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Robinson v. Conway

February 12, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge


I. Introduction

Petitioner Curtis Robinson, ("petitioner") has filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his conviction of Murder in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal L. § 125.25[2]) and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal L. § 265.03[2]). Petitioner was convicted following a jury trial in Monroe County Court before Judge Frank Geraci on April 5, 2000, and was sentenced to twenty-five years to life imprisonment on the murder conviction and fifteen years imprisonment with five years of post-release supervision on the weapon possession conviction. S. 12-19.*fn1

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

Shortly after midnight on June 1, 1999, five young men, including Jamont Simmons ("the victim") arrived at the corner of North Goodman Street and Garson Avenue in the City of Rochester. As they exited the car, some of them entered a corner store, while the victim's brother, John Simmons ("John"), remained outside to talk to a girl. T. 411-414.*fn2 As he stood outside talking, petitioner's friend Nathanial Williams ("Nate") approached. Nate and John began to argue. A third man, Sean, became involved and punched Nate in the face. T. 415, 439, 565. At some point, Nate displayed a small, chrome-colored revolver. While the three men continued to argue, petitioner approached. One of the men who witnessed the altercation observed Nate pass the gun to petitioner, who "started acting all wild," and "got all crazy." T. 568. According to that witness, petitioner said to John, "I ain't scared to shoot you." T. 569.

The victim came out of the corner store and soon became engaged in the discussion, telling petitioner, "we ain't scared no guns . . . if you want to fight, fight. You don't got to shoot." After a few more verbal exchanges, petitioner pointed the gun at the victim, shot him, and then fired several more shots as he ran down the street, none of which hit the victim. T. 427, 570-72. A bystander also testified that he saw petitioner shoot the victim in the chest after being handed a gun, and then ran away firing rounds. Petitioner and Nate then fled the scene on bicycles. T. 480-81.

Petitioner was taken into custody by police on the evening of June 2, while he was visiting his parole officer. That night, petitioner acknowledged that he was present when the victim was shot, but denied that he was the shooter. Rather, he told investigators that Nate shot the victim, and that he briefly held the gun that was used in the shooting because Nate tried to pass it to him as the two ran from the scene. This version of events was eventually reduced to writing and signed by the defendant. T. 660-62, 667-69, 670-79. At trial, petitioner testified that Nate fired the fatal shot, and that petitioner had merely touched the weapon for a short period of time while the two men fled the scene. T. 732-38.

The jury found petitioner guilty of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and of second-degree murder under a depraved indifference theory*fn3 .

Through counsel, petitioner filed a direct appeal to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, in which he raised the following claims: (1) the evidence was legally insufficient to establish guilt of depraved indifference murder; (2) ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and (3) the trial court erred in allowing inadmissible testimony. See Petitioner's ("Pet'r") Appellate Br. 9-28. Petitioner's judgment of conviction was unanimously affirmed. People v. Robinson, 21 A.D.3d 1413 (4th Dept. 2005); lv. denied, 5 N.Y.3d 885 (2005).

Petitioner then filed the instant petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He has raised essentially the same claims as he did on direct appeal, and has added a claim that the jury's verdict was against the weight of the evidence. See Petition ("Pet.") ¶ 22. (Dkt. #1). For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief and the petition is dismissed.

III. Discussion

A. General Principles Applicable to Federal Habeas Review

1. Standard of Review

To prevail under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended in 1996, a petitioner seeking federal review of his conviction must demonstrate that the state court's adjudication of his federal constitutional claim resulted in a decision that was contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent, or resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable factual determination in light of the evidence presented in state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1),(2); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375-76 (2000).

2. Exhaustion Requirement

"An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to a judgment of a State court shall not be granted unless it appears that . . . the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State . . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A); see, e.g., O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 843-44 (1999); accord, e.g., Bossett v. Walker, 41 F.3d 825, 828 (2d Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1054 (1995). "The exhaustion requirement is not satisfied unless the federal claim has been 'fairly presented' to the state courts." Daye v. Attorney General, 696 F.2d 186, 191 (2d Cir. 1982) (en banc), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 1048 (1984). "The exhaustion requirement is principally designed to protect the state courts' role in the enforcement of federal law and prevent disruption of state judicial ...

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