LITTLE VALLEY - A Cattaraugus County jury of seven women and five men found Douglas Farnham, 31, of Salamanca, not guilty of two counts of second-degree felony assault after deliberating for about two hours Friday.
It had been alleged that Farnham assaulted a Salamanca resident on Aug. 7, 2011, at approximately 2:15 a.m. outside the Dudley Hotel in Salamanca. The victim suffered fractures to his jaw in two places and his eye socket, requiring treatment at Olean General Hospital and at ECMC in Buffalo.
The prosecution claimed that Farnham had waited in ambush outside the hotel for the victim after the two men had argued in the hotel bar.
The defense argued that it was Farnham that was ambushed by the victim and that Farnham acted in self-defense. The four-day trial was presided over by Cattaraugus County Judge Larry Himelein.
Farnham, represented by Mark Williams, Cattaraugus County public defender, immediately thanked and shook the hand of Mark Cunningham, investigator, who was standing next to him as the verdict was announced by the jury foreman. Farnham personally thanked each of the 12 jurors and two alternates minutes later outside of the second-floor jury room. Had he been convicted of the charges, he would have faced a mandatory prison sentence of up to seven years.
The incident was reported to the Salamanca Police by the victim's then-fiance, by telephone from Olean General Hospital. The matter was further investigated by Lt. Paul Myers, SPD, who took statements from the victim and his fiance on Aug. 8, 2011. At the trial it was revealed that the Salamanca Police Department lost the initial statements in the file.
Eight days later on Aug.16, 2011, new statements were taken from the complainant and his fiance and two days later, statements were taken from three other witnesses. A warrant was issued for Farnham's arrest on Aug. 24, 2011. Farnham turned himself in to the police on Sept. 2, 2011, when he was arraigned in Salamanca City Court and released on bail.
The prosecution presented testimony from Dr. Richard Hall of ECMC, Jacobson's treating physician, the victim, his former fiance, two close family friends of the victim and another man, who testified that his wife broke up the fight. Unexpectedly, that man, during his cross-examination by Williams, revealed that he had seen the complainant leave the hotel about 10 to 15 minutes before the defendant, countering the prosecution's theory that Farnham had ambushed the victim.
John Luzier, first assistant district attorney, attempted to get the man to change his version of events but was unsuccessful. The defense presented testimony from three employees of the Dudley Hotel including the bartender on duty that night, the bouncer at the bar and a hotel clerk who also worked in the bar that night. Several others also testified countering allegations that they had "helped" in the alleged assault.
The defendant did not testify. The defense witnesses testified to their actions to try to keep the men separated and how Farnham stayed after the bar closed so as to not be outside after the victim left the bar. A friend of Farnham's testified that he went to the bar to pick up Farnham after receiving a call about possible trouble, but was unable to retrieve him because the victim and several friends were outside the hotel waiting for him.
The bartender on duty that night testified he took Farnham outside at about 2:15 a.m. for a cigarette, 15 minutes after the victim left. He went on to say that the victim almost immediately came at the defendant and threw a punch at him. He described how Farnham threw one punch at the victim which caught him in the face and caused him to move backward and then fall. He stated that Farnham then started walking away from the scene when the victim got up, ran at Farnham and swung at him again. He described that after Farnham hit the victim in defense a second time that the victim again tried to attack Farnham.
The jury was charged after closing arguments where Williams pointed out the testimony of the man whose wife allegedly broke up the fight and several others who were credible eyewitnesses and who supported Farnham's claim of self-defense. He was followed by Luzier who urged the jury to look at the serious injuries suffered by the victim and the other witnesses who supported the victim's claims.
"I want to thank the members of the jury for their service," said Williams. "It is difficult for 14 people to give up nearly a week of their summer to sit in a courtroom and pay close attention to a criminal trial. Fortunately, these folks did just that and rendered the verdict we were confident they would after hearing all of the evidence. Luzier tried a good case but the facts just weren't on his side."