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Waldron v. Superintendent

February 11, 2010

MATTHEW WALDRON,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, ATTICA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.



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

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Petitioner Matthew Waldron, a state prisoner appearing through counsel, has filed a petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Waldron is currently in the custody of the New York Department of Correctional Services, incarcerated at the Attica Correctional Facility. Respondent has answered the Petition, and Waldron has replied.

I. BACKGROUND/PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

Following a trial by jury, Waldron was convicted in the Herkimer County Court of three counts of Sodomy in the First Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 130.50(3)), and one count each of Promoting an Obscene Sexual Performance by a Child (N.Y. Penal Law § 263.10), Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance (N.Y. Penal Law § 263.05), and Possessing an Obscene Sexual Performance by a Child (N.Y. Penal Law § 263.11). The Herkimer County Court sentenced Waldron to various determinate and indeterminate terms of incarceration, most of which were ordered to run consecutively, aggregating 54 to 60 years.

Waldron timely appealed his conviction and sentence to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department. The Appellate Division affirmed his conviction but found the sentence to be unduly Petitioner, harsh and ordered the sentence be modified accordingly.*fn1

The New York Court of Appeals granted leave to appeal and affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division on February 14, 2006.*fn2 Waldron timely filed his Petition for relief in this Court on February 9, 2007.

II. GROUNDS PRESENTED/DEFENSES

In his Petition Waldron raises a single ground: the failure of the District Attorney to indict within the time permitted by N.Y. Penal Law § 30.30 denied him a speedy trial. Respondent asserts no affirmative defense.*fn3

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Because the Petition was filed 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 decision of the state court "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 rendered 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 The holding must also be binding upon the states; that is, the decision must be based upon constitutional grounds, not on the supervisory power of the Supreme Court over federal courts.*fn6 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.'"*fn7 When a claim falls under the "unreasonable application" prong, a state court's application of Supreme Court precedent must be objectively unreasonable, not just incorrect or erroneous.*fn8 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.*fn9 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 jury's verdict.*fn10 Petitioner "bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that his constitutional rights have been violated."*fn11

In applying this standard, this Court reviews the last reasoned decision by the state court.*fn12 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.*fn13

IV. DISCUSSION

The following are the facts, as relevant to the Petition before this Court, as recited by the New York Court of Appeals:

Defendant Matthew Waldron was arrested in the Village of Herkimer on January 23, 2000 after police obtained surveillance evidence showing he had engaged in several obscene acts with children. On February 1, 2000, the Herkimer Village Court ordered a psychiatric and competency exam pursuant to ...


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