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Famojure v. Mazzuca

November 6, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, U.S.D.J.

Opinion and Order

Petitioner Babatunde Famojure seeks a writ of habeas corpus to challenge his 2002 conviction in New York County Court, County of Westchester, on one count of Robbery in the First Degree. The trial court sentenced him to a term of imprisonment of ten years, a sentence that he is currently serving.

Petitioner asserts three claims. First, he argues that the trial court erroneously admitted inculpatory statements that he made during a police interrogation that proceeded for hours before he received Miranda warnings. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444-45 (1966). Second, Petitioner argues that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel failed to object to inadmissible evidence or ask the court to question jurors about a possible incident of tainting. Third, Petitioner argues that his sentence is unreasonably harsh.

I. Background

A. The Robbery and Investigation

On the morning of November 6, 2000, four men participated in the armed robbery of a supermarket in Yonkers, New York. After the robbery, the men fled in a 1997 black BMW, owned by Petitioner (the "BMW"). Later that day, the New York City Police Department found Petitioner's BMW parked in the Bronx, and Yonkers detectives impounded the car.

That same day, Petitioner visited a Bronx police precinct to report that his BMW had been stolen. Detectives Marinelli and Conca, two Yonkers detectives, traveled to the Bronx precinct and asked Petitioner if he would accompany them to the Yonkers police precinct to discuss the theft of his car. According to Detective Marinelli's trial testimony, Petitioner voluntarily accompanied them to the Yonkers police station. Petitioner was not placed in restraints or subjected to a pat-down or other search, and did not request to speak with an attorney. See Tr. 144-46.*fn1 Detectives Marinelli and Conca did not inform Petitioner of his Miranda rights at any time.

When Petitioner arrived at the Yonkers police station, he was questioned by two other Yonkers detectives, Detectives Maher and Powrie, again without receiving Miranda warnings. According to Detective Maher's trial testimony, the detectives did not ask Petitioner about the robbery. Instead, the detectives questioned Petitioner about his report that his BMW had been stolen. The detectives offered Petitioner food, drink, and an opportunity to use the bathroom before the interview began. Petitioner did not request to speak with a lawyer. Tr. 186-91.

After questioning Petitioner about the theft of his car for approximately three to four hours, Tr. 192, 420, the detectives informed Petitioner that his BMW had been used in a robbery earlier that day. Detective Maher testified that Petitioner replied, "I'll tell you that I was involved, but I don't want to get anyone else involved." Tr. 192. Following Petitioner's statement, Detective Maher stopped the interview, retrieved a Miranda warning card from his desk, read the card to Petitioner, confirmed Petitioner understood his rights, and had Petitioner sign and date the Miranda card. Petitioner did not request to speak to an attorney. Tr. 192-98.

Petitioner then made an oral statement to the detectives, admitting that he robbed the supermarket and falsely reported that his BMW had been stolen. Tr. 198-202. A detective typed up Petitioner's oral statement, and Petitioner reviewed and signed the written statement. Tr. 202-08. Petitioner later identified his three accomplices in the robbery.

On June 15, 2001, a Westchester County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner on charges stemming from the robbery. Each of Petitioner's accomplices pleaded guilty. In their plea allocutions, two of Petitioner's accomplices gave sworn statements that named Petitioner as the mastermind and organizer of the plot to rob the supermarket.

B. Pre-Trial Suppression Hearing Following his indictment, Petitioner moved to suppress his statements on the ground they were made involuntarily. On September 24, 2001, the Westchester County Court ordered a Huntley hearing on Petitioner's motion. See People v. Huntley, 204 N.E.2d 179 (N.Y. 1965). Following the hearing, the court ruled that Petitioner voluntarily accompanied the police to Yonkers, and voluntarily made statements to the police after being advised of his Miranda rights.

C. Trial and Subsequent Proceedings

Jury selection in Petitioner's trial commenced on February 2, 2002. During the trial, the prosecutor introduced testimony from witnesses to Petitioner's crime and escape from the crime scene. Two of Petitioner's accomplices also testified regarding Petitioner's role in the crime. Opp. Aff. 4. Petitioner argued that he did not commit the crime, and repeated his claim that his statement to the police was involuntary and given without the benefit of Miranda ...

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