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Edwards v. Ladlair

August 4, 2008

CHARLES EDWARDS, PETITIONER,
v.
DARWIN LADLAIR,*FN1 SUPERINTENDENT, FRANKLIN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James K. Singleton, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Petitioner Charles Edwards, a state prisoner appearing pro se, has petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is currently in the custody of the New York Department of Correctional Services, incarcerated at the Franklin Correctional Facility.

I. BACKGROUND/PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

In may 1994 Edwards was convicted, following jury trial, in the Bronx County Supreme Court of three counts of first-degree rape (N.Y. Pen. Law § 130.35(1)), three counts of first-degree rape (N.Y. Pen. Law § 130.35(3)), four counts of first-degree sodomy (N.Y. Pen. Law § 130.50(1)), four counts of first-degree sodomy (N.Y. Pen. Law § 130.50(3)), one count of first-degree sexual abuse (N.Y. Pen. Law § 130.65(1)), and one count of first-degree sexual abuse (N.Y. Pen. Law § 130.65(3). Edwards was also convicted upon a plea of guilty to bail jumping in the first degree. Edwards was sentenced to 14 concurrent terms of eight and one-half to 17 years each for the rape and sodomy charges, concurrent with two concurrent terms of three to six years on the sexual abuse charges. Edwards appealed his conviction of the Appellate Division, First Department, which affirmed his conviction, and the New York Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. People v. Edwards, 681 N.Y.S.2d 227 (N.Y.A.D. 1998), lv. denied, 710 N.E.2d 1098 (N.Y. 1999) (Table).*fn2

In January 2004, the Attica Time Allowance Committee (TAC) recommended that none of Edwards' 5 years 8 months of good time credit be withheld. That recommendation was affirmed by the Commissioner's designee. Subsequently, after his transfer to the Gowanda Correctional Facility, the Gowanda TAC notified Edwards that a hearing would be held to determine whether good time allowance should be withheld for his failure to participate in the Sex Offender Counseling Program ("SOCP"). Edwards appeared before the Gowanda TAC and, after according Edwards an opportunity to be heard, found that he had, in fact, refused to participate in the SOCP and recommended withholding all 5 years 8 months of Edwards' available good time, subject to reconsideration when he completed the SCOP. The Gowanda Superintendent confirmed the TAC decision, and on March 8, 2004, the decision was affirmed by the Commissioner's designee.

On April 21, 2004, Edwards filed a petition under article 78, N.Y. Civil Practice Law and Rules, in the Albany County Supreme Court challenging the decision to withhold his good time allowance, which the Albany County Court dismissed. Edwards timely appealed to the Appellate Division, Third Department, which affirmed the dismissal on February 16, 2006, and the New York Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal on September 14, 2006, and reconsideration on December 21, 2006. Matter of Edwards v. Goord, 808 N.Y.S.2d 841 (N.Y.A.D), lv. denied, 822 N.E.2d 1173 (N.Y.) (Table), reargument denied, 860 N.E.2d 993 (N.Y. 2006) (Table).

Edwards timely filed his petition in this Court on January 8, 2007.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Because Edwards filed his petition after April 24, 1996, it is governed by the standard of review set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Consequently, this Court cannot grant relief unless the decision of the state courts was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405--406 (2000); see Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 70-73 (2003) (explaining this standard). In applying this standard, this Court reviews the last reasoned decision by the state court. Jones v. Stinson, 229 F.3d 112, 118 (2d Cir. 2000). State court's findings of fact are presumed to be correct unless the petitioner rebuts this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003).

If a federal claim has not been adjudicated on the merits, AEDPA deference is not required. Miranda v. Bennett, 322 F.3d 171, 178 (2d Cir. 2003). In that situation, conclusions of law and mixed questions of fact and law are reviewed de novo. DeBerry v. Portuondo, 403 F.3d 57, 67 (2d Cir. 2005). Where there is no reasoned decision of the state court addressing the ground or grounds raised by the Petitioner on the merits and no independent state grounds exist for not addressing those grounds, this Court must decide the issues de novo on the record before it. See Spears v. Greiner, 459 F.3d 200, 203-04 (2d Cir. 2006).

To the extent that Petitioner alleges errors of state law, they are beyond the purview of this Court in deciding a petition for federal habeas corpus relief. This Court may only address violations of federal law. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67--68 (1991) ("We have stated many times that federal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of state law. Today, we reemphasize that it is not the province of a federal habeas court to re-examine state-court determinations on state-law questions.") (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). It is a fundamental precept of dual federalism that the states possess primary authority for defining and enforcing the criminal law. See Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 128 (1982). It is also presumed that the state court knew and correctly applied state law. See Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639, 653 (1990), overruled on other grounds by Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002).

III. GROUNDS RAISED/DEFENSES

Edwards states a single ground, to wit: that the rescission of his good time violated his due process and equal protection rights, specifically his First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He seeks restoration of his 5 years and 8 months of good time credit and immediate release from prison. Edwards raises two grounds founded upon federal rights: (1) compelled participation in the SCOP violates his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination; and (2) rescission of his previously credited good time ...


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