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PINA v. KUHLMANN

January 13, 2003

LOUIS PINA, PETITIONER,
V.
ROBERT KUHLMANN, SUPERINTENDENT, SULLIVAN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

Louis Pina ("Pina") petitions for a writ of habeas corpus from his 1995 conviction in state court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons stated below, Pina's petition is denied.

Mid-day on August 15, 1994, Renaldo Ramsuchit ("Renaldo"), his brother Randolph, Rashid Ford, and Allen walked through the Green Acres Shopping Mall in Valley Stream, New York. Pina, his girlfriend Anita Luckett, and co-defendant Leonel Gondola ("Gondola") also patronized the mall that afternoon.

As the two groups passed each other, Renaldo and Pina exchanged unkind words, and a fight subsequently broke out. Pina punched Renaldo in the face. Gondola also punched Renaldo. Randolph, Rashid and Allen attempted to help Renaldo, but Gondola pulled out a knife and held them off. Pina and Renaldo wrestled with each other and wound up on the floor of Victoria's Secret, a woman's clothing store located inside the mall. Gondola then turned, stabbed Renaldo in the back, and ran away.

Meanwhile, Danny Robinson ("Robinson"), an unarmed security guard, saw the two men fighting and told the store manager to call the police. Pina had wrestled Renaldo to the ground, and as Renaldo lay on his back, Pina got on top of him, placed his left hand on Renaldo's neck, and held Renaldo's head to the floor. Robinson yelled at them to stop. Pina said "Fuck this shit," reached into his boot and pulled a large kitchen knife. Robinson said, "You're not going to do that." Pina raised the knife up and plunged it into Renaldo's chest, then fled from the store. Renaldo got to his feet, but fell over and died shortly thereafter. The police arrested Pina the following day.

Pina directly appealed his conviction to the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department ("Appellate Division"), alleging that: (1) the evidence failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to kill; (2) his sentence was harsh and excessive; (3) the police arrested him without probable cause; (4) the trial court erred in its response to the jury's inquiries; (5) the trial court erred in its jury instruction on the prosecution's Rosario violation; (6) the prosecutor committed misconduct during summation which denied him a fair trial.

On April 13, 1998, the Appellate Division affirmed Pina's conviction, finding that: (1) the police had probable cause to arrest him; (2) that the evidence was legally sufficient to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) his sentence was not excessive; and (4) his remaining contentions were either unpreserved for appellate review or without merit. People v. Pina, 249 A.D.2d 421, 422, 670 N.Y.S.2d 786, 787 (2d Dept. 1998). On August 17, 1998, the New York Court of Appeals denied Pina leave to appeal. People v. Pina, 92 N.Y.2d 903, 680 N.Y.S.2d 67, 702 N.E.2d 852 (1998).

On August 11, 1999, Pina filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that: (1) the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to kill; (2) his sentence was excessive; (3) the police arrested him without probable cause; (4) the trial court erred in its response to a jury inquiry; (5) the trial court erred in its jury instruction regarding a videotape of the crime scene which the police allegedly lost or destroyed; and (6) the prosecution's summation constituted misconduct that deprived him of a fair trial.

DISCUSSION

Pina filed this action after the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). Accordingly, AEDPA's provisions apply to his case. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 420, 429, 120 S.Ct. 1479, 146 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000).

Under the provisions of Section 2254(d), a habeas corpus application must be denied unless the state court's adjudication of the claim either "resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court," or "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)(1), (2). A decision is "contrary to" established Federal law if it either "applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in" a Supreme Court case, or if it "confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme Court] and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [their] precedent." Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792, 121 S.Ct. 1910, 150 L.Ed.2d 9 (2001) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000)). A decision is an "unreasonable application of" clearly established Supreme Court precedent if it "correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies it unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's case." Id.

A. As to the Insufficient Evidence Claim

Pina alleges that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he ...


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