The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chin, District Judge.
Petitioner's convictions arise from his participation in a
series of crimes between September 20 and October 12, 1991,
during which he and two accomplices, Jose Luis Javier and Jose
Ramon Torres, forced their way into the apartments of several
families in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan and
robbed them at gunpoint. The evidence adduced at trial revealed
that, during three of the incidents, petitioner and his
accomplices ransacked their victims' apartments looking for
jewelry, money, and other property to steal, after which
petitioner tied up most of the family members with coat hangers
while Javier raped at least one of the women in the household.
During a fourth incident, petitioner sent Javier and Torres to
the apartment of another family to collect a sum of money he
claimed was owed to him or to someone he knew. While petitioner
waited downstairs in a car, Javier and Torres forced their way
into the apartment and robbed the family at gunpoint, and Javier
subsequently raped one of the female members of the household.
Petitioner was apprehended on October 16, 1991 at approximately
1:00 a.m., after a fingerprint discovered at one of the crime
scenes, an apartment on Isham Avenue in upper Manhattan, was
identified as his. Police detectives thereafter went to
petitioner's home, and petitioner voluntarily accompanied them to
the 34th Precinct station house, unhandcuffed. Petitioner made
numerous incriminating statements at the station house, including
a videotaped confession in which he admitted his involvement in
the robberies but vigorously denied any involvement in the sexual
assaults. In addition, petitioner gave the detectives permission
to search his apartment for property stolen during the robberies.
Several items of stolen property were recovered from petitioner's
apartment as a result of the search.
Petitioner was positively identified by two witnesses in a
line-up conducted the day after he accompanied the detectives to
the 34th Precinct station house. Based on the fingerprint
evidence and the positive identification, petitioner was placed
under arrest and charged with numerous counts of burglary,
robbery, rape, sodomy, sexual abuse, and criminal possession of a
weapon. Petitioner was positively identified by additional
witnesses in two separate line-ups conducted several weeks after
Prior to trial, petitioner moved to suppress the incriminating
statements he made, as well as the victims' identifications of
him and the physical evidence seized from his apartment. Justice
Rothwax of the New York State Supreme Court, New York County,
held a hearing on petitioner's motion on March 11-12, 1993, at
which the following facts were adduced.
Upon his arrival at the 34th Precinct station house at
approximately 1:30 a.m. on October 16, 1991, petitioner was taken
to one of the interview rooms by detectives Erroll Santos and
Robert Ledee. Detective Santos began conversing with petitioner
in Spanish, informing him that they knew petitioner had been
present at the Isham Avenue apartment at which a robbery and
several rapes had occurred because a fingerprint that had been
lifted from the scene had been identified as petitioner's, and
telling him, in substance, that he should tell the officers who
he had been with at the apartment; otherwise, petitioner would
"take the blame for everything." (H. at 85, 128, 131).*fn1
According to Santos's
testimony, the detectives then left petitioner alone in the
interview room to "[l]et him think for a few minutes." (H. at
130-31; see also H. at 85).
Detective Santos returned to the interview room a few minutes
later, at which time he read petitioner his Miranda warnings in
Spanish. Petitioner waived his Miranda rights and agreed to
talk to Detective Santos. Santos reminded petitioner of the
fingerprint that had been found at the Isham Avenue apartment and
stressed to petitioner that, unless he revealed the names of the
other individuals involved in the incident, petitioner would
likely take full blame for the crimes committed. Thereafter,
petitioner admitted his participation in that particular
incident, but insisted that he had nothing to do with the sexual
assaults perpetrated on three female victims. He further informed
Detective Santos that Javier had committed the rapes, and then
provided the detective with Javier's address. Detective Santos
then placed petitioner in a holding cell.
Shortly thereafter, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Detective
Santos returned to the station house with Javier in custody and
transported Javier and petitioner, unhandcuffed, to the 20th
Precinct. Petitioner was placed in another interview room, and
approximately an hour-and-a-half later, Detective Santos read
petitioner his Miranda rights in Spanish again. Petitioner
again waived his rights, and acknowledged his receipt of the
warnings by signing the bottom of the Miranda card. Petitioner
reiterated that he had accompanied Javier and had participated in
the robbery at the Isham Avenue apartment, and again stated that
it was Javier who had committed the rapes. Petitioner then also
told Detective Santos about his participation in one of the other
robberies mentioned above.
The next morning, at approximately 11:40 a.m., after the
line-up at which two of the female victims identified petitioner
as the perpetrator, petitioner said in Spanish to Officer Suarez,
who was acting as one of the stand-ins in the line up, "I was the
one waiting downstairs. I went to use the phone but I didn't call
a cab." (H. at 154). This statement was not made in response to
any question posed by the officer, but was simply blurted out
spontaneously. After the identification, petitioner was formerly
placed under arrest.
Several hours later, at approximately 2:00 p.m., Detective
Rivera of the 20th Precinct encountered petitioner while going
for coffee in the station house. Although Detective Rivera said
nothing to petitioner, petitioner asked the detective whether he
was "being charged with the rapes." (H. at 157). Petitioner then
volunteered that "the two other guys committed the rapes" and
that he was "just there." (H. at 157). Some time later that
afternoon, between approximately 2:30 and 3:00 p.m., petitioner
made another unsolicited statement to yet another detective,
Detective Savino. This time, petitioner blurted out that he had
told Javier that "they were a family and that he [petitioner]
didn't touch the girls. [Petitioner] has a kid also and that
[Javier] was the one that touched the girls." (H. at 56).
Late that afternoon, at approximately 5:30 p.m., an assistant
district attorney obtained a videotaped statement from petitioner
at the 20th Precinct station house. Prior to giving his
statement, petitioner was given Miranda warnings for the third
time. In this statement, petitioner described in detail the
events that occurred at the Isham Avenue apartment. Petitioner
also provided a full account of one of the other three incidents
in which he had participated. The prosecutor asked petitioner
whether he had participated in any other crimes with Javier
and/or Ramon. Initially, petitioner denied having participated in
any other crimes, but eventually recounted details of the two
other crimes as well. At the conclusion of his videotaped
statement, petitioner repeatedly insisted that he had not
sexually assaulted any of the women.
With the exception of certain physical evidence from his
apartment that is not relevant to the instant petition,
petitioner's motion to suppress was denied on March 12, 1993.
Petitioner's jury trial before Justice Rothwax followed
On March 22, 1993, the jury convicted petitioner on twelve
counts of robbery in the first degree, six counts of rape in the
first degree, four counts of burglary in the first degree, two
counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, one count of sodomy
in the first degree, and one count of criminal possession of a
weapon in the third degree. On May 7, 1993, he was sentenced to
an indeterminate prison term of from 296 to 598 years.
Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Appellate Division,
First Department. The First Department unanimously affirmed
petitioner's conviction on January 23, 1997. See People v.
Vasquez, 235 A.D.2d 322, 652 N.Y.S.2d 962 (1st Dep't 1997).
Thereafter, petitioner sought and was granted leave to appeal to
the New York Court of Appeals. On October 21, 1997, the Court of
Appeals also unanimously affirmed ...