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UNITED STATES EX REL. ECCLESTON v. HENDERSON

September 29, 1982

UNITED STATES of America, ex rel. Charles ECCLESTON, Petitioner,
v.
Robert J. HENDERSON, Superintendent of Auburn Correctional Facility, Robert Abrams, New York State Attorney General, Eugene Gold, District Attorney, Kings County, Respondents



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINSTEIN

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that his incarceration in Auburn Correctional Facility is illegal. He contends that his detention by the state of New York is unlawful for six reasons:

 (1) he has been denied his federal constitutional right to a speedy trial in state court;

 (2) the trial court's charge on intent shifted the burden of proof to the petitioner, thereby depriving him of his federal constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process of law;

 (3) his convictions of two counts of felony murder were obtained by the use of evidence obtained pursuant to an unlawful arrest that violated the provisions of the Fourth Amendment and he was not afforded a full and fair hearing on the issue in state court;

 (4) the evidence introduced at his state court trial failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and this failure deprived him of due process of law guaranteed to him by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution;

 (5) the cumulative effect of errors by the trial court denied him due process of law; and

 (6) the cumulative effect of misconduct by the prosecution in his state trial denied petitioner due process of law.

 None of these claims has merit.

 Facts

 After a trial by jury, petitioner, Charles Eccleston, was convicted on November 18, 1975 of two counts of murder in the second degree. He was subsequently sentenced by Judge William T. Cowin to two terms of 25 years to life each, to be served consecutively. The conviction was affirmed by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York in September, 1980 with one Associate Justice dissenting. Leave to appeal to the New York State Court of Appeals was denied in January, 1981.

 Petitioner's conviction is founded upon the robbery and deaths of Birdie and Louis Rappaport. The robbery occurred on March 5, 1974 when, according to a statement he made to a homicide investigator on March 12, 1974, petitioner and his accomplice, John White (aka John Griffith), followed the Rappaports home and assaulted them in their apartment during the course of a robbery.

 Birdie and Louis Rappaport, aged 71 and 77, respectively, had just left a fruit store on Lenox Road and Flatbush Avenue, and returned to their apartment, 55 Lenox Road # 4K. Petitioner and Mr. White watched as the Rappaports opened the door to their home. Mr. White attacked the couple, beat them severely, dragged them into the apartment and pulled her diamond engagement ring off Mrs. Rappaport's finger. Petitioner held the elevator door ajar and waited for his accomplice. Huntley Hearing, pp. 106-07.

 Although the ring itself was never introduced into evidence, both petitioner's statement and the testimony of Melvin Calloway, a clerk at Fulton Pawnbrokers during the relevant time period, established that petitioner, using the ring as collateral, received a loan of $ 250 from Fulton Pawnbrokers on the day of the incident. Trial Transcript, pp. 284-85. Petitioner repaid the loan two days later and gave the ring to Mr. White who reportedly sold it.

 Birdie Rappaport died on March 12, 1974 of wounds suffered during the assault. Trial Transcript, p. 319. Louis Rappaport died on or about May 3, 1974 of a condition which resulted from the same assault. Trial Transcript, p. 393.

 Petitioner was brought to the 71st Precinct Crime Office of the New York Police Department on March 12, 1974 for questioning in what began as a robbery investigation and had just become a homicide investigation. Detective David McMann informed petitioner of his Miranda rights but did not interrogate him. When asked if he understood his rights, petitioner stood mute. Trial Transcript, p. 65. Five minutes later, Detective Arthur Semioli of the 12th Homicide Squad interviewed petitioner. Detective Semioli read petitioner the Miranda warnings again and petitioner then indicated that he understood his rights. Trial Transcript, pp. 120-21. Semioli then took an inculpatory statement from petitioner. Petitioner later directed several police ...


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