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RAVELLO v. DONNELLY

May 3, 2004.

KEVIN RAVELLO, Petitioner,
v.
EDWARD DONNELLY, Superintendent, Wende Correctional Facility, Respondent



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN GLEESON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Kevin Ravello petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, challenging his convictions in state court arising out of the murder of Isadora Kong. The petition is denied for the reasons set forth below.

  BACKGROUND The People's evidence at trial established that, on March 8 or 9, 1996, Ravello and his co-defendant, Odell Rogers, killed Isadora Kong by stabbing her numerous times, all over her body, and strangling her in her apartment at 843 Lincoln Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. Telephone records revealed numerous calls to Kong's apartment from Rogers's apartment on March 8, 1996. When the police questioned Rogers about the murder, he implicated Ravello.

  Upon Ravello's arrest, he initially denied participating in the murder or even knowing Kong. After detectives told him that Rogers was present in the police station and that Ravello's fingerprints had been found in Kong's apartment,*fn1 Ravello made oral confessions, one of which was videotaped, in which he admitted that he knew Kong, that he occasionally had sex with her, and that on the day of her murder he accompanied Rogers to Kong's apartment because Rogers wanted to get money from her. Ravello also admitted that he held Kong while Rogers retrieved a knife from Kong's kitchen and stabbed her to death. Ravello stated that Rogers took jewelry and other property from Kong's apartment, and that he and Rogers divided the money from the sale of the jewelry after the murder.

  Ravello was charged with three counts of murder in the second degree, two counts of robbery in the first degree, and one count of robbery in the second degree. On September 15, 1997, the jury convicted Ravello of two counts of murder in the second degree. He was sentenced on September 25, 1997, to concurrent terms of imprisonment of twenty-five years to life on each count.

  Through counsel, Ravello appealed to the Appellate Division, Second Department. Appellate counsel argued that Ravello was denied effective assistance of trial counsel because: (1) counsel abandoned the defense that he advanced at the pretrial hearings, i.e., that Ravello's confessions were untruthful, involuntary and the product of police coercion, and instead attempted to convince the jury that Ravello did not share Rogers's intent to commit the murder; and (2) counsel failed to advance an alternative defense theory to the jury during summation.

  In a pro se supplemental brief, Ravello raised the following additional claims: (3) the confessions were coerced and obtained in violation of Ravello's right to counsel; and (4) Ravello's illegal confession was the fruit of a warrantless arrest inside his home, in violation of the rule in Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980).*fn2

  On November 27, 2000, the Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the conviction. It held that Ravello received "meaningful representation" from his trial attorney. The court also rejected the claims raised in the pro se supplemental brief, holding that the claims were "either unpreserved for appellate review or without merit." See People v. Ravello, 716 N.Y.S.2d 898 (2d Dep't 2000). On April 16, 2001, the New York State Court of Appeals denied Ravello's application for leave to appeal. See People v. Ravello, 96 N.Y.2d 805 (2001) (Ciparick, J.).

  In papers dated April 28, 2001, Ravello moved for a writ of error coram nobis in the Appellate Division, claiming ineffective assistance of appellate counsel based on the alleged failure to include in the leave letter to the Court of Appeals the claims contained in Ravello's pro se supplemental brief to the Appellate Division. On October 29, 2001, the Appellate Division denied Ravello's motion for a writ of error coram nobis, holding that petitioner failed to establish that he had been denied effective assistance of appellate counsel. See People v. Ravello, 732 N.Y.S.2d 184 (2d Dep't 2001).

  In the instant petition for habeas relief, Ravello reasserts the claims that he presented on his direct appeal and in his motion for a writ of error coram nobis.

  DISCUSSION

  A. The Standard of Review

  The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") has narrowed the scope of federal habeas review of state convictions where the state court has adjudicated a petitioner's federal claim on the merits. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Under the AEDPA standard, which applies to habeas petitions filed after AEDPA's enactment in 1996, the reviewing court may grant habeas relief only if the state court's decision "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). The Supreme Court has interpreted the phrase "clearly established Federal law" to mean "the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court's] decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000); see also Gilchrist v. O'Keefe, 260 F.3d 87, 93 (2d Cir. 2001).

  A decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, if "the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme Court] has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. A decision is an "unreasonable application" of clearly established Supreme Court law if a state court "identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of [a] prisoner's case." Id. "In other words, a federal court may grant relief when a state court has misapplied a `governing legal principle' to `a set ...


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