Accordingly, claims (10) and (11) are dismissed.
L. As to the sufficiency of evidence claim
The Petitioner argues that the verdict was against the weight of the
evidence. Specifically, he asserts that the prosecution did not prove
that Ms. Krajci owned the car used to perpetrate the "Unauthorized Use of
a Vehicle" charge, or that she owned an ATM card or had a bank account,
or that the Petitioner withdrew money from that account.
A habeas petitioner who challenges the sufficiency of the evidence
supporting his conviction bears a "very heavy burden." Jones v. Duncan,
162 F. Supp.2d 204, 214 (S.D.N.Y. 2001). To obtain habeas relief, the
Court must find that, when viewing the evidence most favorably to the
prosecution, no rational trier of fact could find guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt. See Farrington v. Senkowski, 214 F.3d 237, 240-41 (2d
Cir. 2000) (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 324, 99 S.Ct.
2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979)).
Additionally, the Court must defer to the jury's determination of the
weight given to conflicting evidence, witness credibility, and inferences
drawn from the evidence. See Thomas v. Scully, 854 F. Supp. 944, 954
(E.D.N.Y. 1994). A guilty verdict may not be disturbed if the jury has
resolved these issues in a reasonable manner. See id. The Court's
"inquiry does not focus on whether the trier of fact made the correct
guilt or innocence determination, but rather whether it made a rational
decision to convict or acquit." Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390, 402,
113 S.Ct. 853, 122 L.Ed.2d 203 (1993) (emphasis in original). Further,
the jury may base its verdict entirely on circumstantial evidence. See
U.S. v. Russo, 74 F.3d 1383, 1395 (2d Cir. 1996).
Applying the above standard, the Court finds the evidence sufficiently
supports Petitioner's conviction. The state presented ample evidence to
support the verdict. Ms. Krajci gave extensive testimony about how the
Petitioner abducted her, stole her car, forcibly withdrew money from her
bank account, bought drugs with that money, and held her for a
substantial period of time under threat of death. Further, the
Petitioner's own statements to the police incriminated him in the
crimes. The jury chose to believe Ms. Krajci's version of the events over
the Petitioner's story. Determinations of credibility are the jury's
exclusive responsibility. See United States v. Strauss, 999 F.2d 692, 696
(2d Cir. 1993). "Federal habeas courts are not free to reassess the fact
specific credibility judgments by juries or to weigh conflicting
testimony. On collateral review, this Court must presume that the jury
resolved any questions of credibility in favor of the prosecution." Vera
v. Hanslmaier, 928 F. Supp. 278, 284 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). In view of the
record, the Court finds that a reasonable jury could believe such
testimony and find it sufficient, along with the ample other evidence, to
convict Petitioner of the charged crimes. See Estrada v. Senkowski, 1999
WL 1051107 at *14-16 (S.D.N.Y. 1999). Accordingly, Petitioner's claim
that the evidence did not sufficiently support his conviction is denied.
M. As to the Miranda claim
The Petitioner entitles his next claim "Miranda," however, he does not
state a Miranda violation. He argues that Detective Kouril, the police
officer to whom the Petitioner made an incriminating statement, gave
false testimony at the preliminary hearing. The Petitioner does not claim
that his statement was involuntary or coerced. His petition cites no case
law, but refers the Court to a massive
"Miranda" exhibit containing excerpts from the hearing transcripts.
Because the Petitioner labels this claim "Miranda," the Court will
analyze it under the applicable federal constitutional law.
At the hearing, Detective Kouril testified that he read a Miranda
rights card to the Petitioner upon entering his hospital room. Next,
Detective Kouril asked if the Petitioner understood these rights, then
asked him to sign the card. The Petitioner ignored Detective Kouril, and
refused to sign the rights card. When Detective Kouril told the
Petitioner that he would come back, the Petitioner told him, "I took her
from Nassau, and the city cops arrested me. So fuck you. You lost."
Hearing Transcript, August 12, 1992, at p. 58.
After the hearing, the trial court found that prior to
making such statements [the Petitioner] properly
received his Constitutional rights and effectively
waived those rights prior to making any statements.
The Court further finds that such statements were
volentary (sic) and not the product of intimidation,
coercion or improper police conduct.
As to the statements of [the Petitioner] made to
Detective Kouril after Detective Kouril stated "We'll
be back for you," this Court finds that the statements
made by [the Petitioner] were gratuitous and
spontaneous. And when spontaneous statements are made
there is no duty on the part of a police officer to
restrain a defendant from speaking.
Such statements by [the Petitioner] were made
voluntarily of [the Petitioner's] own free will and
were not the product of force, promises, undue
influence, coercion or subtle maneuvering on the part
of Detective Kouril.
See Order dated May 26, 1993, of Supreme Court, Nassau County (Goodman,
J.) at 5-6.
The "ultimate question of whether a confession was voluntary or
involuntary, `is a legal question requiring independent federal
determination.'" Pou v. Keane, 977 F. Supp. 577, 583 (N.D.N.Y. 1997)
(quoting Miller v. Fenton, 474 U.S. 104, 110, 106 S.Ct. 445, 449, 88
L.Ed.2d 405 (1985)); see also Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 396, 98
S.Ct. 2408, 2415, 57 L.Ed.2d 290 (1978) (holding that the Court is not
bound by a state court's determination that a statement was voluntary;
"[i]nstead, the Court is under a duty to make an independent evaluation
of the record"). "Subsidiary factual questions underlying a legal
determination, however, are entitled to a presumption of correctness
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (d)." See Vasquez v. Senkowski,
54 F. Supp.2d 208, 215 (S.D.N.Y. 1999). In determining whether a
confession is voluntary, "[t]he test is whether, under the totality of
the circumstances surrounding the statements, they were made
voluntarily." Farinaro v. Kirk, 675 F. Supp. 75, 80 (E.D.N.Y. 1987). "In
considering [a] claim of coercion, the court must consider `whether an
examination of all the circumstances discloses that the conduct of law
enforcement officials was such as to overbear [the Petitioner's] will to
resist and bring about confessions not freely self-determined.' Among the
factors to be considered are the "type and length of questioning, the
defendant's physical and mental capabilities, and the government's method
of interrogation." Cappiello v. Hoke, 698 F. Supp. 1042, 1056 (E.D.N.Y.
1988) (quoting United States v. Mast, 735 F.2d 745, 749 (2d Cir. 1984)).
After a thorough review of the record, including the minutes of the
hearing transcript, the Court concludes that the Petitioner's statement
was voluntarily and freely made. There is no indication in the record of
physical or psychological coercion. Nor does the record reflect coercive
questioning by the detectives. Detective
Kouril's remark that he would return for the Petitioner was not the
"functional equivalent" of interrogation. See Rhode Island v. Innis,
446 U.S. 291, 303, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 1690, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 (1980) (stating
that interrogation consists of comments that are "reasonably likely to
elicit an incriminating response"). Further, the Petitioner received his
Miranda warnings before he made the incriminating statements. See Hearing
Transcript, August 12, 1992, at pp. 54-56. The record does not indicate
that any physical or emotional condition interfered with the Petitioner's
ability to comprehend and waive his Miranda rights. Thus, the Court
concludes that the Petitioner's statement was not the product of
coercion, but was freely and voluntarily given.
The Petitioner's contention that Detective Kouril's testimony was
"incredible as matter of law" is not supported by the record. While some
inconsistencies were pointed out on cross-examination, the substance of
Detective Kouril's testimony remained constant throughout the
proceedings. The trial court and the jury found Detective Kouril's
testimony to be credible, and the Petitioner has not presented any
evidence to dispute this finding. Accordingly, this claim is dismissed.
N. As to the mental incapacitation claim
The Petitioner argues that he was mentally incapacitated at trial, and
the trial court's failure to order a competency hearing sua sponte
violated his due process rights. Neither the Petitioner nor his legal
advisor requested a competency examination or hearing at any time
before, during, or after trial. The Petitioner alleges that "an avalanche
of evidence" demonstrated his incapacitation, and the trial court should
have, of its own volition, ordered a competency exam. See Petitioner's
Habeas Corpus Complaint, 99-cv-4660, at p. 3.
The Due Process Clause does not require a competency hearing in every
instance. See United States v. Nichols, 56 F.3d 403, 414 (2d Cir. 1995).
Absent a reasonable doubt of competency, the trial court need not conduct
a hearing. See Johnson v. Keane, 974 F. Supp. 225, 230 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)
(citing United States v. Kirsh, 54 F.3d 1062, 1070 (2d Cir. 1995)). To
determine whether a competency hearing is necessary, the trial court
should consider evidence of the defendant's behavior and demeanor, and
defense counsel's opinion. See Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 180-81,
95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975); see also Nichols, 56 F.3d at 414.
"With regard to competency claims raised by state prisoners in federal
habeas corpus petitions, a federal court must presume a state
determination of mental competency to be correct unless such
determination is not fairly supported by the record." Sanchez v.
Senkowski, 1996 WL 1057150 at *4 (E.D.N.Y. June 19, 1996) (citing
28 U.S.C. § 2254 (d)(8); Maggio v. Fulford, 462 U.S. 111, 103 S.Ct.
2261, 76 L.Ed.2d 794 (1983) (per curiam)); see also Johnson,
974 F. Supp. at 231 ("Upon review, an appellate court owes deference to the
trial court's determinations, in recognition of the trial court's
superior opportunity to observe "the defendant during the [pretrial and
trial] proceedings.'") (quoting United States v. Vamos, 797 F.2d 1146,
1150 (2d Cir. 1986)).
The Court finds that the trial court's failure to hold a competency
hearing did not violate the Petitioner's federal constitutional due
process rights. There is no indication in the record that such a hearing
was warranted, and the Petitioner has failed to present evidence to the
contrary. The trial court questioned and observed the Petitioner at a
pre-trial proceeding to determine whether the Petitioner would
proceed pro-se. The court found that the Petitioner knowingly and
intelligently waived his right to counsel, based on the following
The Court: I have to ask you some questions relative
to pro se. I would appreciate it if you would answer
them as candidly as you can. First, give your name
for the record.
The Defendant: Edward McKenzie.
The Court: How old are you?
The Defendant: Thirty-seven.
The Court: What is your educational background?
The Defendant: One semester of college.
The Court: Have you had any experience with the
criminal justice system; if so, what is that
The Defendant: Not very much. But since I happen to do
a lot of motions on my own, I have been studying on
The Court: You told me it's not very much?