The opinion of the court was delivered by: DENNY CHIN, District Judge
Pro se petitioner Carlos DeLucia brings this petition for a
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner
was convicted on June 27, 2000, after a jury trial in the Supreme
Court of the State of New York, New York County, of murder in the
second degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the second
degree, and reckless endangerment in the first degree. He was
sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment of twenty-five
years to life on the murder conviction, fifteen years on the
weapons conviction, and three-and-a-half to seven years on the
reckless endangerment conviction. Petitioner contests his conviction on the following grounds:
(1) the trial court improperly modified mid-trial its prior
ruling prohibiting the prosecution from offering certain
evidence; and (2) the trial court's refusal to charge
manslaughter in the first degree as a lesser-included offense to
murder denied appellant a fair trial. The Court has reviewed the
parties' submissions and the record of the proceedings below. For
the reasons that follow, the petition is denied.
The following is a summary of facts adduced at DeLucia's trial.
On September 25, 1998 at approximately 10 p.m., 32 year-old
DeLucia approached 17-year-old Antony Boynton and Boynton's
half-sister, Onica Bruce, in front of 224 East 28th Street in New
York City, an apartment complex in which Boynton, Bruce, DeLucia,
and DeLucia's girlfriend, Olga Rosado, lived. (Tr. 373, 377-79,
393-94, 675, 782, 809, 844-45).*fn1 DeLucia and Boynton knew
each other from the neighborhood, and Boynton owed DeLucia twenty
dollars. (Tr. 397-98, 797, 832-33, 835, 845, 851-52). DeLucia
threatened Boynton, stating that Boynton "better give him his
money, or he will make an example out of him." (Tr. 393-99,
408-09). The next day at noon, DeLucia repeated his threat that
Boynton "better have his fucking money" and instructed him to give the twenty dollars to him or Rosado. (Tr.
397, 404, 411, 413-14, 422-23).
On Sunday, September 27, 1998 at approximately 3 a.m., DeLucia
and Boynton stood with a group of friends outside of 244 East
28th Street. (Tr. 290, 607-08, 615-16). Renee Ellis, a security
supervisor who lived at 344 East 28th Street on the corner of
First Avenue, and Todd Brown, who had just left his friend's
apartment, were present. (Tr. 281-84, 286, 543-45, 607). DeLucia
slapped Boynton across the face. (Tr. 290, 342, 558-59). Ellis
then stepped in between DeLucia and Boynton to break up the
confrontation. (Tr. 302). DeLucia accused Boynton of "run[ing]
off with [his] twenty dollars." (Tr. 565). When Ellis asked what
was going on, Boynton explained, "I owe him twenty dollars." (Tr.
291, 302, 304, 341). Ellis immediately handed DeLucia twenty
dollars, and DeLucia "snatched" the money, continued cursing, and
then shouted to Ellis, "[i]t is none of your damn business. Stay
out of it. It is the principle." (Tr. 291, 304-05, 343). Brown
then pushed Ellis out of the way of Boynton and DeLucia. (Tr.
562-63, 570-71, 605, 617). Seconds later, DeLucia pulled out his
revolver and shot Boynton in the head from between three and five
feet away. (Tr. 566-67, 604-06, 616). Ellis had not seen the
shooting because he had his back to DeLucia and Boynton, but when
he heard the shot, he turned around, saw DeLucia with his gun
pointed at Boynton, and then ran. (Tr. 291-93, 308-10, 331,
343-45, 360). Brown also ran away from DeLucia. (Tr. 570-71,
644). A few minutes later, Ellis encountered DeLucia exiting from a
side door at 224 East 28th Street. (Tr. 314, 331-32, 343-45, 351,
575, 598). Ellis said to an acquaintance who was standing with
DeLucia that he was looking for Boynton. (Tr. 314, 352). DeLucia
responded, "Anthony is fucking dead and so will you [be]." (Tr.
293, 314, 346, 352-53). DeLucia then pulled out his gun and fired
two shots at Ellis, but missed. (Tr. 293, 316-17, 347, 353).
Around 3:15 a.m., the police found Boynton slumped in front of
the building and bleeding from his head. (Tr. 428). An ambulance
took Boynton to Bellevue Hospital where he was declared "brain
dead" upon arrival. He was declared officially dead at 7:25 p.m.
(Tr. 381, 472).
A. The Proceedings in the Trial Court
DeLucia was indicted in 1998 in the Supreme Court, New York
County. The trial commenced on May 25, 2000. During the trial,
the prosecution requested that it be allowed to offer evidence
suggesting that the twenty-dollar debt was a result of a drug
transaction. (Voir Dire Tr. 330; Tr. 195-202). The trial court
ruled, in accordance with People v. Molineux, 168 N.Y. 264
(1901), that evidence suggesting that DeLucia and Boynton were
involved in drug transactions would be overly prejudicial and,
therefore, not admissible. (Tr. 200). The trial court cautioned,
however, that if the defense were to "open the door" by arguing
that "the twenty dollars was not owed . . . [or] that it is illogical for the defendant to have killed [Boynton] for
twenty dollars," the prosecution would be allowed to present
evidence of drug transactions to the jury, including evidence
regarding marijuana sales between DeLucia and Boynton. (Tr.
At trial, DeLucia took the stand and testified that he was
generous and had previously given Boynton money just like he
"gave all the other kids in the neighborhood money when they
asked" for money to buy ice cream or go to a movie. (Tr. 787-88,
799, 834-35, 851-52). The prosecution argued that the direct
testimony "opened the door" and the trial court agreed. (Tr.
798-800). As a result, the prosecution elicited testimony that
Boynton sold drugs for DeLucia. Specifically, Bruce testified
that she observed Boynton selling drugs, and on one occasion two
weeks prior to the murder, she saw Boynton hand DeLucia money in
exchange for approximately ten bags of marijuana. (Tr. 913-16,
At the conclusion of the trial, the trial court submitted to
the jury two murder counts and a second-degree weapons possession
count with respect to Boynton's death, and attempted murder,
attempted assault, criminal use of a firearm, and reckless
endangerment counts with respect to DeLucia's alleged conduct
toward Ellis. On June 6, 2000, the jury found DeLucia guilty of
intentional murder and criminal possession of a weapon in the
second degree in the killing of Boynton, and reckless
endangerment in the first degree for shooting at Ellis. The jury found DeLucia not guilty on the remaining charges. On
June 27, 1999, Justice James Yates sentenced DeLucia to an
indeterminate term of twenty-five years to life on the murder
conviction, a determinate ...