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Crockett v. Payant

January 26, 2009


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


Petitioner Duane A. Crockett, a state prisoner appearing pro se, has petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Crockett is currently in the custody of the New York Department of Correctional Services, incarcerated in the Mohawk Correctional Facility. Respondent has answered the petition and Crockett filed his traverse.


Crockett was convicted in October 2004 after a jury trial in the Otsego County Court of three counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 265.02(4)), and two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 265.01(2)). Crockett was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of two and one-third to seven years for the third-degree weapon possession counts, and two concurrent one-year prison terms for the fourth-degree weapon possession counts. Crockett timely appealed his conviction to the Appellate Division, Third Department, which affirmed, and the New York Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal on October 30, 2006. People v. Crockett, 816 N.Y.S.2d 612 (N.Y. App. Div.), lv. denied, 857 N.E.2d 1142 (N.Y. 2006).

Crockett timely filed his petition for relief in the Western District of New York on November 16, 2006, which transferred the case to this Court.


In his petition before this Court Crockett raises four grounds: (1) Search warrant was based upon a false allegation; (2) denial of discovery and Rosario violation;*fn2 (3) illegal amendment of indictment; and (4) failure to return rifles after acquittal in 1999 violated his Second Amendment rights and constitutes double jeopardy. Respondent contends that, except as to his first ground, Crockett has not exhausted his state court remedies. Respondent argues that Crockett did not present the second and third grounds to the state courts in terms that implicated the U.S. Constitution,*fn3 and that the fourth ground was not presented to the state courts at all.


Because Crockett 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. Consequently, this Court cannot grant relief unless the state court decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" at the time the state court renders its decision or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding."*fn4 The Supreme Court has explained that "clearly established Federal law" in § 2254(d)(1) "refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court] as of the time of the relevant state-court decision."*fn5 Thus, where holdings of the Supreme Court regarding the issue presented on habeas review are lacking, "it cannot be said that the state court 'unreasonabl[y] appli[ed] clearly established Federal law.'"*fn6 When a claim falls under the "unreasonable application" prong, a state court's application of the Supreme Court precedent must be "objectively unreasonable," "not just incorrect."*fn7 The Supreme Court has made clear that the objectively unreasonable standard is a substantially higher threshold than simply believing the state court determination was incorrect.*fn8 Finally, in a federal habeas proceeding, the standard under which this Court must assess the prejudicial impact of constitutional error in a state-court criminal trial is whether the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the outcome.*fn9

In applying this standard, this Court reviews the last reasoned decision by the state court.*fn10 In addition, the state court's findings of fact are presumed to be correct unless the petitioner rebuts this presumption by clear and convincing evidence.*fn11 If a federal claim has not been adjudicated on the merits, AEDPA deference is not required.*fn12 In that situation, conclusions of law and mixed questions of fact and conclusions of law are reviewed de novo.*fn13 A state court decision is conclusively presumed to have been on the merits when the state court disposes of the claim on other than procedural grounds, even where it fails to provide any reasoning for the disposition.*fn14 Where there is no reasoned decision of the state court addressing the ground or grounds raised by Crockett 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.*fn15


Ground 1: False Affidavit in Support of Search Warrant.

This claim, which challenges the validity of a search under the Fourth Amendment, is not cognizable by this Court in a federal habeas proceeding as long as the state provides an opportunity for the prisoner to fully and completely litigate his Fourth Amendment claim.*fn16 That New York provides such a procedure is well settled.*fn17

Consequently, Crockett is not entitled to relief under his first ground. Ground 2: Discovery Denial ...

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