Conviction upheld in stabbing of handicapped bus passenger

The State Court of Appeals is upholding the conviction of a man who said he "heard voices" before stabbing a handicapped passenger on a Grand Rapids bus 2� years ago.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - The state Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction and lengthy prison sentence for a man who said he heard voices prior to stabbing a handicapped passenger aboard a Grand Rapids bus 2½ years ago.

Leroy Davis Jr. was convicted of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder for the May, 2015 attack on a 69-year-old man, who suffered a puncture wound to the neck near his jaw.

Kent County Circuit Court Judge Donald A. Johnston found Davis guilty but mentally ill and sentenced him to between 25 and 50 years in prison.

Because of the nature of the crime and prior felony convictions, state law mandated that Davis receive a minimum sentence of 25 years. Sentencing guidelines recommended a minimum term of about three to 11 years.

In his appeal, Davis said the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his conviction.

Davis “emphasizes that he made no threats and gave no verbal indication that he wished to do great bodily harm,’’ according to the Appeals Court decision. “Instead, he simply struck the victim once, near the victim’s ear. Defendant maintains that such conduct does not evince an intent to do great bodily harm. We disagree.’’

Johnston, who presided over the four-day bench trial, determined that Davis “forcefully and violently swung and struck the victim in the neck,’’ the Court of Appeals wrote. “The trial court concluded that, by inflicting a puncture wound to the victim’s neck, defendant intended to cause great bodily harm.’’

A natural consequence of “forcefully and violently striking someone in the neck with a sharp object is at the very least great bodily harm,’’ according to the three-page decision. “Indeed, the injury in this case was only centimeters away from hitting the carotid artery and jugular vein.’’

Justices also noted that after the assault, Davis ran home and changed his clothes “rather than provide assistance to the injured and bleeding victim.’’

During trial, defense attorney Daniel Elve argued that his client was legally insane during the attack, which occurred near Kalamazoo Avenue and Elliott Street SE. Davis was on the bus for 45 minutes before he stabbed the victim, who came to Grand Rapids from Rwanda. The unprovoked attack from behind took place a quarter mile from Davis’ home.   

Davis, 44, has four prior felony convictions going back to 1992. He is being held at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia and is not eligible for release until 2040.

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