A Suffolk County Court jury took two hours Friday to convict a Binghamton man who represented himself at his own murder trial.
Christopher James, 25, will continue to serve as his own attorney when Judge Timothy Mazzei sentences him for second-degree murder Nov. 27. He faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison for stabbing Kevin Pierson, 38, to death in Pierson's Central Islip town house.
James did not react when he heard the verdict in the Riverhead courtroom. It was a moment unusual for its normality after a trial in which he made sexual gestures to women during jury selection, asked witnesses if they were gay, barely cross-examined most witnesses, gave a four-word closing argument ("Evil lives. I'm done.") and mimed smoking a pencil while laughing to himself when Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Creighton gave her closing argument.
An earlier trial, with a defense attorney, ended in a mistrial last year. James never explained why he did not want to use a lawyer this time. Defense attorney Christopher Gioe of Hauppauge was available throughout the trial as James' legal adviser, but James barely talked to him.
"Why didn't he have an attorney this time? It's not logical," one juror asked Gioe after the verdict. "He was almost like a child, being a little brat."
Gioe smiled and shrugged.
"I just thought it didn't help him any way," another juror said.
Creighton declined to comment.
"The only thing I wish is that he would have utilized my services throughout the trial," Gioe said. There were many opportunities James missed to challenge the evidence against him, he said.
In Creighton's closing argument, she said cellphone records, James' DNA at the crime scene and clothing found there that fit him but not the victim all pointed to James being the killer. She suggested that Pierson was looking for a sexual encounter that day when he texted James, "You're mad cool, and I'm feeling that."
Pierson was leaving his cousin's home in Brooklyn and picked up James elsewhere in the borough, where he lived then, and brought him home, Creighton said.
She said the evidence suggests that on Feb. 10, 2010, James stabbed Pierson in the ground-floor foyer of his home, and that a mortally wounded Pierson, bleeding profusely from a cut carotid artery, stumbled upstairs to his bedroom and shut the door. Creighton said James likely kicked the door in and finished Pierson off, before leaving a bloody footprint behind in the bathroom when he cleaned himself up.
When police eventually found him six years later in Binghamton, Creighton said he incriminated himself when he asked a detective, "How are you going to charge me with murder when the weapon was never found?"
"How does he know that?" Creighton asked. "The only people who knew that [no weapon was found] were the Suffolk County Police Department and the defendant."