Jury To Continue Deliberations In Haffa Case

Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson, in front, exits the courtroom in Mayville on Tuesday. Jury deliberations began in the attempted murder case against Justin Haffa. 
Photo by Jimmy McCarthy

Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson, in front, exits the courtroom in Mayville on Tuesday. Jury deliberations began in the attempted murder case against Justin Haffa. Photo by Jimmy McCarthy

MAYVILLE — Jurors in the Justin Haffa attempted murder case deliberated Tuesday for two-and-a-half hours, but they didn’t come to a verdict.

A request to hear several testimonies again were made by the jury just before 6 p.m. The Hon. David Foley subsequently recessed for the evening as jurors will return today to hear the playback of testimony and deliberate more.

The morning commenced with closing arguments from Public Defender Ned Barone, who told the jury the absence and lack of evidence speaks louder than anything the prosecution presented in the case. In particular, Barone told jurors that no medical evidence was admitted showing Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Deputy Sara Cunningham was choked or wounded by a knife.

“Ladies and gentlemen, that should be a problem for you,” Barone said. “I guess the government wants you to take her word for it.”

With Haffa accused of choking Cunningham, Barone stated that a DNA report conducted on Haffa’s fingernail clippings was never seen by jurors. When the defense tried to admit it into evidence for the jury to see, Barone said the prosecution objected.

“You’re entitled to the truth,” Barone said.

Barone also said the prosecution never directed the Sheriff’s Office to conduct a DNA test on the trigger to see if Haffa’s finger was indeed on it. In addition, Barone acknowledged that no testimony was provided stating he pulled the trigger when he took the gun.

District Attorney Patrick Swanson conveyed to jurors that the evidence presented demands a guilty verdict on all three counts against Haffa. Charges include first-degree attempted murder, first-degree robbery and aggravated assault on a police officer.

Swanson told jurors the testimonies from witnesses who saw what was unfolding match. In particular, Swanson told jurors that both Cunningham and Haffa’s girlfriend recounted Haffa grasping Cunningham’s throat with a knife possessed in the other hand while they were on the ground. Cunningham recalled Haffa pointing the knife to her face and neck. Swanson also noted that during interrogation of Haffa, he says he might have used the knife to take her gun.

“The knife was real. They both saw it,” Swanson said.

In addition, Haffa told Randy Boland, Sheriff’s investigator at the time, and James Quattrone, Sheriff’s lieutenant at the time, that he still might have a knife on him.

Swanson went into testimony from a motorist passing by during the time of the incident who saw Haffa holding a gun as if he was ready to fire. Swanson said Haffa thought it was loaded since two rounds were fired by Cunningham during the tussle.

In all circumstances, Swanson said the choking, holding a knife to her neck and pointing a gun in her direction are all “dangerously close to completing the act.”

Swanson also noted that Haffa could recall in speaking to Boland the drugs and alcohol he took and the sound his car made before he crashed on Route 60 in the town of Pomfret.

Swanson said he also remembered the sobriety test he failed, yet he couldn’t seem to remember the two-to-three minute encounter with Cunningham. Swanson said he tried to kill her, rob her and take her car to get away.

“Deputy Cunningham did everything she could not to shoot Haffa,” Swanson said. “The defendant continued to attack.”

The six men and six women on the jury will return to the Chautauqua County Court this morning to continue deliberations.

COMMENTS