A Fresno man was sentenced Wednesday in Fresno Superior Court to 26 years to life in prison for using a sword to kill an unarmed man in a dispute over two cans of beer.
Before he was sentenced, Curtis Michael Davis, 58, asked Judge Timothy Kams to throw out his murder conviction. Davis’ lawyer, Kojo Moore, asked the judge to reduce the conviction to manslaughter, saying the evidence didn’t rise to murder.
But Kams, who presided over Davis’ trial, said there was “substantial and compelling evidence” for the jury to find Davis guilty of first-degree murder.
“You unsheathed your sword and killed an unarmed man who was not a threat to you,” Kams told Davis. “The killing was senseless as well as tragic.”
In August, a jury deliberated about three hours before convicting Davis of the April 15 killing of 54-year-old Bernard Jackson, who died in the parking lot of market store at North Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard.
During Davis’ trial, Moore argued his client killed Bernard in self-defense.
According to Moore, Bernard and Davis got into an argument over two cans of beer outside the store around 8 p.m.
When Bernard bent over to pick up an object to strike Davis, the defendant pulled out a sword that was hidden in his cane and stabbed Bernard once in the chest, Moore argued.
After the stabbing, Davis went home in a nearby apartment complex, where police later arrested him.
But according to prosecutor Amythest “Amy” Freeman, Davis admitted to police detectives that he stabbed Jackson, implying it was self-defense. But Freeman told the jury Davis was mad at the victim and killed him deliberately.
The deadly encounter began when a friend gave Davis $2 to purchase beer. Because Davis was banned from the store, he asked Jackson to purchase the beer.
Jackson purchased a can of Hurricane High Gravity Malt Liquor and a can of Colt 45 Malt Liquor.
When Jackson came out of the store, he and Davis got into an argument. Moore wanted both cans of beer, but Jackson wanted a can for himself since he went into the store to purchase them, according to Freeman’s trial brief.
A store awning blocked a store surveillance camera from capturing the stabbing. But the camera captured Davis coming out from under the awning and removing “what detectives determined to be a sword from his cane,” the brief says.
A witness didn’t see the stabbing, but saw the victim sprawled in the parking lot — and a man known in the neighborhood as “Big Man” wearing a white neck brace standing over the victim, the brief says.
When police arrested the 5-foot-7, 250-pound, Davis he was wearing a white neck brace. Officers also found the murder weapon (the sword) with blood on it, inside Davis’ apartment.