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Miles v. Smith

April 21, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lawrence E. Kahn U.S. District Judge


I. Background

A. Facts

The following factual summary is derived from the state court records. In December 1996, December 1997, and August 1998, Miles committed four robberies at three different Giant Supermarkets in the city of Binghamton, New York. See Transcript of Trial of Emil J. Miles ("Trial Tr."), June 21-24, 1999, at 296-316, 444-45, 600-01, 604.

The first two robberies took place on December 8, 1996 and December 24, 1996 at the Giant Supermarket located at 56 Main Street in Binghamton. During the December 8 robbery, Miles was wearing a hooded sweatshirt over his head, a tan jacket, and a mask that partially covered his face. Trial Tr. at 602. Miles threw a brown sack at Catherine Ostrum, the store's bookkeeper, and pointed a silver gun at her. 601-02. He demanded money and threatened to shoot Ostrum if she did not comply. 604. Ostrum could see Miles's face from the bridge of his nose to the top of his forehead. 603. Michael Holland, the store's assistant manager, heard "yelling" and walked to the front of the store. Id. at 638-42. Miles pulled down the mask and told Holland to stand next to him or Miles would "blow [his] head off." 601-04; 636-40. Ostrum put $3,500.00 into the brown sack and Miles fled. Id.

During the December 24 robbery, Miles again approached Ostrum and two other store employees. He threw another brown sack at Ostrum, pointed a silver gun similar to the gun used in the December 8 robbery at her, and demanded money. Trial Tr. at 605-06. Ostrum put $5,000.00 into the brown sack and gave it to Miles. Id. at 607-08. Holland was also present during the robbery. 643-44. He ran to the front of the store and saw Miles from the back, but recognized him as the same person who robbed the store on December 8 based upon his build, height, eyes, and voice. 604-07, 644-45. Holland also recognized the gun and brown sack from the previous robbery. Id.Ostrum and Holland later identified Miles as the person who committed both robberies at a line-up conducted on November 20, 1998 and in court. 608-09, 633-34.

The third robbery took place on December 20, 1997, between 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. at the Giant Supermarket located at 279 Main Street in Binghamton. Trial Tr. at 296-97, 303.

Miles was wearing a green army-type coat and a green knit hat when he entered the store. 304-05, 310. He approached the customer service window and threw a blank piece of paper onto the counter. 305. Jason Vymislicky, a store employee, asked Miles if he needed assistance. 305. Miles pulled out a gun and slid it along the service counter toward Vymislicky. Miles cocked the gun and demanded money. 305-06, 331. Vymislicky emptied the contents of a cash drawer and safe, approximately $30,000.00, into a white pillowcase supplied by Miles. Id. at 306-08. Vymislicky identified Miles as the man who robbed him in a pre-trial line-up conducted on November 20, 1998 and in court. 311-15.

Keith Ludwig lived near the Giant Supermarket. Trial Tr. at 334-35. The day after the December 20, 1997 robbery, Ludwig found a green jacket and a dark colored hat under his car. 335-36. There were rubber gloves in the jacket. 359-62. Ludwig turned the items over to Investigator Gerald Shoemaker of the Binghamton Police Department. 337-40, 344-56. Vymislicky identified both the hat and the jacket as similar to those worn by Miles during the robbery. 310-11.

A latent fingerprint found inside one of the gloves matched Miles's left ring fingerprint. Trial Tr. at 382-99, 423-34. Shannon Morris, a forensic scientist, recovered several pieces of hair from the hat. 509-21. The DNA of a hair retrieved from the hat matched Miles's DNA profile, which was obtained from a blood sample. The chance that this particular genetic profile would be found at random in the population was one in 212,000,000. 521.

The final robbery took place on August 23, 1998 at approximately 7:50 p.m. at the Giant Supermarket located on Conklin Avenue in Binghamton. Trial Tr. at 445-46. Miles approached Jamie Monaco, the store's bookkeeper. He threw a pillowcase at Monaco and instructed him to give Miles $50,000.00 or he would "blow [his] head off." 446. Monaco put $3,000.00 into the pillowcase and threw it at Miles. 447-48. Monaco was unable to identify Miles, but the robbery was recorded by a surveillance camera. 450-53.

Gary Wylie, a former military police officer, was inside the supermarket buying milk when the robbery occurred. Trial Tr. at 472-75. He walked out of the store and waited for Miles to exit. 476. Wylie watched Miles get into a parked minivan, and wrote down the license plate number. 478-82. Wylie identified a photograph of a white Mazda minivan as the same one he saw Miles driving. The minivan was owned by Shennita Jenkins, Miles's girlfriend, who lent Miles the minivan on August 22, 1998. 571-76.

On October 20, 1998, Miles was driving the minivan identified by Wylie and Jenkins when he was stopped by the New York State Police in Bronx County. Trial Tr. at 578-84, 584-97. Police officials took Miles to Broome County. Miles declined to speak to police, but when he was told they were investigating the August 23, 1998 robbery in Binghamton, he told them he "was never in Binghamton." 578-79, 583-87.

B. State Court Proceedings

An indictment was returned on December 11, 1998, charging Miles with five counts of Robbery in the First Degree. N.Y. PENAL LAW §160.15(4).*fn1 The third count of the indictment charged Miles with aiding and abetting Robbery in the First Degree and the remaining counts charged him as a principal. SeeDkt. No. 9, Ex. a, Attach. at A4 (Indictment, Count Three).*fn2 The Honorable Patrick H. Mathews, Broome County Court Judge, presided over Miles's trial proceedings. Miles was represented by William T. Martin, Esquire.

A combined Wade*fn3 /Huntley*fn4 hearing was held on April 19, 1999. During the hearing, counsel argued that Miles was arrested without probable cause and moved the court to suppress identification evidence and Miles's statement that he had never been in Binghamton as fruits of the illegal arrest. SeeTranscript of Suppression Hearing ("Suppression Tr."), 4/19/99, at 8-10, 64-67, 70-71, ...

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