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Ramdeo v. Phillips

July 6, 2007

TOINDRA RAMDEO, PETITIONER,
v.
WILLIAM PHILLIPS, SUPERINTENDENT OF GREEN HAVEN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Petitioner, Toindra Ramdeo, a citizen of Guyana, brings the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his 1997 conviction for murder in the second degree. For the reasons set forth below, this petition is denied and this action is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

In the early morning hours of October 1, 1995, two separate incidents involving machete-wielding assailants occurred within a mile of each other in Queens County, New York. The first incident occurred at a party at 107-24 123rd Street in South Richmond Hill where, at around 2:30 a.m., one Lakeraj Ramkishun was injured after being repeatedly struck on the head with a machete. In a second, separate incident which occurred about an hour and a half later, one Alfred Anthony Salerno was killed on 106th Street between 109th and Liberty Avenues in Richmond Hill.

Within two days of the homicide, the police obtained a written statement from petitioner, in which petitioner admitted involvement in both crimes. Petitioner stated that he owned a machete, which he kept in the trunk of his white Toyota sedan, and that he had permitted a friend to use it to attack Ramkishun. Petitioner further admitted that he, himself, had used the machete to attack Salerno. Thereafter, petitioner was arrested a charged with murder in the second degree under three separate theories (intentional murder, depraved indifference murder, and felony murder) and other lesser offenses in connection with the Salerno incident, and with attempted murder in the second degree and other lesser offenses, including assault in the second degree, in connection with the Ramkishun incident.

The Suppression Hearing

Prior to the start of trial, petitioner's counsel, Leslie Nizim, Esq., moved to suppress petitioner's written statement on the grounds that it was a fruit of an unlawful arrest and was involuntarily made. The court granted petitioner a Dunaway/Huntley/Mapp hearing, which was held before Queens County Supreme Court Justice Thomas Demakos over three days in late March and early April 1997.

The Prosecution Evidence

At the hearing, the prosecution presented testimony from three of the detectives who investigated the Salerno homicide: lead Detective Larry Schwartz of the 106th Precinct and Detectives James Annunziata and Vincent Grecco of the Queens Homicide Squad. Schwartz testified that he and his partner, Detective Barden, were assigned to the homicide at approximately 4:45 a.m. on October 1, 1995 -- less than an hour after the homicide allegedly occurred (55-56).*fn1 Schwartz promptly notified the Queens Homicide Squad of the murder and Squad Detectives James Annunziata and Vincent Grecco were assigned to assist in the investigation.

Schwartz, Annunziata, and Grecco all responded to crime scene, where other officers were already busy "canvassing" the residents of 106th Street in an effort to find eyewitnesses to the murder (Schwartz: 56). Annunziata joined in this effort and, around 10:00 a.m., spoke to a woman named "Norma," who occupied a second-floor apartment overlooking 106th Street (Annunziata: 6, 22). Norma told Annunziata that sometime between 3:00 and 3:45 a.m. on October 1, 1995, she heard loud screaming and yelling from the street. Looking out her window, Norma observed three or four Indian men in their teens or twenties, running up and down the block as if they were looking for something or someone. (Annunziata: 6-8). One of the men, whom Norma described as skinny and 5'6" to 5'7" tall, was carrying a machete (Annunziata: 21). Norma also observed a white Toyota sedan, with a New York license plate bearing a number beginning "J1Z" or "JZ1," double-parked near her house (Annunziata: 7, 23).

As Norma watched, a Caucasian man -- also in his teens or twenties -- emerged from alongside Norma's building with two bottles in his hands (Annunziata: 7-8). He threw the bottles at the Indian men, then began running south on 106th Street toward Liberty Avenue (Annunziata: 7). The men gave chase and the Toyota followed them, driving in reverse (Annunziata: 7, 22). Norma watched until the men and the automobile disappeared from view, then called "911" (Annunziata: 22).

Later that morning, Schwartz learned that a machete had been used in an assault on 123rd Street shortly before the Salerno murder (Schwartz: 43, 58). Schwartz went to the scene of the assault, where he spoke to one of Ramkishun's relatives (Schwartz: 58-59). The relative described the perpetrator as a Guyanese male, who had "crashed" a party at 107-24 123rd Street (Schwartz: 60-61). According to the relative, the perpetrator had pulled the machete from the trunk of a small, white vehicle, "possibly a Toyota," knocking clothing out the trunk and onto the ground in the process (Schwartz: 44, 61). The car then drove away, leaving the clothing to be recovered by the victim's relatives (Schwartz: 44, 61). That clothing was of the sort worn by automobile mechanics, and included a blue work shirt bearing the name, "Marino Service Station," and work pants bearing the name, "Ronnie" (Schwartz: 61).

The detectives quickly ascertained that the Marino Service Station was located at 90th Street and 101st Avenue, but the station was closed for the weekend (Schwartz: 45). Therefore, Detectives Schwartz, Annunziata and Grecco had to wait until the station opened on Monday, October 2, 1995. According to Schwartz, the three detectives arrived at the service station between 8:30 and 8:35 that morning, and spoke to the owner, who stated that a "Ronnie" worked there and owned a small white car (46, 89). Informed by the owner that Ronnie was expected at work that morning, the detectives remained at the station where, sometime before 9:00 a.m., they observed petitioner's brother, Ronnie Ramdeo, arrive in a white, four-door Toyota bearing New York license plate J219HH (Schwartz: 47, 64).

The detectives identified themselves and told Ronnie that they wanted to speak with him at the precinct, but did not explain what they wished to discuss (Schwartz: 48, 63; Grecco: 118). Ronnie agreed to accompany the detectives (Schwartz: 48). At Grecco's request, Ronnie also agreed to allow Grecco to drive his Toyota to the precinct, and handed Grecco the keys to the car (Schwartz: 48; Grecco: 117). While Grecco and Annunziata were speaking to Ronnie, Schwartz looked through the windows of the Toyota and saw what appeared to be blood stains inside the vehicle (Schwartz: 48-49).

Upon arriving at the 106th Precinct, the detectives questioned Ronnie about the car (Schwartz: 49, 67; Grecco: 118). Ronnie told the detectives that the Toyota belonged to petitioner, and that petitioner had been driving it the night of the murder (Schwartz: 49-50). Ronnie also provided the detectives with petitioner's work address: an automobile repair shop near the intersection of 134th Street and Rockaway Boulevard (Schwartz: 49-50).

Although both Schwartz and Grecco recalled departing for petitioner's workplace shortly after Ronnie made his statement, there was conflicting testimony as to precisely when the statement was made and when they departed. Schwartz initially testified that Ronnie had not even arrived at work until sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. (47), then testified on cross-examination that Ronnie had arrived at the precinct sometime between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. (65) and that petitioner had been brought to the precinct by 9:00 a.m. (73). Grecco, on the other hand, testified that Ronnie made the statements around 8:00 a.m., shortly after arriving at the precinct, but that he and Schwartz did not leave the precinct until 10:30 that morning (117, 119, 139).

Both Schwartz and Grecco agreed, however, that they both traveled to petitioner's workplace on the morning of October 2, 1995, and persuaded petitioner to return with them to the precinct. Grecco readily admitted lying to petitioner by telling him that his brother had been involved in a car accident and that the police wanted to talk about the accident (100, 120). Schwartz, who specifically remembered speaking to petitioner inside the repair shop (51), did not recall exactly what was said to petitioner, but testified that the detectives might have said petitioner's brother had been in an accident (69). Both detectives testified that it took four or five minutes to drive petitioner back to the precinct, and that they did not speak with petitioner during that time (Schwartz: 70; Grecco: 121, 124). However, the detectives disagreed as to when petitioner entered the precinct; Schwartz estimated that he arrived around 9:00 a.m. (72), while Grecco first testified that he arrived between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. (101), then stated that petitioner arrived about 11:05 a.m. (121).

Upon arriving at the precinct, petitioner was taken to an interview room, located on the same floor of the 106th Precinct as the Captain's room in which his brother, Ronnie, was then sitting (Grecco: 121). Although petitioner was principally questioned by Grecco (Grecco: 121; Schwartz: 71), the detectives disagreed as to who else might have been in the interview room at the time of the interrogation. Grecco recalled that Schwartz was in the room and that Annunziata may have come in and out (112, 122). Schwartz, however, testified that he was in and out of the room (74), but recalled that Annunziata was in the room with Grecco initially and subsequently left (72). Annunziata testified that he did not participate in the questioning at all, but had observed petitioner with Grecco in a small room on the second floor (26-27, 37).

Grecco began the interview by introducing himself as a Queens Homicide detective (101). Grecco speculated that this introduction caused petitioner to suspect that his brother had not been injured and that he had been lured to the station under false pretenses (101), but petitioner made no effort to end the interview or to leave the precinct. To the contrary, when Grecco then proceeded to read petitioner his Miranda rights, petitioner acknowledged understanding the rights and agreed to talk to Grecco (101-04).

For the next 30 to 45 minutes, Grecco asked petitioner for information concerning his background (Grecco: 126-27). During that conversation, Grecco learned that petitioner was a citizen of Guyana (127). However, there was no testimony at the hearing to suggest that Grecco offered to contact the Guyanese consulate on petitioner's behalf or advised petitioner of his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Grecco then asked petitioner about his activities on the night of the two incidents (104-05). When petitioner began talking about an incident involving a machete, Grecco interrupted him to ask if he would make a written statement (105). Petitioner declined to write the statement himself, saying he did not write well enough to do so (105). Grecco then offered to scribe for petitioner, saying he would read the written statement to petitioner and give him an opportunity to make revisions (105). According to Grecco, petitioner agreed to this proposition and began to dictate his account of the incidents (105-06).

It is unclear precisely how long it took to record petitioner's statement. On direct examination, Grecco testified that petitioner began dictating his three-page statement at 12:30 p.m. (106), but then testified on cross-examination that petitioner completed giving his statement between 12:30 and 1:00 p.m. (122). However, Grecco also testified on cross-examination that it took one and one-half to two hours to take petitioner's statement and that petitioner did not sign the written statement until 2:50 p.m. (122-23).

The signed statement was introduced into evidence at the hearing, and read into the record by Grecco (108-111). In the statement, petitioner stated that he drove his cousin, Richie, and three friends -- Kevin, "Sexy," and Sexy's girlfriend -- to a party at 162nd Street and Hillside Avenue at about 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. on September 30, 1995 (109).*fn2 They remained at the party for an hour and one-half, until petitioner and his friends "got into a fight with a couple of other guys over a girl" (109).

Petitioner then drove Richie, Sexy and Kevin to another party on 123rd Street (109). Sexy and Kevin "went in to check it out," while petitioner and his cousin waited in the car (109). Five or ten minutes later, Sexy and Kevin re-emerged, fighting with a man from the party (109).

Kevin returned to the car to ask petitioner to "pop" open the trunk, which petitioner did (109). Although Kevin did not explain what he wanted from the trunk, petitioner told Grecco that "everybody" knew petitioner kept a machete there (109). Petitioner also told Grecco that he then drove a block away "because [he] didn't want anyone to get [his license] plate number" (109-10).

About two minutes later, Sexy and Kevin ran back to the car and jumped into the back seat (110). Petitioner recalled that one of the two was carrying the machete, although he did not recall which one of his friends had it (110). Petitioner then drove to 106th Street and Liberty Avenue, where he, Sexy, and Kevin stayed in a sports bar, drinking beer, until the bar closed around 4:00 a.m. (110). Richie did not enter the bar, but went to sleep in the back seat of the car (110).

As petitioner and his two friends were returning to the car, a woman screamed at them to be quiet (110). As petitioner started to drive away on 106th Street, a bottle struck petitioner's car (110). Petitioner stopped his car and emerged from his vehicle to see a Caucasian man cursing at him (110). An argument ensued, during which petitioner's friends also exited the vehicle (110). The man then ran north on 106th Street and disappeared into an alley (110). When petitioner and his friends passed the alley, the man re-emerged from the alley and threw two more bottles at petitioner's car, prompting petitioner and his friends to chase him back down 106th Street (110).

Petitioner and his friends caught up with the man in an alley, where he attempted to escape by climbing on top of a red car (111). Petitioner struck the man at least five times with the machete (111). Petitioner told Grecco that he did not remember seeing much blood following the attack, so petitioner and his friends left the man lying in the alley, got back in their car, and went home (111).

Grecco unequivocally testified that petitioner gave the statement entirely "on his own" (129). Petitioner was not handcuffed at any point during the interrogation (111), and was permitted to leave the interview room to use the bathroom (111, 137). Petitioner was also given a soda and, perhaps, some coffee (111, 137), although Grecco could not recall whether petitioner had anything to eat while in the interview room (138). Grecco also testified that he read the statement back to petitioner, who declined to make any changes and agreed to sign it (106-07).

Grecco then asked petitioner if he would agree to make a videotaped statement, but petitioner declined (Grecco: 141). Accordingly, Grecco did not request that an Assistant District Attorney be sent to the precinct (Grecco: 127). Grecco testified that he believed Schwartz might have contacted the District Attorney's Office (127, 137), but there was no evidence that Schwartz had requested the presence of a prosecutor. Indeed, Schwartz did not mention contacting the District Attorney's Office, even though he testified that he had appeared before a judge to apply for a warrant to search the Toyota sometime in the late morning or early afternoon of October 2, 1995 (Schwartz: 65, 81-82).*fn3

Grecco denied that he or any other officers had raised their voices at any point during the interrogation, or that Grecco had threatened petitioner by saying he did not like to see blood (129-30). Grecco admitted that one of the photographs taken following the interview showed a red mark over petitioner's eye, but both he and Schwartz denied that they or any other officers had struck petitioner (Schwartz: 81; Grecco: 129, 131). While Grecco could not recall if there were any marks on petitioner's face when Grecco met him at petitioner's place of employment (121, 142), Schwartz recalled that petitioner had some cuts and scratches on his face when he arrived at the precinct and had explained the injuries by saying that he had been in a few fights the night before (Schwartz: 77-78).

Sometime after petitioner signed the written statement, the police asked both petitioner and Ronnie for permission to search the basement apartment they shared at 109-21 134th Street in South Ozone Park, Queens. Both brothers orally consented to the search, and a sergeant in the 106th Precinct directed Annunziata to type up consent forms for both petitioner and Ronnie (Annunziata: 8, 27-28). Annunziata completed this task within five or ten minutes, and presented a completed form to Ronnie for his signature around 5:00 p.m., asking, "Would you give your consent for us to search your apartment?" (9, 28, 31). After Ronnie signed, Annunziata went to the interview room, where petitioner signed another consent form around 5:05 p.m. (28).

Thereafter, Annunziata, accompanied by Ronnie and a Sergeant Smith, conducted a search of the brothers' basement apartment (Annunziata: 10-11). At the foot of the stairs leading to the basement apartment, they found a black Fila sneaker with blood stains on it (11, 15). Underneath the stairs, they found a machete with blood on the blade (11). Annunziata asked Ronnie if he knew about the weapon, but Ronnie denied any knowledge (12, 38). Next to the machete, Annunziata found a gym bag and a wallet (12). After asking Ronnie if the wallet was his and learning that it was not, Annunziata opened the wallet and discovered various identifications belonging to Salerno (12, 15, 38).

In the middle of the bedroom floor, the officers found tan pants and a long-sleeved shirt, both of which had blood on them (12). Annunziata asked Ronnie if the clothes belonged to him (38). When Ronnie denied that they did, Annunziata inquired as to who slept in the large double bed in the living room -- the only bed in the house (14). Ronnie stated that he and his brother both used the bed and that they were the sole residents of the apartment (14).

Following the search, Annunziata, Ronnie and Smith all returned to the precinct (37). There, the brothers -- who had been kept separate until that point -- were allowed to see each other before petitioner was taken to Central Booking (Schwartz: 84-86). Schwartz was uncertain of the exact time that petitioner left the precinct, but believed that it was sometime in the evening (84-85). Schwartz estimated that petitioner had been at the precinct for approximately seven or eight hours by the time he was transported to Central Booking (71-72).

The Defense Evidence

Both petitioner and his brother, Ronnie, testified at the hearing in an effort to establish that petitioner's statement was not voluntarily made. Ronnie testified that he lived with his brother at 109-21 134th Street, and that the brothers both slept in the same bed (147, 168). On October 2, 1995, Ronnie awoke petitioner at around 7:45 a.m. to ask him for money to pay the rent (147). Ronnie recalled speaking with petitioner for a minute or so, and testified that his face appeared "normal" at the time (148).

Ronnie arrived at work around 7:55 a.m. to find four detectives waiting for him (148). According to Ronnie, he agreed to speak to the detectives at his workplace (182), but they insisted on taking him to the precinct (149, 182-83). They handcuffed him, then removed the keys to his car from his pocket, before transporting him to the 106th Precinct (149).

At the precinct, Schwartz questioned Ronnie concerning his whereabouts on the night of the incidents. Ronnie told Schwartz that he was with his cousin at his uncle's house (185). According to Ronnie, Schwartz then began "screaming and yelling," accusing Ronnie of "lying" and of involvement in the incident at 123rd Street and the murder (150, 188, 190). Schwartz said that he had witnesses who had purportedly seen Ronnie at the crime scenes, and showed Ronnie the clothes that had been recovered from 123rd Street (184, 197). Ronnie alleged that, at times during the interrogation, Schwartz acted as if he were preparing to slap him, but that Schwartz never actually struck him (168, 188, 197).

Thereafter, Ronnie gave a statement to the police (150). Ronnie did not write the statement himself, but read and signed a writing prepared by one of the detectives (188-89). The police also asked for information about other people, including petitioner, and Ronnie supplied them with information, including his brother's work address (150, 185-86).

Although Ronnie remained inside a room at the precinct and had no watch or other means of knowing the time (170), Ronnie testified at the hearing that the police brought his brother to the precinct around 11:00 that morning (150). Thereafter, Ronnie heard Schwartz screaming and yelling for about 20 minutes in an adjacent room (151, 198-99). Sometime between 11:00 and 11:30 a.m., the police informed Ronnie that petitioner had given them a statement and asked Ronnie if he wanted to see his brother (151-52, 192). Ronnie was then escorted next door by Schwartz and another detective. Standing in the doorway, Ronnie was able to see petitioner seated four to six feet away, handcuffed to a chair (152, 193). Ronnie testified that his brother had a black eye and a cut on his forehead above his left eye, and that blood was dripping down petitioner's face (152, 200). Ronnie was prevented from entering the room and did not speak to petitioner, but simply looked at him for a minute or two (152, 174-75, 200).

At the hearing, petitioner also testified concerning his version of the events preceding this encounter with his brother. Petitioner testified that Schwartz and two other detectives came to his place of employment on October 2, 1995 (208). Although petitioner was not wearing a watch and could not recall the exact time, he estimated that the detectives arrived sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m. (209). The detectives told petitioner that his brother had been in an accident, and petitioner agreed to accompany them to the precinct (209). Petitioner was not handcuffed, but voluntarily got into a police vehicle for the ride to the 106th Precinct (209).

There was no conversation during that ride (210). Upon arrival at the precinct, petitioner was taken to the second floor and placed in a room with five detectives (210). According to petitioner, the detectives did not read him his Miranda rights, but immediately asked where he had been on the night of the incidents (210). When petitioner failed to reply and put his head down on the table, one of the detectives other than Schwartz, Annunziata, or Grecco struck him three times across the back of the head with his hand (211-12).

Asked again for his whereabouts, petitioner claimed that he had been at his cousin's house, but had gone home around midnight (212). Another detective, who petitioner thought was "the chief," then slapped petitioner across his lips, leaving his bottom lip "busted" (212-13). After this detective left the room, another detective -- possibly Annunziata -- showed petitioner the clothes that had been left on 123rd Street and divulged that witnesses had seen the Toyota at that location (214). This prompted petitioner to give them "a part of the statement" (215). On direct examination, petitioner was not specific as to what "part of the statement" he provided, although he stated that he still had not told them anything about the incident on 106th Street (215).

According to petitioner's testimony, the detectives then used physical tactics to force petitioner to speak about the murder. First, Schwartz slammed petitioner, who was not yet handcuffed, against a window and pointed out that the Toyota was in police custody (215-16).

When petitioner still refused to talk, Schwartz hit petitioner in the head with the back of his hand (217). A ring on Schwartz's hand struck petitioner near the eye, opening a cut which then started bleeding (217).

Thereafter, the detectives directed petitioner to take everything out of his pockets and handcuffed him to a chair (217-18). Petitioner continued to refuse to speak about the incident on 106th Street until the detectives brought his brother into the room (218). According to petitioner, Schwartz claimed that the detectives had enough evidence to "nail" Ronnie for the murder, but would let him go if petitioner told them what happened on 106th Street (219).

Although this prompted petitioner to cooperate with the police, petitioner initially testified that he had not actually told them what happened, but simply confirmed what the police already suspected. On direct examination, petitioner testified that Grecco seemed to know what had happened "from some other statement," and wrote the statement by asking petitioner to confirm that portions of what he had learned were "right" or "good" (219-20). Petitioner denied that he ever read the completed statement or had it read to him, but admitted having signed the document (221). However, he maintained that he had not signed the statement voluntarily, stating that he signed the statement because he wanted "to get out of the room" and because, having already been struck several times, he thought "something would happen" to him if he did not sign (221).

On cross-examination, the prosecution not only inquired about whether petitioner had actually told the police certain facts set forth in the written statement, but also asked, over frequent defense objections, whether those facts were true. For example, the prosecution asked petitioner if he had told the police that he had a machete (230). When petitioner denied having done so, the prosecution was permitted to ask, over defense counsel's objection, whether petitioner actually had a machete on the night of the incidents (230). Petitioner then admitted possessing a machete that evening (230).

In this manner, the prosecution established that many of the facts reported in the written statement were true, even though petitioner alleged that these facts had been supplied by the police and alleged that he had not signed the statement voluntarily. Petitioner testified that he never told police that he used the machete but, over defense objection, admitted on cross-examination that he had, in fact, swung it at Salerno (231). Similarly, petitioner testified over defense objection that he had struck Salerno with the machete (234-35), and that he did not tell the police that anyone else had a machete because he was the only one in possession of such a weapon (235).

Toward the end of cross-examination, the prosecutor asked petitioner to read the entire written statement to himself and to identify those portions which were not true (248). When petitioner appeared not to understand what the prosecutor wanted him to do, Justice Demakos himself took over this line of questioning (248). Justice Demakos emphasized that he wanted petitioner to identify the portions of the statement which he had not made, and not to indicate which portions were true or not true (251). When petitioner began to testify concerning what actually happened that night, the judge interrupted and reminded him, "No, I don't want to know what happened. I want to know what you told Detective Grecco" (253-54). Petitioner then testified that, although there were some inaccuracies in the statement, he had told Grecco everything about the 123rd Street incident (254). However, petitioner maintained that he had not told Grecco anything about the murder, other than that he had argued with a lady on 106th Street (254-56).

During cross-examination, petitioner admitted that he could read English (247), and that his signatures appeared on the statement, the Miranda form, and the consent to search his apartment (245, 257, 260). However, petitioner claimed that he could not recall signing the Miranda form, and speculated that he must have unwittingly signed it, along with the many other papers presented for his signature following the interrogation (245-46). Although petitioner continued to assert that he had not voluntarily signed the statement or the consent to search (259-60), he did not testify that the statement was false. To the contrary, he implied the opposite by saying that he had not bothered to read the statement or to ask Grecco to read it to him because "I know I tell him what was in there" (258).

The Decision

Justice Demakos credited the testimony of the three prosecution witnesses, which he found to be "candid and trustworthy," and denied petitioner's suppression motions. People v. Ramdeo, Ind. No. 4251-95, slip op. at 1 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. May 3, 1996). First, Justice Demakos concluded, based on the totality of the circumstances, that the police had "sufficient information to seek out and request [petitioner] to accompany them back to the precinct." Id. at 6. The Court found that the detectives had lured petitioner to the precinct by telling him that his brother had been in an accident, id. at 3, but held that this "ruse" did not "compel a conclusion of involuntariness" because petitioner did not show "that the deception was so fundamentally unfair as to deny [petitioner] due process." Id. at 7 (citing People v. Tarsia, 50 N.Y.2d 1 (1980)).

Crediting the detectives' testimony concerning the administration of Miranda warnings, Justice Demakos also held that petitioner had freely and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights prior to giving his statement. Id. at 7. The judge did not credit petitioner's account of abuse at the hands of the detectives and, therefore, found that the People had proved "beyond a reasonable doubt" that petitioner's statements were voluntarily given. Id. Petitioner's motion to suppress these statements was, therefore, denied. Id.

Justice Demakos also denied petitioner's motion to suppress the physical evidence recovered as a result of the search of petitioner's apartment and the Toyota. The judge found that the detectives had properly obtained permission to search the apartment from both petitioner and his brother, even though either one could have authorized the search. Id. at 7-8. In addition, the judge found, based on Detective Schwartz's testimony about seeing blood stains inside the car, that the warrant to search the Toyota had been providently granted. Id. at 8.

The Trial

In late February 1997, petitioner, represented by a new counsel, Warren M. Silverman, Esq., went on trial before Justice James E. Robinson and a jury. The People presented a total of 20 witnesses, but only half of these were eyewitnesses to either the attack on Lakeraj Ramkishun or the incident which ended with the murder of Alfred Anthony Salerno. Moreover, only two of these eyewitnesses -- Yogeshwar Singh and Bhoopaul "Richie" Deonarain -- could actually identify petitioner as a participant in either crime.

Yogeshwar Singh testified that he had been introduced to petitioner, whom he knew as "Mike" Ramdeo, around 1992, when Singh was home on leave from the Army (T. 411--12).*fn4

After Singh was discharged from the military in June 1994, he became friends with petitioner and began seeing him on a regular basis (T. 412). Singh was also acquainted with a man named Alvin, but had known him for less than ...


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