The opinion of the court was delivered by: Motley, District Judge.
Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254 on the grounds that his confession was obtained in an
unconstitutional manner. Petitioner asserts that he was not given
the warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86
S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), prior to being subjected to a
custodial interrogation. Petitioner further claims that his
later, fully warned confessions should also have been suppressed
because they were tainted by the prior, illegally obtained
statement. For the reasons stated herein, petitioner's
application for a writ of habeas corpus is denied.
On Sunday, September 2, 1990, Brian Watkins, his mother,
father, brother, and sister-in-law were standing on a subway
platform at 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue. The Watkins family,
residents of Utah, was visiting New York City for the U.S. Tennis
Open Tournament. At approximately 10:15 p.m., petitioner and a
large group of teenagers from Queens arrived at the 53rd Street
and Seventh Avenue subway station. The group was heading for
Roseland, a dance club in midtown Manhattan. However, some of
petitioner's friends did not have enough money to pay the
entrance fee into Roseland.
At this point, petitioner and six of his friends decided to
commit a robbery, with the Watkins family as their target.
Petitioner and his accomplices reentered the subway station and
surrounded the Watkins family. During the robbery, the father was
cut with a razor and robbed of his money, the mother was knocked
to the ground and beaten, and Brian Watkins was fatally stabbed
in the chest. He died from his injuries en route to St. Vincent's
Hospital, where he was taken immediately following the robbery.
As the robbers fled the subway, petitioner was handed $200 of the
robbery proceeds. The group then went directly to Roseland where
petitioner purchased $120 worth of tickets with the money
obtained in the robbery.
At approximately 4:00 a.m., five to six police officers
returned to Roseland and stopped Joseph Santana, a person whom
Anderson had described as being part of the crowd heading for
Roseland. Santana pointed out a group of individuals matching the
descriptions given by Anderson. The police approached the group
in a fanned-out position to stop them from running away. The
police directed the group to move up against a wall to separate
them from the crowd of exiting Roseland patrons. Detective
Rosario then patted down petitioner's outer pocket and recovered
a silver colored knife with metal knuckles, which petitioner told
police belonged to a friend. In this group were two other
accomplices that Anderson had described to police. The police
told the three youths that they were going to the police station
to give their statements and would be allowed to leave
afterwards. The rest of the people in petitioner's group were
allowed to leave. The police indicated that the three youths were
considered possible witnesses to the subway robbery, although the
police really considered them to be suspects at this time.
Petitioner, along with the two accomplices, accompanied police to
the Midtown North Precinct, unhandcuffed.
At the Midtown North Precinct, petitioner made numerous
incriminating statements, including a videotaped statement
describing his involvement in the robbery. Petitioner was also
positively identified by two of the victims in line-ups conducted
on September 3, 1990.
Prior to trial, petitioner moved to suppress the inculpatory
statements he made at the precinct. Justice Torres of the Supreme
Court of the State of New York, New York County, held a hearing
on petitioner's motion and made the following findings of fact.
Upon petitioner's arrival at the Midtown North Precinct at
approximately 4:45 a.m. on September 3, 1990, petitioner was
taken to a coffee room on the third floor. Detective Rosario and
Sergeant Borman began questioning petitioner some time before
6:00 a.m. Neither detective issued petitioner Miranda warnings.
For the next hour and a half, petitioner recounted his activities
during the previous night. His story did not match what others
had told the detectives, and at one point, a discrepancy arose
over the amount of money petitioner was carrying. At this point,
petitioner said, "All right, I'll tell you the truth. I ain't
going to fool around with you. I'll tell you the honest truth."
Tr. at 673, 772.*fn1
Justice Torres found that all of petitioner's statements made
at the police station were admissible at trial. Justice Torres
held petitioner's initial statements made during the first hour
and a half were admissible since petitioner was not in a
custodial setting. Petitioner's oral, written, and videotaped
statements made thereafter were also held to be admissible since
petitioner was advised of his Miranda rights, which he
knowingly and voluntarily waived. Justice Torres also found that
petitioner's statements made while handcuffed to the railing were
admissible because they were not a product of interrogation.
On December 10, 1991, following a seven-week jury trial,
petitioner was convicted of one count of Felony Murder in the
Second Degree, under New York Penal Law Section 125.24(3), for
the killing of Brian Watkins, and two counts each of Robbery in
the First and Second Degrees, under New York Penal Law Sections
160.15(3), 160.10(1) and 160(2)(a), for the robbery of the
Watkins family. Thereafter, petitioner was sentenced to
concurrent terms of twenty-five years to life imprisonment for
murder, eight and one-third to twenty-five years for first-degree
robbery, and five to fifteen years for second-degree robbery.
On January 3, 1992, after the jury verdict but prior to
sentencing, petitioner brought a motion pursuant to New York
Criminal Procedure Law Section 440.10 to set aside the verdict on
the grounds that the trial court issued legal instructions to the
jury in the absence of petitioner's counsel. Justice Torres
summarily denied the motion on May 18, 1992, but granted leave to
appeal and consolidated the matter with petitioner's direct
appeal to the Appellate Division, First Department. By Decision
and Order dated November 30, 1993, the Appellate Division
affirmed the trial court's judgment of conviction. See People v.
Nova, 198 A.D.2d 193, 603 N.Y.S.2d 863 (1st ...