ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division has overturned the murder conviction of an Elmira man involved in a fatal stabbing at Gush’s bar over five years ago.

On November 23, 2022, the Third Judicial Department of the Supreme Court Appellate Division reversed the 2nd-degree murder charge against Willie Jenkins, 47. The Chemung County District Attorney’s office said it will request within the next 30 days that the NYS Appeals Court take up the case to reverse the decision.

This decision to overturn the conviction came a month after the case was presented and over five years after the murder.

The Night of the Murder

Jenkins and Demetrius Mack, 39, were convicted in 2018 for the incident at Gush’s Thirsty Bear that left Albert Sturgis dead from a stabbing.

According to the court decision document, in June 2017, Mack, Jenkins and a third person entered the bar, and soon after, Mack and Sturgis got into a fight. Mack eventually pulled a knife and landed several blows on Sturgis. Meanwhile, witnesses during the trial said that Jenkins and the third person pointed guns at onlookers before all three fled, according to the appellate decision document.

When Sturgis asked one of the witnesses to go get a gun from a car to shoot Mack, Jenkins and the third person, Jenkins—with his gun drawn—responded, “Don’t move, I don’t want to have to kill you”, according to the document.

Sturgis later died from his injuries, and as a result, Jenkins was convicted of 2nd-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Reasoning for court’s decision to overturn

However, the document said Mack only resorted to pulling the knife with the intent to kill after Sturgis knocked him to the ground outside, describing the use of the knife as “spontaneous”.

As such, the jury in Jenkins’ trial was forced to speculate that he suddenly became aware of the knife, the decision reads. The document also said that prosecutors failed to prove that Jenkins shared any intent to kill Sturgis since the fight didn’t start with “homicidal intent”.

The appellate court’s decision also explained that in order to be responsible for the murder, prosecutors failed to prove that Jenkins pulled the gun with the intent to buy more time for Mack and prevent onlookers from taking Sturgis to the hospital. The document then pointed out that one of the witnesses in the trial never said they wanted to break up the fight, call police or render medical aid to Sturgis, only that they wanted to get the gun to shoot Mack, Jenkins, and the third person.

Mack is currently in prison for the murder, also receiving a 25-years-to-life sentence. Jenkins is also in prison on assault and weapons charges for another incident in Elmira in 2017.

18 News will continue to follow decisions in Jenkins’ case and provide details as they become available.

The Supreme Court Appellate Division’s full Nov. 23 decision can be read below: