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COSEY v. WALSH

April 7, 2003

ARCHIE COSEY, PETITIONER,
v.
JAMES J. WALSH, SUPERINTENDENT, SULLIVAN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shira A. Scheindlin, United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Archie Cosey, proceeding pro se, petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus under section 2254 of Title 28 of the United States Code. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

On October 15, 1998, Cosey appeared before the Honorable Leslie Crocker Snyder in New York State Supreme Court, New York County, and pleaded guilty to one count of Conspiracy in the First Degree*fn1 and one count of Murder in the Second Degree.*fn2

See 10/15/98 Plea Hearing ("Plea"), Ex. F to Memorandum of Law in Support of Answer Opposing Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Opp. Mem."), at 66. The plea was taken in exchange for a promise from the court to sentence Cosey to concurrent indeterminate prison terms of from twenty-five years to life in prison. See id. at 66-67. Less than one month later, on November 10, 1998, Cosey appeared with his attorney before Judge Snyder and filed a pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea.*fn3

See 11/10/98 Withdrawal of Plea Hearing ("Withdrawal Hearing"), Ex. G to Opp. Mem. Cosey asserted that he had been coerced into accepting the plea offer and that his counsel had provided ineffective assistance.*fn4 See id. at 80-84; Opp. Mem. at 7-10.

Judge Snyder, in responding to Cosey's allegations, called it "the most outrageous application [she had] ever heard." See Withdrawal Hearing at 84. Without granting an evidentiary hearing, Judge Snyder concluded that Cosey had entered his guilty plea knowingly and voluntarily. Judge Snyder based this conclusion on Cosey's plea allocution and the fact that he never reported any threats to his family to either his attorney or the District Attorney. See id. She denied Cosey's motion to vacate his plea and sentenced Cosey to twenty-five years to life. See Opp. Mem. at 10.

On appeal to the Appellate Division, First Department, Cosey claimed that the trial court had abused its discretion in denying his motion without conducting a hearing. On September 27, 2001, the appellate court unanimously affirmed Cosey's conviction. See People v. Cosey, 730 N.Y.S.2d 434 (1st Dep't. 2001). The appellate court held that Judge Snyder "properly exercised [her] discretion in denying [Cosey's] application to withdraw his guilty plea after affording [Cosey] a full opportunity to present his claims." Id. Furthermore, the appellate court noted that Judge Snyder properly concluded that Cosey's plea was voluntary and his "vague and unsubstantiated" claim that his plea had been coerced was "contradicted by his plea allocution." Id. The New York Court of Appeals denied Cosey leave to appeal on November 9, 2001. See People v. Cosey, 737 N.Y.S.2d 56 (2001).

Cosey now seeks habeas relief asserting that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to grant a hearing on his claim that his guilty plea was coerced.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Cosey Raises No Constitutional Claim

In determining whether federal habeas relief is available, a federal court will only review allegations of deprivations of federal rights. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) (providing that habeas corpus relief in the federal courts is available to a state prisoner "only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States"). Cosey's habeas petition alleges that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to grant him an evidentiary hearing on his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. His petition does not allege that any federal right was violated by the denial of the evidentiary hearing. Because Cosey's claim alleges no violation of a federal right, there can be no federal habeas relief. See Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 119 (1982). However, even if Cosey's petition is construed as asserting a constitutional violation, it must nonetheless be denied.

B. Cosey's Due Process Claim in State Appeal

Although Cosey alleges in his petition that the trial court abused its discretion in not awarding him a hearing based on his claim of a coerced guilty plea, because he is proceeding pro se, his petition must be "liberally construed in his favor." Simmons v. Abruzzo, 49 F.3d 83, 97 (2d Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). While he never explicitly raises a Fifth Amendment claim, it is ...


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