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CRAWFORD v. ARTUZ
October 11, 2001
THOMAS L. CRAWFORD, PETITIONER,
CHRISTOPHER ARTUZ, SUPERINTENDENT, GREEN HAVEN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Narrero, Judge
On July 16, 1986 the decomposed body of Ms. Veora Turner ("Turner") was
found stuffed in a refrigerator located in an abandoned building in the
Bronx. Turner had been reported missing in 1985 and at the time her body
was identified she had been dead for approximately one year. The coroner
determined that the cause of death was strangulation. Along with the body
police found a wire ligature that investigators suspected was used to
strangle Turner before her body was placed inside the refrigerator.
Detective Michael Burke ("Burke") was assigned to investigate Turner's
death. In 1987, police in New Jersey spoke with a man named Gregory
Capers ("Capers") who stated in connection with an investigation into
other crimes that in 1986 his childhood friend, Crawford, had told him
that he had strangled a woman named "Veora" in the Bronx. Contacted by
New Jersey police, Burke interviewed Capers about his statements. Capers
agreed to cooperate with Burke's investigation of Turner's death.
Specifically, he undertook to visit Crawford, who was then imprisoned in a
Georgia correctional facility on another conviction, and to record his
conversation with Crawford. To this end, Capers requested an invitation
to visit Crawford and Crawford put Capers on his visitor list.
Accompanied by Burke, Capers traveled to Georgia. He was wired by Burke
with a recorder that Capers was unable to control once it was activated.
Capers's visit with Crawford occurred in a separate room occupied by only
the two of them, with a guard stationed outside a closed door containing
a glass panel. During the recorded conversation, Crawford admitted to and
described the murder of Turner in substantial detail corresponding to the
manner of her death, and the place and circumstances in which her body
had been discovered.
Before trial, Crawford's attorney sought to suppress the tape recording
at a hearing conducted pursuant to People v. Huntley, 204 N.E.2d 179
(N.Y. 1965). At the hearing, Crawford asserted that because Capers was
acting as a law enforcement agent for the government, Capers should have
administered Miranda warnings before conversing with him. State Supreme
Court Justice Leslie Crocker Snyder (the "Trial Justice"), rejected
Crawford's argument. The Trial Justice, finding that Burke was credible,
made factual findings consistent with his testimony. Then, following
Illinois v. Perkins, 496 U.S. 292 (1990), she found that the conversation
between Capers and Crawford was not a "custodial interrogation" requiring
Miranda warnings because Crawford was unaware of Capers's status as
police agent and because Crawford "clearly relished `boasting'" to
"Capers" about the murder. People v. Crawford, 578 N.Y.S.2d 814, 820
(N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1991). Subsequently, the tape recording were used at
Crawford apparently then made a collateral attack to his conviction,
raising the same grounds for relief as are at issue here, in state court
under N.Y. Crim. P. Law § 440.10. However, the documents comprising the
petition were lost and, despite Crawford's diligent efforts to pursue it,
the state courts never decided the petition. Crawford filed the instant
petition with this Court in October 1998. Respondent (the "State") moved
to dismiss the petition, claiming it was time- barred and precluded for
failure to exhaust state remedies. Based on demonstrable evidence that
the papers constituting Crawford's 440.10 submission were duly filed with
the state courts but lost, and that his petition would remain unresolved
despite Crawford's efforts, this Court ruled that the instant petition
was not time-barred and that the State may not rely on exhaustion of
State remedies as its defense to the petition. See Crawford v. Artuz,
116 F. Supp.2d 442 (S.D.N Y 2000)
1. Degree of Deference Owed to State "Adjudication on the Merits"
A district court may grant an application for a writ of habeas corpus
on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to a state court judgment if
that state court adjudication either "(1) resulted in a decision that was
contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly
established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United
States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the
State court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); see Williams v. Taylor,
529 U.S. 362, 376 (2000) Where federal claims were not "adjudicated on
the merits" a district court may examine pure questions of law and mixed
questions of law and fact de novo. See Washington v. Schriver, 255 F.3d 45,
54-55 (2d Cir. 2001)
The choice of an appropriate standard of review is not automatic in
this case. The habeas corpus statute, as amended, does not clearly
identify a standard of review and the circuit courts disagree over the
deference to be given to state court decisions. Compare, e.g., Bell v.
Jarvis, 236 F.3d 149, 163 (4th Cir. 2000) (en banc), petition for cert.
filed (U.S. Mar. 29, 2001) (No. 00-9290); Aycox v. Lytle, 196 F.3d 1174,
1178 (10th Cir. 1999); Mercadel v. Cain, 179 F.3d 271, 274 (5th Cir.
1999), with Hameen v. Delaware, 212 F.3d 226, 248 (3d Cir. 2000), cert.
denied, ___ U.S. ___ (2001); see also Washington, 255 F.3 at 53
(summarizing the split regarding when a state court decision constitutes