St. Patrick’s Day Attack Finally Ends in Conviction

Modified: August 14, 2014 1:34pm


Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita, III announces that Willie Norman Henley formerly of 468 West Ferry in the City of Buffalo, was convicted of Assault in the First Degree, as charged, after a jury trial before Erie County Court Judge Thomas Franczyk.

On March 17, 2013, at approximately 4:30 p.m., Henley brutally attacked 52-year-old Burnett Hopkins, his mother’s boyfriend. Henley stabbed the unarmed victim in the back (twice) and the chest (three times), piercing his heart. Henley also repeatedly slashed at the victim with such ferociousness, that the victim’s defensive wounds included external exposure of his arm muscle.

Buffalo Police Officers Christopher Mordino and Detective Seargent Carl Lundin responded to the crime scene and found Henley hiding in basement, covered in Hopkins' blood. At that moment, Henley offering his first theory of defense: a mysterious assailant had broken into his mother’s home, had attacked the victim, and had vanished.

At trial, Henley testified and offered his second theory of defense: that he was the true victim of an assault by the victim and had merely acted in self-defense. Not to be outdone, defense attorney Joseph Agro offered a third theory of defense: the stab wounds to the victim’s heart were caused not by Henley, but by the allegedly negligent trauma surgeon who saved the victim’s life.

The first jury to hear this case was deadlocked, voting 10 to 2 for conviction. The second jury saw through the “I didn’t do it” defense, the “I did it but it was in self-defense” defense and the “it was mostly the Doctor’s fault” defense, and returned a guilty verdict.  

No stranger to violent crime, Henley spent nearly 15 years in state prison in connection with the kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman. Shortly after serving that sentence, Henley was indicted for a felony narcotics offense in connection with his possession of 35 bags of crack cocaine. In 2013, State Supreme Court Justice Christopher Burns suppressed the prosecution’s evidence and dismissed the case, based upon the court’s inability to determine whether there was probable cause for a local court judge to issue a search warrant. Coincidentally, the local court judge who issued the search warrant, but claimed to have no recollection of the same, was an “acting” or part-time judge, whose full time job was and is that of a criminal defense attorney.

Henley faces up to 25 years in state prison when he is sentenced onAugust 4, 2014.

The case was successfully prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Paul Williams, who is assigned to DA Sedita’s Felony Trial Bureau. DA Sedita stated: “This case is yet another example of how this office routinely and successfully prosecutes criminal cases, despite the many obstacles we must overcome.”