Housh Law Offices Wins Acquittal in Batavia
UPDATE: Elation in court as Odom found innocent of all charges in Leach stabbing
BATAVIA — For the past year, Antwan Odom has had prison hanging over his head like a dark cloud.
“I felt like I’ve been walking through the dark alone,” Odom, 19, said. “It’s hard. I don’t know how I could move on with life with this hanging over my head. Sometimes I wanted to kill myself. I told my girlfriend I wanted to kill myself. It’s hard.”
That dark cloud lifted at 11:30 a.m. Friday as a Genesee County jury found Odom not guilty of the Aug. 4, 2018 stabbing of Ray Leach.
Odom had been charged with first-degree assault, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.
Jurors deliberated for five hours Thursday and nearly two hours Friday, leaving Odom and his family and friends patiently and nervously waiting outside the courtroom.
With each note from the jury came more tension as each one was not a verdict, but a request for information from the judge.
At 11:16 a.m. Friday, another note. This time a jury had reached a verdict and within minutes the court filled with Odom’s family and friends, along with city of Batavia police officers and various court personnel.
Jurors had choices: They could find Odom guilty of first-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon, or any of two lesser charges: Attempted first-degree assault or second-degree assault.
The verdict? Not guilty on every count, sparking elation in the court as Odom’s mother broke down in tears, as did other family members.
Odom put his hands over his face and wept, running to his family for hugs.
“Thank God. We want to thank the jury. They made the right decision,” Odom’s grandmother, Alice Odom said.
As the family gathered outside court, a juror came out and hugged Odom’s mother and then Odom.
Juror Carol Roberts said the prosecutor, Lawrence Friedman, “just didn’t have enough evidence.”
She said jurors found Odom’s testimony was credible, in that he was beaten into unconsciousness by Leach and that he didn’t remember what happened.
Leach, then 17 and Batavia’s star football player, had confronted Odom on Aug. 4 outside Odom’s house, accusing him of stealing $50 in change from his room while Leach was away on vacation.
The two walked to Leach’s house, where a fight ensued. Odom said he was hit in the head and blacked out. Leach testified that he hit Odom several times, dropping him twice before Odom got up and said “it’s over.”
Leach said he was walking to his house when he was attacked from behind by Odom. Leach suffered 12 stab wounds, mostly superficial. One wound to the thigh resulted in nerve damage but not enough to stop Leach from going on to have a record-breaking season as running back for the Blue Devils.
Odom, who also played football and was friends with Leach before the fight, was not allowed back in school but he did graduate this year after school officials allowed him to receive his diploma.
Odom, too, thanked jurors and his family and friends that stood by him.
His attorney, Frank Housh, said the case should never have gone this far.
“I was confident in the jury system,” he said. “This was a jury that paid close attention to the evidence. They deliberated most of the day Thursday and two hours this morning and it was clear they were going through the evidence carefully.
“The only evidence they had was Ray Leach. This was a case that shouldn’t have been brought. As I said, I think it’s clear why it was. They had to arrest someone and it was not going to be Ray Leach.”
Housh in his opening statement and again in his closing said the police arrested Odom and District Attorney Lawrence Friedman pursued the case because Leach was the star football player, despite the fact that Leach was the aggressor.
Friedman argued that the fight was “combat by mutual agreement” and that once Leach got the better of Odom, Odom struck out with a knife.
Testimony clearly showed that Leach was stabbed but no knife was found and Leach’s injuries were not severe enough to sway a jury.