argument, the prosecutor called Davis a “piece of dirt” who thought “he’s a big man on the street for shooting her…I don’t think it makes much difference to them to kill another girl.”

On April 3, 2003, the jury convicted Davis of second-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon.

At sentencing, Davis said he was “sorry for what happened,” but insisted he was innocent. “I’m not guilty of the things that happened,” he said.

Judge Breslin declared, “I will not diminish the outrageousness of your behavior by sentencing you to anything less than the full maximum.” He sentenced Davis to 50 years to life in prison.

In May 2003, Craft was convicted of the same charges. He also was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.

In November 2005, the Appellate Division, Third Department, affirmed the conviction. Davis filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which was denied in 2009.

In 2006, Detective Wilcox died in a car crash. In 2007, the Albany Times Union newspaper revealed that Wilcox and another man, Aaron Dare, started a business to buy and flip real estate in 2001 that reaped them millions of dollars, but the profits were the result of fraud. Dare was convicted and sentenced to prison.

In 2016, the murder convictions of Carl Dukes, who Wilcox said had confessed, and Lavell Jones were vacated and the charges were dismissed after the real killer admitted to the crime.

In March 2023, Dukes’s attorney, Don Savatta, and attorney Joshua Kelner filed a petition seeking to vacate Davis’s convictions.

The petition noted that Malloy, who died in 2018, and Frazier had both recanted.

In 2022, Frazier signed a statement saying, “[Alphonso] Davis never admitted to any involvement in a shooting to me…I was intoxicated when I was brought into the station, which I believe would have been clear to anyone who spoke to me at the time. After speaking with a detective about the drug charge, I was brought in to speak with Detective Kenneth Wilcox, who told me that I could help myself by cooperating with him.”

“The statement claimed that [Alphonso] Davis confessed to me having had involvement in a shooting,” Frazier said. “This statement was completely false. All of the information in the statement was provided by Detective Wilcox. [Alphonso] Davis never told me that he had been involved in any shooting. I never told Detective Wilcox that [Alphonso] Davis had admitted any involvement in a shooting to me.”

“When the time came to testify at the criminal trial, I was unable to supply any details of the conversation the statement claimed I had with [Alphonso] Davis because it simply never happened,” Frazier said.

In 2013, Malloy appeared in a video created for Craft, who was fighting to overturn his convictions. In that video, Malloy said that Wilcox’s demeanor in the interrogation room was that “he had to close this case. He had to convict someone of this case and he made that very clear to me that he didn't care who went to jail for it, someone from uptown was going to jail for this case…” Malloy said that Wilcox said the police “had a few false witnesses ready to testify against me in regards to this case, so [it was] very obvious and evident that they [were] just wanting to convict someone for this case.”

The petition also included an affidavit from Ameek Nixson, who said that Wilcox and another detective said that they could help him avoid a gun possession charge if he would implicate Davis and Craft. “I told them that I could not do that because it was not true, that I had no idea who was involved in the shooting,” Nixson said.

“They did not ask me anything at all in the interview,” Nixson said. “They just told me what they wanted me to write in the statement they were looking for and threatened me that I would get more time if I did not cooperate with them. They became increasingly aggressive with me, but I continued to tell them no. Eventually, when it was clear I was not going to relent, the conversation ended.”

In addition, Arlene Braithwaite, Craft’s mother, provided an affidavit saying that they had moved away from 6 Theater Row six months before the shooting. The petition noted that Davis’s statement claimed that he went to the address on Theater Row with Craft, and that there, Craft gave him a gun and a hooded sweatshirt.

“There is a clear reason why the Davis statement contains inaccurate information that Wilcox believed to be true at the time: it is because Wilcox, not Davis, provided the information,” the petition said.

Davis, the petition said, “is actually innocent. The newly discovered evidence shows that the case against him was fabricated by Kenneth Wilcox, a detective whom history has since discredited.”

On March 20, 2024, Judge William Little vacated the convictions. Davis pled guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm. The remaining charges were dismissed. Davis was released nearly 21 years after his conviction.

Afterward, Kelner told the Times Union, “This is another chapter in the saga of Kenneth Wilcox with the Albany Police Department, where time and again there were bad convictions produced by faulty confessions and fraudulently procured evidence.” He added, “Alphonso Davis’s case is just another example of that—he’s gratified to be out, but nothing can make up for the fact that he lost two decades of his life to imprisonment for a crime he didn’t commit.”

Craft remained in prison serving his 50 years to life term.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/19/2024
Last Updated: 4/19/2024
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Attempted Murder, Weapon Possession or Sale
Reported Crime Date:2001
Sentence:50 years
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No