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Garfield v. Poole

March 23, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR E. Bianchini United States Magistrate Judge



Petitioner, Andre Garfield ("Garfield"), filed this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his conviction in Monroe County Court on two counts of first degree robbery. The parties have consented to disposition of this matter by the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).


The conviction here at issue stems from Garfield's involvement in an armed robbery that took place on August 27, 1997, at the Kim Ching Restaurant in the City of Rochester. Garfield and three co-defendants, all of whom were armed with guns, entered the restaurant and demanded property from several patrons. The security videotape showed that Garfield fired his gun at the owner of the restaurant, striking him in the chest at close range; fortunately, the injury was not fatal. As Garfield was fleeing, he was shot by the police. By Indictment #97, Garfield and three co-defendants were charged with eight counts of first degree robbery, two counts of first degree criminal use of a firearm, three counts of attempted first degree assault, and one count of first degree reckless endangerment.

On November 24, 1997, Garfield pled guilty to two counts of first degree robbery in full satisfaction of the indictment, with a sentence promise of twelve and one-half to twenty-five years. Garfield agreed to waive his appellate rights and to cooperate with the state in prosecuting his three co-defendants.

On January 28, 1998, Garfield appeared in court with his assigned attorney, Elma Bellini ("Bellini"). When asked whether he was appearing with Bellini as his attorney, Garfield responded, "No." T.2. Bellini informed the court that Garfield "had indicated dissatisfaction with [her] representation to this point, and he wishe[d] to address the court regarding that." Id. The court announced that he had received a letter to that effect from petitioner. Id. Garfield's mother, who was present in court, stated that she had been trying to retain a lawyer for her son but had been unsuccessful so far. The court explained that he did not want her to "think that by hiring another attorney on the case that that would automatically mean that the history of the case up to this point would disappear." T.4. The court agreed to grant a continuance until February 6, 1998, to afford Mrs. Garfield more time. Id. Nothing was put on the record regarding the reasons for Garfield's dissatisfaction with attorney Bellini.

When Garfield appeared in court on February 6, 1998, he stated that his mother had not had enough time to find another lawyer. Mrs. Garfield asked the court to give her another two weeks. The court agreed, but stated, "[t]his is it." T2.2. The parties appeared again on February 20, 1998. Garfield still did not want attorney Bellini to represent him, and Mrs. Garfield claimed she had not yet been able to retain an attorney. T3.2. Upon hearing this, the judge stated that he was "going to proceed judicially[.]" T3.3. The court then heard arguments from the prosecutor and attorney Bellini regarding their sentencing recommendations. At the close of the hearing, the judge imposed the agreed upon sentence of twelve and one-half to twenty-five years. On February 20, 1998, Garfield was sentenced in accordance with the plea agreement.

Represented by a different attorney from the public defender's office, Garfield appealed his conviction, arguing only that his sentence was harsh and excessive. The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, of New York State Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the conviction. People v. Garfield, 270 A.D.2d 974 (App. Div. 4th Dept. 2000). The New York Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. People v. Garfield, 95 N.Y.2d 797 (N.Y. 2000).

On December 20, 2000, Garfield collaterally attacked his conviction by means of an application for a writ of error coram nobis, alleging that his appellate counsel was ineffective. This motion was denied without opinion by the Appellate Division on March 21, 2001. On August 29, 2001, Garfield moved to vacate the judgment pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law § 440.10, arguing that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to inform him of the potential defense of intoxication; that the trial court erred when it did not inform him of the existence of the intoxication defense and his right to withdraw his plea "regarding defendant[']s drug use and possession of the same at the time said crime occurred"; and that his guilty plea was involuntarily entered because he "was coerced into committing the crime and therefore subjugated by duress." In support of his motion, Garfield submitted, inter alia, a pre-sentencing letter to the trial court asking to withdraw his guilty plea, a letter to his mother from an individual named Lamont Gordon ("Gordon"), and the pre-sentence report. The trial court summarily denied the motion for the reasons set forth in the prosecution's answering affirmation. See October 3, 2001 County Court Order. The Appellate Division denied leave to appeal on March 27, 2002.

This habeas petition followed. Respondent does not raise the defense of non-exhaustion, and all of Garfield's claims appear to be fully exhausted and properly before this Court. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.


Standard of Review

To prevail under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254, as amended by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") in 1996, a petitioner seeking federal review of his conviction must demonstrate that the state court's adjudication of his federal constitutional claim resulted in a decision that was contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent, or resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable factual determination in light of ...

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