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ALFINI v. LORD

February 25, 2003

LINDA ALFINI, PETITIONER,
v.
ELAINE LORD, SUPERINTENDENT, BEDFORD HILLS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.



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

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

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

On October 14, 1992, Alfini shot her boyfriend Peter, and his father Fred Pardi. Approximately eight months earlier, in March 1992, Alfini began living with Peter in his father's home in Westbury, New York. Fred Pardi, a seventy-six year old man, became fond of Alfini and treated her like his daughter. Alfini took advantage of this relationship and began to steal money from Fred's bank account. She convinced Fred to open an account at a certain bank, then had his bank statements and ATM (automatic teller machine) card sent to a post office box, to which only Alfini had access. Over the course of the next six months, Alfini made withdrawals totaling twelve thousand dollars ($12,000.00).

In August 1992, Peter finally learned that money was missing from his father's bank account, and he questioned Alfini. Alfini went to great lengths to prevent Peter from discovering that she had stolen the money. She told him that it must be a bank error, and that she would have a lawyer investigate the matter. Alfini pretended to set up appointments to meet with an attorney, but always canceled them. When Peter became annoyed at the lack of resolution, Alfini asked an acquaintance to call Peter and pretend to be associated with a law firm that was investigating the matter. A false meeting was scheduled for October 14, 1992. Peter told Alfini that if he did not obtain satisfactory results from that meeting, he would go straight to the District Attorney's office.

On the morning of October 14, 1992, Peter went out to the post office, leaving Alfini alone with his father. Alfini took a .25 caliber gun that was in Peter's drawer, a towel, and a pillow, and proceeded to the basement. There, she used the towel and pillow to muffle the sound as she shot Fred Pardi in the back of the head, killing him. Alfini then went upstairs into the kitchen.

Shortly thereafter, Peter returned from the post office. He asked Alfini where his father was and she said he was in the basement. Peter went downstairs and saw his father. He yelled out to Linda to call an ambulance. Linda came down the basement and shot Peter from behind, once in the back and once in the leg. Peter did not see who shot him. He ran out of the house and told Linda to do the same. Then Peter ran into his neighbor's house and called the police. Meanwhile, Linda ran upstairs, put the pillow and towel in her bedroom, hid the gun in a closet near her bedroom and then went outside.

When the police arrived, they found no one else in the house. Nor did they find any signs of forced entry or intruders. They did find a .25 caliber gun with Alfini's fingerprints on it. Police detectives also discovered a green towel and pillow with gun holes in Alfini's bedroom. While at the Pardi home, several different police officers asked Alfini what happened and she gave a different account each time. Eventually, Detective Robert Hillman asked Alfini to accompany him to the police station.

Although Alfini was not under arrest when she arrived at police headquarters, Detective Gary Abbondanelo read Miranda rights to her. Initially Alfini denied any involvement in the shootings. However, eventually she confessed to killing Fred and shooting Peter. Alfini apologized to Peter and worried about what she would tell her parents.

On January 31, 1995, after a jury trial, Alfini was convicted of Murder in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25(1)) and Attempted Murder in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal Law §§ 110.00, 125.25(1)) in County Court, Nassau County (DeRiggi, J.). On March 3, 1995, the court sentenced Alfini to consecutive prison terms of twenty-five years to life for the murder conviction, and five to fifteen years for the attempted murder conviction.

Alfini directly appealed her conviction to the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department ("Appellate Division"), alleging that: (1) her statement was involuntary and the product of police coercion; (2) the prosecutor did not provide adequate grounds for two forcause juror challenges, and the trial court erred in excusing those jurors; (3) the trial court erred in allowing inflammatory photographs and a cumulative videotape of the crime scene into evidence; (4) prosecutorial misconduct during summation denied her of a fair trial; (5) the trial court erred in failing to charge the jury with the lesser included offense of manslaughter or extreme emotional disturbance; (6) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences.

On October 5, 1998, the Appellate Division affirmed Alfini's conviction, finding that: (1) she was not in custody at the time that she admitted to the shooting, and in any event her statements were voluntarily made; and (2) her remaining contentions were either unpreserved for appellate review or without merit. People v. Alfini, 254 A.D.2d 297, 678 N.Y.S.2d 278 (2d Dept. 1998). On December 2, 1998, the New York State Court of Appeals denied Alfini leave to appeal. People v. Alfini, 92 N.Y.2d 1027, 684 N.Y.S.2d 492, 707 N.E.2d 447 (1998).

On November 23, 1999, Alfini filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that: (1) the police used coercive and improper tactics to involuntarily obtain her statement in violation of her Due Process rights; (2) the trial court improperly granted two of the prosecution's forcause challenges in violation of her Due Process rights; (3) the trial court erred in allowing inflammatory photographs and a cumulative videotape into evidence in violation of her Due Process rights; (4) prosecutorial misconduct during summation deprived her of a fair trial; (5) the trial court failed to charge the jury with the lesser included offense of manslaughter or extreme emotional disturbance in violation of her due process rights; and (6) the trial court abused its discretion in imposing consecutive sentences.

On April 12, 2000, Alfini submitted an affidavit in response to the Nassau County District Attorney's Affidavit and Memorandum of Law. Alfini appears to raise an additional claim: that the indictment should have been dismissed due to error in the grand jury minutes. The Court will permit Alfini to amend her petition to add this claim, and address it below.

DISCUSSION

Alfini filed this action after the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). Accordingly, AEDPA's provisions apply to her 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 Alleged Involuntary Statement

Alfini argues her statement was involuntary and induced by coercive and improper police tactics which violated her Due Process rights. Specifically, she claims she was held for an "inordinate" amount of time and given no food, and that the police induced her confession by confronting her with Peter Pardi.

The "ultimate issue of voluntariness [of a confession] is a legal question requiring independent federal determination." Nelson v. Walker, 121 F.3d 828, 833 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting Arizona v. Fulminante, 499 U.S. 279, 287, 111 S.Ct. 1246, 113 L.Ed.2d 302 (1991)); see also Nova v. Bartlett, 211 F.3d 705, 707 (2d Cir. 2000); Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 396, 98 S.Ct. 2408, 57 L.Ed.2d 290 (1978) (holding that the Court is not bound by a state court's determination ...


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