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Grate v. Hunt

January 11, 2010

DARRYL GRATE, PETITIONER,
v.
CARL HUNT, RESPONDENT.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Darryl Grate ("Grate" or "Petitioner"), proceeding pro se, petitions the Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the following reasons, Grate's petition is denied in its entirety.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 29, 1984, Petitioner and an accomplice entered the office of the General Oil Distributors and ordered twenty-one-year-old Arthur Licurse, an employee, and John Huebner, a customer, to lie face down on the floor. Petitioner then shot Licurse in the neck and stole his and Huebner's wallet. Licurse bled to death from the gunshot wound.

Petitioner was convicted by a jury sitting in the Nassau County Court of two counts of Murder in the Second Degree and two counts of Robbery in the First Degree. The Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed the judgment of conviction, People v. Grate, 155 A.D.2d 553 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep't 1989), and on March 19, 1990, the New York State Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a writ of error coram nobis alleging that he received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel because his counsel failed to argue that the prosecutor exercised peremptory challenges on the basis of race, in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 90 L.Ed. 2d 69, 106 S.Ct. 1712 (1986). The Appellate Division rejected the petition. People v. Grate, 254 A.D.2d 498 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep't 1998).

On April 25, 1997, Grate filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with this Court arguing, inter alia, that he received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. On September 30, 2002, the Honorable William G. Young granted the petition "unless the government... allow[ed] [Petitioner] an opportunity to present an appeal to the appropriate state court as if the Batson issue had been properly presented, or provide[d] Grate with a new trial." Grate v. Stinson, 224 F. Supp. 2d 496, 520 (E.D.N.Y. 2002). Following that decision, the Appellate Division vacated its previous order and permitted both parties to reargue Petitioner's application for a writ of error coram nobis. People v. Grate, 6 A.D.3d 627 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep't 2004).

On April 19, 2004, the Appellate Division issued a decision finding that Petitioner "made a prima facie showing of purposeful discrimination by the prosecutor in his exercise of peremptory challenges against several black prospective jurors, and therefore [was] entitled to an inquiry into the prosecutor's explanations for the challenges." People v. Grate, 6 A.D.3d 627, 628. (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep't 2004). The Appellate Division held Petitioner's application for a writ of error coram nobis in abeyance and remanded the case to the Nassau County Court "to afford the prosecutor the opportunity to offer race-neutral reasons for the challenges and, if he does so, for the defendant to establish that these reasons are pretextual." Id.

On August 5, 2004, the Nassau County Court conducted a hearing wherein Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Fred Klein ("ADA Klein") testified, with the assistance of his trial notes, as to his recollection of the jury selection process. ADA Klein's trial notes did not contain any reference to the juror's races. On June 21, 2005, the County Court filed a Report to the Appellate Division finding that the prosecutor satisfied his burden of providing race-neutral reasons for his peremptory challenges, and that Petitioner had not established that the reasons were pretextual. On December 27, 2005, the Appellate Division issued a decision denying Petitioner's application for a writ of error coram nobis and agreeing with the County Court's findings. People v. Grate, 24 A.D.3d 797 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep't 2005).

On September 5, 2006, Grate filed the instant Petition arguing that the prosecution failed to satisfy its burden of providing race-neutral reasons for its peremptory challenges of Black prospective jurors.

DISCUSSION

I. Federal Habeas Review of State Convictions

Petitioner filed this action after the April 24, 1996, effective date of the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). Accordingly, AEDPA's provisions apply to his case. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 402, 120 S.Ct. 1479, 1518, 146 L.Ed. 2d 389 (2000). Under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), a habeas corpus application must be denied unless the state court's adjudication on the merits "resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," or "resulted in a decision that 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). This deferential review is applied as long as the "federal claim has been 'adjudicated on the merits' by the state court." Cotto v. Herbert, 331 F.3d 217, 231 (2d Cir. 2003). "A state court adjudicates a petitioner's federal constitutional claims on the merits when it (1) disposes of the claim on the merits, and (2) reduces its disposition to judgment." Norde v. Keane, 294 F.3d 401, 410 (2d Cir. 2002) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

"Clearly established federal law refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of the Supreme Court's decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision." Howard v. Walker, 406 F.3d 114, 122 (2d Cir. 2005) (internal citations and quotations omitted). A decision is "contrary to" established federal law if it either "applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in" a Supreme Court case, or it "confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme Court] and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [their] precedent." Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792, 121 S.Ct. 1910, 150 L.Ed. 2d 9 (2001) (internal quotations and citations omitted). A decision is an "unreasonable application of" clearly established Supreme Court precedent if it "correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies it unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's case." Penry, 532 U.S. at 792. Accordingly, "a federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather that application must also be unreasonable." Williams, 529 U.S. at 411.

"[A] determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct." 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254(e)(1). As a result, Petitioner bears the burden of "rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence." Id. This is "particularly important when reviewing the trial court's assessment of ...


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