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Walker v. Goord

April 17, 2006


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



Petitioner, Darnell Walker ("Walker"), 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 charges of second degree (felony) murder and first degree robbery. The parties have consented to disposition of this matter by the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).


On October 1, 1995, eighteen-year-old Robert DeLancy ("DeLancy") was stabbed and killed during a robbery at his apartment, which was used as a drug house. An eyewitness, fourteen-year-old Latoya Scott ("Scott"), testified that Walker was a regular visitor to DeLancy's apartment and had arrived alone shortly before the incident. Marvin Coffie ("Coffie") and Philip Baker ("Baker") arrived soon thereafter and forced their way into the apartment. As they struggled with DeLancy at the door, Scott saw Walker grab a knife and push DeLancy down on the floor. The three men then converged on the victim. According to Scott, Walker stabbed DeLancy. All three then took money and cocaine off his person. DeLancy died of a stab wound to the heart.

Upon his arrest, Walker initially denied any involvement in the crime and claimed only to have been a witness. Eventually, however, he admitted that he, Coffie, and Baker had planned the robbery together. Walker conceded that he "set up"the victim and pulled him away from the door so that the co-defendants could gain entry to the apartment, but he insisted that it was Coffie who actually stabbed the victim. Co-defendant Baker, who had entered into a plea agreement, testified against Walker at trial and attributed the actual stabbing to Coffie. Co-defendant Coffie similarly entered into a plea agreement but did not testify at Walker's trial. The returned a verdict convicting Walker of second degree murder and first degree robbery as charged in the indictment. Walker was sentenced to concurrent sentences of imprisonment, the longest of which was twenty-five years to life.

On direct appeal, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, of New York State Supreme Court unanimously affirmed his conviction. People v. Walker, 278 A.D.2d 852, 717 N.Y.S.2d 440 (App. Div. 4th Dept. 2000). The Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. People v. Walker, 96 N.Y.2d 869, 754 N.E.2d 1127, 730 N.Y.S.2d 44 (N.Y. 2001).

This petition for federal habeas relief followed in which Walker raises three claims for relief: (1) there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction; (2) his confession was involuntary; and (3) the trial court improperly limited cross-examination of a witness. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.


Procedural Default Respondent argues that Walker's insufficient evidence claim is procedurally barred. On direct appeal, the Appellate Division stated that petitioner's insufficient evidence claim was "not preserved for [their] review[.]" People v. Walker, 275 A.D.2d at 853 (citing People v. Gray, 86 N.Y.2d 10, 19 (N.Y. 1995) (citing N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 470.05(2)). The court also held that "in any event" the claim "lack[ed] merit." Id. at 853-54 (citation omitted). Respondent contends that the claim is precluded from habeas review due to the state court's reliance on a state procedural rule in denying the claim.

It is well-established that a federal court should not review a federal claim if the state court decision is based on independent and adequate state substantive or procedural law. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 728-31 (1977). Where, as here, "'the state court explicitly invoke[d] a state procedural bar rule as a separate basis for decision,'" federal habeas review is precluded unless the petitioner can show cause for the default and resulting prejudice, or that a fundamental miscarriage of justice will occur if the federal court does not consider the defaulted claim. Velasquez v. Leonardo, 898 F.2d 7, 9 (2d Cir. 1990) (quoting Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 264 n. 10 (1989)). In the present case, the state court's reliance on New York Criminal Procedure Law § 470.05(2), known as the "contemporaneous objection rule," constituted an adequate and independent basis so as to preclude federal habeas review of this claim See Garcia v. Lewis, 188 F.3d 71, 79 (2d Cir. 1999) ("[W]e have observed and deferred to New York's consistent application of its contemporaneous objection rules.") (citations omitted).

In his pleadings submitted to this Court, Walker has alleged neither cause nor prejudice for the procedural default. Furthermore, Walker has not adduced any new evidence which would demonstrate that he is "actually innocent" of the crimes for which he was convicted and therefore entitled to the "fundamental miscarriage of justice" exception. See Dunham v. Travis, 313 F.3d 724, 730 (2d Cir. 2002) ("[A]ctual innocence means factual innocence, not mere legal insufficiency. To demonstrate actual innocence a habeas petitioner must show that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in light of the new evidence.") (internal citations and quotations omitted). Therefore, this claim is barred from federal habeas review.

Merits of the Petition

1. Involuntary ...

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