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Williams v. Ercole

November 17, 2009


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



Petitioner Omar Williams ("Williams" or "Petitioner") seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons below, Williams' petition for a writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.


On March 26, 1999, Petitioner ("Petitioner"), arrived at an office building, located at 175 Broad Hollow Road in Melville, where the victim, Chanisha Winfield ("Winfield"), worked. Petitioner and Winfield had previously been in a relationship, and had a son together, Omar Williams Jr. However, after multiple arguments and allegations by Ms. Winfield that Petitioner abused Melisha, her daughter from a previous relationship, Ms. Winfield packed her and her children and left Petitioner.

On that day, Petitioner approached Ms. Winfield in the lobby of her workplace and scorned her for preventing Petitioner from seeing their son. Petitioner told Ms. Winfield that he was there to kill her and that he would make a scene if she did not go outside with him; Petitioner harassed Ms. Winfield until she conceded and went outside with him. At some point during this argument, Petitioner pulled a necklace off of Ms. Winfield's neck that Petitioner had previously given to Ms. Winfield as a gift.

Once outside, Petitioner ordered Ms. Winfield to get into Petitioner's car, and without her consent turned the car on and drove away. As she tried to get out of the car, Petitioner hit Ms. Winfield in the face and continued driving recklessly. During the car ride, Petitioner told Ms. Winfield again that he was going to kill her and himself, but first would have to kill the victim's mother and her sister because Petitioner did not want them to raise the children.

Petitioner then took Ms. Winfield to a park, and forced her to exit the car. There, he pulled her hair, screamed at her, and once again told her that he was going to kill her. Petitioner subsequently ordered Ms. Winfield to get back into the car. Once back in the car, Petitioner handcuffed Ms. Winfield's left arm to the steering wheel and attempted to drive out of the park. At some point, Petitioner unsuccessfully attempted to rig the gas pedal of the vehicle with a hanger. Because the victim was handcuffed to the steering wheel, it made it difficult for Petitioner to maneuver the vehicle; this angered Petitioner and caused him to hit Ms. Winfield repeatedly.

Petitioner removed the handcuffs off of Ms. Winfield and drove to a park located in Amityville, New York. At the park, Petitioner again ordered Ms. Winfield out of the car. Petitioner told her that they were supposed to get married. Petitioner calmed down, and the parties again entered the vehicle. At this point, Petitioner started yelling once more, and told Ms. Winfield that he did not care about her or the baby. Petitioner then reached into the back seat of his car and took out a bag that contained a needle and a bottle of clear liquid. Petitioner stated to Ms. Winfield that he could stick her with it and that she would have convulsions, or that he could shoot her instead. Consequently, Ms. Winfield began crying and telling him to stop, crying out that they could get counseling. Petitioner consented, and agreed that he would get counseling. Petitioner calmed down, and told Ms. Winfield that they would then go to the daycare center to pick up the children.

When they got to the day care center, Ms. Winfield noticed that the light was on in the police substation, which indicated to her that police officers were present. When Petitioner went inside to attempt to pick up the children, Ms. Winfield got out of the car and ran over to the substation to explain to the police what happened.

After speaking with Ms. Winfield, Officer Angel Chevalier and his partner, Officer Steven Tracy, approached Petitioner's car and saw handcuffs, binoculars, and a "clearly visible" handgun in a black bag (Tr. 708-715). After Petitioner was apprehended, detectives also discovered a hypodermic needle, a vial of solution, tape, a roll of twine, and ankle restraints.

The officers found Petitioner hiding behind a house across from the daycare center, and brought him into custody. At that time, Petitioner explained to the Detective that Ms. Winfield prevented him from seeing his son, and that he might have slapped Ms. Winfield, but he had taken her to the substation to address the situation. During questioning, Petitioner attempted to explain why the materials in his car were in his possession. Petitioner maintained that he used the needle, vial of solution, and leg restraints in his car to care for his ailing father, but did not explain why Petitioner had the medical supplies in his car.

After the incident with Petitioner, Ms. Winfield sought medical treatment at Brunswick Hospital. Ms. Winfield had bruises under her eye and to the right of her face, as well as a split lip and torn hair from her scalp. Ms. Winfield's medical records were introduced into evidence during the trial.

Petitioner was charged with Kidnapping in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, Assault in the Second Degree, and Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree. During the jury selection, the Honorable Gary Weber excused prospective jurors who had reason to leave without individually questioning them. Although Petitioner did not object to Judge Weber's procedure, Petitioner objected later in the afternoon because there were no African-Americans left in the panel (T. 19, 100). Judge Weber denied Petitioner's objection (T. 102).

On May 24, 2000, a jury found Petitioner guilty of Kidnapping in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, and Assault in the Second Degree. On June 23, 2000, Petitioner was sentenced to consecutive terms of twenty-five years of incarceration on count one, 3 1/2 to 7 years incarceration on count two, and seven years on count three.

On appeal, Petitioner argued that (1) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support the jury's verdict on the kidnapping and assault convictions; (2) the jury selection process was improper, and (3) Petitioner's sentence was harsh and excessive and the sentence for the Grand Larceny count was improper. On March 8, 2004, the Appellate Division, Second Department modified Petitioner's sentence; the court vacated Petitioner's sentence on the conviction of grand larceny in the fourth degree and held that Petitioner's sentences on the convictions of kidnapping in the second degree and assault in the second degree should run concurrently. The Appellate Division denied the remainder of Petitioner's arguments, finding that they "[were] not properly preserved for appellate review and, in any event, [were] without merit." People v. Williams, 5 A.D.3d 514, 515 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep't 2004). The Court of Appeals for the State of New York denied Petitioner's request for leave to appeal. People v. Williams, 2 N.Y.3d 809, 814 N.E.2d 480, 781 N.Y.S.2d 308 (2004).

Thereafter, Petitioner filed a writ of error coram nobis claiming ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. On November 28, 2005, the Appellate Division held that Petitioner "failed to establish that he was denied the effective assistance of appellate counsel." People v. Williams, 23 A.D.3d 681, 682 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep't 2005). The Court of Appeals denied Petitioner's application for leave to appeal. People v. Williams, 6 N.Y.3d 820, 845 N.E.2d 1290, 812 N.Y.S.2d 459 (2006).

On August 29, 2005, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus raising the following nine claims: (1) there was insufficient evidence to support Petitioner's convictions for kidnapping and (2) assault; (3) Petitioner was denied his right to a jury from a fair cross-section of the community; (4) the trial court's sentence was a "punishment" for Petitioner's exercise of his right to a jury trial; (5) Petitioner received ineffective assistance of trial counsel; (6) Petitioner's constitutional rights were violated by prosecutorial ...

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