Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Linnen v. Poole

February 24, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR E. Bianchini United States Magistrate Judge



Pro se petitioner Anthony M. Linnen ("Linnen" or "petitioner") has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in this Court. Linnen challenges the constitutionality of his state custody pursuant to a judgment convicting him, after a jury trial in Erie County Court of New York State Supreme Court, of one count of second degree (intentional) murder(N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25(1)). The parties have consented to disposition of this matter by a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1).


1. Events Leading to Petitioner's Arrest

The conviction here at issue stems from the homicide of sixteen-year-old John Watson, a drug dealer who had a room in the back portion of petitioner's house at 1203 Kensington Avenue in the City of Buffalo. By agreement with Linnen, Watson conducted his drug-selling business out of Linnen's house. Watson's dead body was found on January 22, 1999, on Tariko Place, an alleyway that runs parallel to Kensington Avenue. Tariko Place consists of a network of garages and alleyways connected to each other or separated by fences, making it difficult to traverse from Kensington Avenue (where Linnen's house was located) to Tariko Place. Indeed, the only way to get from one to the other would be by climbing over a fence or a building. T.461, 484, 622, 624-28, 639.*fn1

Watson was found tied up in a fetal position with a telephone cord; his body was wrapped in a bed sheet and was lying on two squares of cardboard. T.314-15. He was dressed in the clothing that his father had last seen him wearing on January 18, 1999 (a black "hoody" sweatshirt, a t-shirt, a blue Army jacket, black pants, and Timberland-brand boots. T.270, 315, 316. There was a piece of paper on the decedent's body that said, in scrawled handwriting, "BSC, one down, two to go, payback". A pager and a set of keys were found on the body, but no wallet, identifying documents, or money were recovered. T.316-18.

The following day, January 23, 1999, Detectives Ortiz, Krawczyk and Masecchia of the Buffalo Police Department went to 1203 Kensington Avenue in response to a message left on the homicide department's answering machine that a person named "Tony" at that address might know something about the murder of John Watson. Transcript of Suppression Hearing dated June 29, 1999 ("6/29/99 Tr.") at 5, 18. Petitioner answered the door and spoke with the officers. The police did not issue the Miranda warnings on that date. When asked if he knew why the officers were there, petitioner responded "because of Baby John," id. at 6, meaning John Watson. Petitioner invited the detectives inside to talk about the investigation, but denied knowing anything about it. Petitioner told the police officers that he had last seen Watson in their apartment and in the company of two women on January 19, 1999, sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 P.M. Id. at 13-14, 16. Linnen mentioned that the way the body was found sounded like the modus operandi of some people from Box Street he had met while he was in prison; they had had told him they would wrap people up and beat them and then dump their bodies. Id. at 8, 16.

Detective Ortiz testified that on January 23rd petitioner was co-operative and was "more than willing to let us do or ask him anything that we wanted" 6/29/99 Tr. at 8. Petitioner never asked them to leave or stated that he did not wish to speak any further with them. Before leaving, the police requested and obtained petitioner's signature on a consent-to-search form, and then allowed the detectives to go through the apartment. Id. at 9- 10; see also Suppression Hearing Exhibit No. 6. Although the officers did not seize anything, Detective Ortiz took note of an assortment of Ramen Noodles in petitioner's kitchen cupboards, believing them to be of some significance given the autopsy finding that the victim had consumed noodles close in time to his death. 6/29/99 Tr. at 11-12. The detectives left petitioner's apartment at about 2:15 p.m.

On January 25, 1999, petitioner failed to report to parole. On January 26, Detective Ortiz called defendant's parole officer to ask about defendant's history and why he was on parole (a manslaughter conviction involving a female acquaintance). Transcript of Suppression Hearing dated October 27, 1999 ("10/27/99 Tr.") at 53, 107.

On January 28, 1999, two other detectives from the BPD, Detective Chella and Detective Giardina, went to 1203 Kensington at 5:15 p.m. in continuation of the Watson homicide investigation. The officers did not read the Miranda warnings. Petitioner maintained a cooperative manner, answered questions, and signed a new consent-to-search form. Detective Chella told petitioner he did not have to sign the form if he did not want to, but petitioner signed the form without any signs of reservation. Id., 38, 41.

The officers seized some blank lined paper, some paper with handwriting on it, a telephone bill, a pre-test questionnaire for AIDS education, and nine sheets of paper dealing with self-image. 10/27/99 Tr. at 44-45. Detective Chella then asked petitioner if he would accompany the detectives back to police headquarters to provide a statement regarding the last time he had seen the decedent. Petitioner agreed, expressing no hesitation or reservations about doing so. Transcript of Suppression Hearing dated October 19, 1999 ("10/19/99 Tr.") at 25. Petitioner was not handcuffed. No threats were made to defendant and the only promise made to him was that he would be given a ride back home. 6/29/99 Tr. at 45-46. The officers drove Linnen downtown to police headquarters where they conducted an interview and then took a formal statement. See Suppression Hearing Exhibit No. 3. At no time did petitioner tell the detectives that he no longer wished to speak with them or inquire about an attorney. See 6/29/99 Tr. at 46; 10/19/99 Tr. at 29-30. In fact, petitioner acknowledged at the suppression hearing that he voluntarily gave the police this statement. 10/29/99 Tr. at 20.

Afterwards, the detectives drove petitioner home as promised. 6/29/99 Tr. at 46. Petitioner was still co-operative and consented to letting the detectives look through his house again. When Detective Chella asked the defendant if he could take a blue sheet used as an ironing board cover, petitioner demurred but did allow the officer to cut off a piece of fabric and take that. With petitioner's permission, the detectives also seized a cream-colored telephone cord. Id. at 48; see also 10/19/99 Tr. at 37-38. The detectives gave Linnen their cards and asked him to call if he heard anything about Watson's death. 6/29/99 Tr. at 48. Linnen claimed at the suppression hearing that, at the end of that meeting, he told the officers the next time they spoke he wanted to have an attorney with him. 10/29/99 Tr. at 22, 23, 79. The police officers testified that Linnen at no time mentioned having an attorney present at that meeting or any future meetings.

Detective Chella's next contact with petitioner was on February 3, 1999, when he received a phone call from a frightened and upset Linnen, who said that he had been beaten up by a group of gang members and had spent most of the evening at the hospital emergency room. He told Detective Chella that he had gotten assaulted because the police were following him and telling people that he had something to do with Watson's death. Detective Chella told petitioner that he was unable to speak with him at the time but agreed to see him the following morning. Petitioner said that he had to report to Parole Officer Humphrey's office on February 4, at 9:00 A.M., the next morning. Linnen told Detective Chella he could speak with him before or after the parole meeting. 10/19/99 Tr. at 41, 43-44; see also 6/29/99 Tr. at 50.

The following morning, February 4, 1999, Detective Chella telephoned Senior Parole Officer Henry Conforti and asked to be made aware if petitioner showed up for his meeting so that the detective could speak with him. By that point, Detective Chella considered petitioner a suspect in the Watson investigation. 6/29/99 Tr. at 48-49, 51.

Petitioner failed to report for his meeting with Parole Officer Humphrey on February 4th.

10/27/99 Tr. at 110. After making an unsuccessful attempt to locate the petitioner in the area of Colorado and East Ferry Streets, Humphrey returned to his office. Id. at 112. At 12:45 P.M., petitioner telephoned Humphrey from 76 Hedley Street and said that he had not reported because he had been in the hospital and again explained that he was afraid to come in. Id. at 113. Humphrey offered to pick petitioner up in a state vehicle and to bring petitioner in to make his report. Petitioner claimed that Humphrey directed him to stay where he was and told him he would be there to pick him up. When Humphrey and his partner pulled up to 76 Hedley Street and "honked on the horn," petitioner came out and got in the car. 10/27/99 Tr. at 113. Humphrey stated that petitioner appeared to be happy to see the parole officers and "relieved" to be in the car with them. There was no hesitation on petitioner's part. Id. at 122. Petitioner acknowledged, in fact, that he voluntarily went back to the parole office with the officers. 10/29/99 Tr. at 39.

On the way there, petitioner told Humphrey that he was "very afraid to be in Buffalo". 10/27/99 Tr. at 114. According to petitioner, Humphrey told him that he would have to speak with Conforti who was "pissed off" because petitioner did not show up on time for his parole interview. 10/29/99 Tr. at 40. Petitioner testified that at that point there was "no question in his mind that he was going to be violated", id., that is, found to have violated the conditions of his parole agreement.

Once at the parole office, petitioner admitted to Humphrey and Senior Parole Officer Conforti that he had been using marijuana and cocaine. 10/27/99 Tr. at 114. Humphrey explained that such allegations, if true, would not necessarily result in a parole violation but would be in the discretion of the parole officers. While Humphrey did not remember discussing with Conforti whether he would file a violation report, he testified he believed that it was "understood" that he would be filing a report for Conforti to review in making his determination as to whether a warrant would be filed. Id. at 50-51, 115-117.

At approximately 2:00 P.M., Conforti called Detective Chella to tell him that petitioner was in the parole office. Chief Riga accompanied the detective to the parole office. Id. at 119; see also 6/29/99 Tr. at 51. They were greeted by Conforti, who told them that petitioner was in an office talking with Parole Officer Humphrey. Detective Chella stated that he walked in and asked petitioner if he would accompany the detectives back to the homicide office. The detective acknowledged that petitioner was "hesitant," wanting to know the purpose of the interview. 6/29/99 Tr. at 51. The detective explained that they wanted to speak with them about the Watson murder again. Id.

Chief Riga testified that petitioner was not in custody of parole at this time. 10/27/99 Tr. at 4. He further testified that petitioner was not handcuffed, and that he did not recall petitioner ever having requested an attorney or expressing any reservations about going back to the homicide office with the detectives. Id. at 25-26. Parole Officer Humphrey testified that petitioner showed no reluctance about going with the detectives and that he never inquired as to whether he "had to go or about an attorney". Id. at 120-22.

Although Chief Parole Officer Conforti told Detective Chella that petitioner had violated his parole, the detective was not advised that petitioner was in custody or not free to leave the parole office. 10/19/99 Tr. at 50-51. Conforti testified, "[F]rom what I did hear, [petitioner] agreed to talk with Detective Sergeant Chella. He went into a room with [the detective] for a couple minutes, then Chella came out and said to me, 'He said he'd go.' And I said, 'Good. Take him away. Don't lose him."' Id. at 71. Detective Chella understood that to mean he was to call parole when the detectives were done with petitioner. Id. at 57). According to Detective Chella, if petitioner had said he did not want to go with him to the homicide office, Chella would have left him at the parole office. If, once they got to the homicide office, petitioner had told him that he did not want to talk, the detective would have called parole as instructed, or taken petitioner back to parole. 10/19/99 Tr. at 54-55. Detective Chella also testified that petitioner went voluntarily, expressing no reservations about leaving with the detectives. Detective Chella never heard petitioner inquire about an attorney. 10/19/99 Tr. at 59-60.

Petitioner then accompanied the detectives back to the homicide office where Detective Chella read him his Miranda rights from a card. In response, Linnen stated "I'll talk to you, man." Id. at 62. Petitioner later signed the card next to an "X" placed by Chella on the card. 10/19/99 Tr. at 60-61; 6/29/99 Tr. at 53-57. Petitioner claimed that he was told by Detective Chella that the only way to activate his right to an attorney was to sign the card next to the warning which explained that he had such a right. Detective Chella explained that he merely asked petitioner to sign in a blank space, and that the location chosen had nothing to do with the text next to petitioner's signature. 10/19/99 Tr. at 76; 10/29/99 Tr. at 54-60. The detective further stated that petitioner did not verbally ask for an attorney at this time. 10/19/99 Tr. at 75-76; 6/29/99 Tr. at 61.

Detective Chella spoke with petitioner until 5:06 P.M. During this two and one-half hour interview, petitioner proceeded to make several statements and admissions which implicated him in the death of John Watson. Detective Chella testified that there were no threats or promises made to petitioner to induce him to testify. During the interview petitioner was granted access to the telephone when he wanted it and was given refreshments and cigarettes. According to Detective Chella's notes and testimony, petitioner became visibly upset during the interview on a number occasions and was given time to compose himself. Eventually the detective asked petitioner if he would reduce his statements to a formal written statement, petitioner refused and, for the first time, requested an attorney. Detective Chella stopped his questioning immediately. 6/29/99 T. at 61-63; 10/19/99 Tr. at 77-89. Two days after the interview, with the aid of notes that he had taken and his memory, Detective Chella prepared a police report which contained the sum and substance of his conversation with the petitioner. Id. at 66-69; Suppression Hearing Exhibit No. 4.

2. Petitioner's Confession

What follows is a synopsis of petitioner's oral statement to Detective Chella made over a period of approximately two and one-half hours, memorialized in a 14-page single-spaced type-written statement. See People's Trial Exhibit 59; see also Suppression Order at 4, Respondent's Exhibit ("Resp't Ex.") at 174. Detective Chella informed petitioner that he would record their conversation by writing it down; there was no equipment in place in the interview room to videotape or audiotape the questioning. T.364-65. At trial, Detective Chella testified to the substance of Linnen's oral statements based upon his written notes of the interview. Several minutes after the interrogation began, Detective Ortiz joined Detective Chella, and remained in the room until the interview with petitioner was completed.

Linnen, who had a bachelor's degree from Canisius College, stated that he was receiving "some psychiatric care for what he termed a "compulsive disorder, motion [sic] not totally developed[.]" T.365-68. Linnen said he was taking medication (Prozac and Wellbutrin), but had not taken it in a couple of days, and that he was seeing a psychiatrist as well as a counselor, Gwen Herbert. T.365-68. However, Detective Chella testified, petitioner never said that he did not feel well enough to answer their questions, nor did he appear to have any difficulty understanding the detectives; his answers were always responsive and coherent. Id. When petitioner was informed that his psychiatric counselor, Gwen Herbert, had provided some information to the police, he became "rather upset." T.368.

Petitioner then brought up a female acquaintance named Gwen Mitchell, an "older woman" with whom he was romantically involved. Petitioner asserted that Mitchell often paid him to have sex with her. T.369. According to petitioner, Mitchell had gotten mad at him because he was dating other women, and he was afraid of her because she had sons his age who had beat him up in the past. Id.

Focusing Linnen back to the homicide, Detective Chella questioned him as to the last time he had seen Mitchell. Linnen was not sure; at first he said that it was January 19, 1999.

T.371. Linnen then explained that he had seen Gwen Mitchell on January 22 or January 23, 1999.

T.373. She had come to his house with a pint of rum, and they then went back to her house, where they had sexual intercourse and she gave him "sixty dollars for fucking her." Id. The two went over to Mitchell's daughter's house, and she later dropped him of at a McDonald's restaurant. Asked what he did with the $60, Linnen replied, "'what do you think." T.374.

When asked about his last contact with the decedent (to whom Linnen referred at times as "Ali" to Detective Chella), Linnen at first said that it was January 19, 1999, at Linnen's house on Kensington. T.375. Two women were there, "Carmen" and "T". When the decedent came home, he "got mad" because "the young ladies were there" and commented that Linnen "would never change." T.376. As a result, Linnen asked Carmen to leave with "T" and come back later. Id.

Linnen asserted that the decedent did not give him any drugs or money, that he did not need the decedent's money, and that he had $250 that he had received from his sister and from a job.

Watson eventually left petitioner's house again for a while. Later on the night of January 19, 1999, petitioner started paging the decedent because "he was worried about [the decedent] because he had not shown up back at the apartment." T.378. When asked what the decedent had eaten prior to leaving on January 19th, petitioner said that he had some coldcuts and bread in the refrigerator and that decedent had made a sandwich. Detective Chella commented that when the police had been there on January 28, 1999, it did not appear that there was any food in the refrigerator, and Gwen Mitchell, Linnen's paramour, had told them that she often had to supply him with food. T.378. Because the autopsy revealed that the decedent had consumed noodles shortly before his death, Detective Chella asked petitioner if he had any "Ramen"-brand noodles at his house, and petitioner replied that he did, in the kitchen cabinet. T.379.

At that juncture during the police interview, Linnen's demeanor changed, according to the detectives: Linnen became "a little more aggressive, a little more frustrated[,]" and appeared upset. T.379. Petitioner then announced, for the first time, that he "often has blackouts" that last for "[d]ays at a time" and that he "can't remember details." T.380. When Detective Chella asked petitioner to give an example of what someone told him he did during these blackouts, petitioner said that he once was told that he had jumped from building to building in a "dangerous" way.


Detective Chella testified that petitioner had not made any reference to these lengthy blackouts when the police first talked to petitioner on January 28, 1999. Id. Detective Chella asked petitioner how he could know for sure that he did not kill "Baby John" if he had these blackouts, and petitioner "stated 'that he just couldn't[,]' '[t]hat he loved that nigger.'" T.381.

Petitioner, throughout the interview, commented that he thought of the decedent ("Baby John") "as like his son . . . ." Id. Linnen explained to Detective Chella "that he [petitioner] was trying to steer him [decedent] away from the life that he saw Baby John having of drugs and selling drugs; and that he mirrored Baby John; that he had made mistakes and he was trying to make Baby John not make the same mistakes that he did throughout his life." T.377.

After Detective Chella directly confronted petitioner about killing "Baby John," he gave petitioner "a little time to compose himself" because petitioner had "become visibly angry[.]"

T.382. To try to re-direct petitioner's anger, Detective Chella offered petitioner some refreshments; petitioner asked for a clear soda pop. T.383. The detectives remained in the room while petitioner drank it.

When it appeared that petitioner had calmed down, Detective Chella commented that the police had received information that the sheet in which the body was found had been given to him by his girlfriend, Gwen Mitchell, on the day of the death, and that with her permission they had obtained the matching sheet. T.383-84. According to Detective Chella, petitioner "became a little concerned about that" and stated that he had "had that sheet for awhile prior to the death."

T.384. Petitioner did not ever admit to getting a sheet from Mitchell. T.386.

Detective Chella advised petitioner that Mitchell had told the police that petitioner had asked her for garbage bags and some rope. T.384. The detective told petitioner that if these things were true, "he was probably responsible for the death of Mr. Watson[,]" to which petitioner replied that he "had blackouts and he couldn't remember." T.385. Detective Chella noted that petitioner was the last person to see the decedent alive, and the decedent's body was found 70 yards from petitioner's house. When he asked petitioner to explain those circumstances, Linnen replied that "he had blackouts" and that Detective Chella "did not know what it was like to have these blackouts." T.391.

At this point, Detective Chella testified, petitioner's demeanor became "a little more down, a little more depressed" and he asked to call his mother in New York City. When told that it would have to go through the homicide department operator because it was long-distance, petitioner asked to make a local call, at which point both detectives left petitioner alone for about ten minutes. T.393. When they returned, petitioner began talking about how he had written a computer program for drug rehabilitation for the Red Cross, "not as a crackhead, but knowing it," but they only paid him a "dollar an hour" and they "fucked [him]" and "dumped [him]" because he was "an ex-con." T.396. He told Detective Chella, "You don't know [what it's like]." Id.

Petitioner then explained that during the week in question he "had been out hustling [for four or five days] and that's where he had got the money, doing it legally," apparently by using his computer skills to write menus for restaurants. T.396. He said he was doing it "[t]o show Baby John that he could [make money] without selling drugs." Id. According to Detective Chella, petitioner then "started to cry and put his head down and started to mumble some things to himself." T.396-97. When petitioner resumed speaking, he said that when he had returned to his apartment after being gone for those several days, "Ali [the decedent] had told him that he [petitioner] had to leave the apartment, that he was taking it over and he [petitioner] had to get out[,]" otherwise "they'll find [petitioner] dropped [sic], junkie, crackhead." T.397. Detective Chella testified that petitioner became upset at this point, and picked up a coffee mug that was being used as an ashtray and slammed it on the table. T.397. Petitioner announced "that he had gave [sic] that nigger more than [him]," and "[a]nything in [petitioner's] house was [decedent's]." T.397.

Petitioner then remarked that "he should have gotten rid of him, Baby John, first because of the way he treated [petitioner]," and that he saw "Baby John as himself and that he was the past coming back to the future to let [Baby John] know what his future looks like." T.398. Petitioner related that the decedent then left the house saying, "[W]e'll see when I get back."

T.398. The decedent, as he was leaving, kicked out a Jamaican man "who was bugging out too much". T.399.

Petitioner was "scared that the boys, [sic] were going to come back and get him." T.398. Petitioner said that the decedent had pulled a gun on him once before and to "show him that there was consequences to his actions, he had placed the barrel in his own mouth." T.399. When the decedent returned a short time later, they had a conversation in the hallway, apparently with the Jamaican man standing outside the door, still bugging out and ringing the doorbell. T.400.

Again petitioner brought up the blackouts, and told Detective Chella that he had been high for three or four days, beginning on January 22, 1999, before this last meeting with the decedent. T.401. Without being questioned or prompted, Detective Chella testified, "He just looked up at me and stated, I think I may have killed him. All the evidence points to it." T.402. Petitioner then "started crying" and "put his head down"; his "fists were clenched." T.402. Petitioner's demeanor changed from saddened to angry, and he said that he had not been high on January 22, 1999, but had started getting high on January 18, 1999, and remained high for two to four days. T.402-03. He explained that as a result of being high, "he had blackouts, loss of memory." T.403. Petitioner announced, "I loved that boy[,]" meaning the decedent. T.403.

Detective Chella then turned the conversation back to the last interaction between petitioner and the decedent, asking what Baby John was doing to him. T.404. Petitioner stated, "[H]e began choking me in my house. Ras [the Jamaican] was gone. I was coming in and out" of consciousness. T.404-05. He could not believe that Baby John was doing this to him because petitioner had "treated him so fairly, treated him as a son." T.405. Petitioner said that "Baby John" was "calling him a crackhead, telling him that he was never going to change[,]" and that he was taking over petitioner's house. T.405. Petitioner asked Baby John to "please get off him" and Baby John replied that he "had killed 17 motherfuckers; do you think one more crackhead is going to matter[,]" at which point Baby John "grabbed him in a chokehold and pushed his back up against the wall." T.406. Petitioner got up from the table and demonstrated these actions to Detective Chella. T.406-07. Petitioner told "Baby John that if he did not stop this," meaning dealing drugs, he "would become like [petitioner]." T.407. Petitioner related that "Baby John" then kicked him the groin, causing petitioner to go down; as petitioner did so, he pulled out the decedent's legs from under him, causing him to fall also. T.407-08. According to petitioner, the decedent was also punching him and telling him that he was going to die. T.408. Petitioner said that even though he had a bad back and a slipped disk, he was "kicking [the decedent's] ass", knocking him down and straddling him. T.409. Going through petitioner's mind was the thought that "if this nigger gets up, he tells his friends, they're going to get me." T.409, 410. Then petitioner said that the decedent was "kicking [petitioner']s ass" and that it "seemed like a dream." T.410. Petitioner was holding onto the decedent "real hard" and "telling him to stop, hold on." T.410, 418.

The next thing petitioner said to Detective Chella during the interview was, "I want PC," meaning protective police custody. T.411. He was concerned that "the boys would get him in jail." Id. Petitioner then began asking about the sentencing structures for the various homicide crimes--i.e., murder and manslaughter in the various degrees-- and what would he be receiving for this case. T.411. Petitioner specifically asked "what kind of [prison] time he would get if he was convicted of manslaughter first or murder second." T.412. Detective Chella replied that it was too early to tell and that it was the court's responsibility. T.412.

At that point, petitioner announced, "I did not intend to kill John Watson." T.412. Detective Chella steered the conversation to the means of getting the decedent's body to Tariko Place. Petitioner did not respond, but asked to make a phone call to his sister. He did so with Detective Chella in the room; he left a message and a Muslim greeting on the answering machine. Detective Chella hung up the phone and asked petitioner to get back to describing the struggle, to which petitioner stated that the decedent was going to kill him, and that he had tried to calm the decedent down. Petitioner stated that the decedent had pulled a gun on him [petitioner] once before. T.414. Petitioner stated that he had not had sexual relations with the deceased, and that what people were saying about their relationship was untrue. T.415. Petitioner specifically said that he was not sexually interested in the decedent. Id.

Petitioner told Detective Chella that he "didn't remember" at what point he knew that "Baby John was dead, that he blacked out, that the deceased was lying there." T.416. Petitioner checked to see if the decedent had any money or drugs on him, but he did not. T.416. If Watson had, petitioner was "going to leave the drugs on him to use . . . as a means to have the police sort of get away from [petitioner]." T.416.

Detective Chella then asked petitioner how he had choked the decedent; he had never disclosed to petitioner that he had an understanding of how the strangulation had occurred.

T.417. Petitioner began by saying that the decedent was facing away from him; petitioner then looked at Detective Chella said, "[Y]ou got his coat don't you," and stated that he had used the strings on the decedent's "hoody" to choke him, as the decedent's back was to petitioner's chest.

T.417. Petitioner had not been advised that any clothing had been collected from the decedent's body. Id.

When asked if he tried to assist the decedent in any way, petitioner said that he did not do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but briefly attempted CPR, demonstrating his actions for Detective Chella by cupping his hands and thrusting them up and down on the table in the interview room. T.418. Petitioner explained that "he was confused and that . . . he tried, but he got no response and that there was no one else there and he was high." T.419.

Detective Chella could see that petitioner was starting to get a little tired, so he told petitioner that he only had three more questions--"how did the deceased die, how did you tie him up, and how did you get him into the alleyway . . . ." T.419. Petitioner explained that he put the decedent's body in an appliance box he had found outside his apartment, that he put the body in the box, and carried it over the snow, and discarded the box. T.420. Detective Chella asked him who had helped him wrap up the body. Petitioner claimed that he did not recall wrapping up the body. In any event, petitioner would not answer, commenting, "It doesn't matter" and he "just didn't want to get anybody else involved." T.421. At this point, petitioner announced that he was "going to do 20 years after this." Id. Petitioner continued by saying "[t]hat he's been high, that it gets him away from this, that he doesn't have to deal with this." T.422. At that point, he told Detective Chella that he had been high for the previous three weeks. T.422. He remarked that he did not know that the decedent was sixteen-years-old and that he "thought of him as [petitioner's] own child, that [the decedent's] own father didn't treat him very well and that he [petitioner] tried to be this fatherly image to him." T.422. Petitioner commented "that he bought gifts for kids with his money" and "tried to show [the decedent[ how he could deal, but still not hurt people with it." T.423.

Petitioner then told Detective Chella that the decedent would not give him back the keys to his own "motherfucking house" and that he wanted to "get high every time I remember him" in order to forget. T.423. Petitioner announced, "I got pissed off when they said there was semen in [the decedent's] ass. I loved him, not like that." T.424. However, petitioner had never been told by the police or any other official that semen had in fact been found in the decedent's rectum. T.424.

Detective Chella returned the subject of how the body was wrapped; petitioner would not reply, stating simply, "I wrapped him up, leave it alone." T.424-25. When asked if he knew of any paper found on the body, petitioner acknowledged that he had written the note found on the body that said "One down, two to go. I don't remember the initials." T.425. Detective Chella had not disclosed to him what in fact was written on the paper. T.425.

Detective Chella then asked if petitioner would be willing to give a formal statement, to which petitioner replied that he "wanted to have his lawyer with him." T.426. Detective Chella asked who his attorney was, and petitioner replied that the police had to provide an attorney for him. At that time, it was 5:06 p.m.; the interview had begun at 2:25 p.m. T.426. Detective Chella ceased his questioning immediately. T.426. Petitioner was crying and asked to use the phone to call his sister. The Detectives then left petitioner alone in the interview room with the door ajar for about five minutes. T.427.

Detective Chella returned with Chief Riga after about five minutes; Detective Chella told petitioner that he was under arrest. T.428. At that time, petitioner inquired, this time of Chief Riga, about police protection based upon his fears of what would happen to him in jail, and asked Chief Riga "to have the story low profile." T.428. Chief Riga responded that it was public information, and that the press had free access to it. T.429. Petitioner also stated to Chief Riga, without inducement, "I didn't mean to kill that boy. I have a breaking point. Sometimes I just snap." Petitioner then stated, "He [the decedent] tried to take my shit and throw me out of my house." 10/27/99 Tr. at 6, 8.

Since petitioner seemed upset, Detective Chella did not put handcuffs on him immediately. T.429. Both Chella and Chief Riga left petitioner alone to smoke for awhile. T.431. Petitioner was not handcuffed until he was taken down to be booked, a five or ten-minute procedure, after which he was taken to his cell. T.431. Detective Chella testified that petitioner was never able to provide a specific date on which the death occurred. T.433. Petitioner's phone calls to Chella on February 3, 1999. T.434-36.

At no time during the interview did petitioner ask for a phone book to look up attorney phone numbers; he did not indicate that, when he signed the printed Miranda card, that he was requesting a lawyer. T.436-37. Detective Chella denied telling petitioner that it would take four to five hours to obtain a lawyer for him, or asking petitioner to look at photographs or listen to any tapes. T.437. Detective Chella was not aware of any videotaping or audiotaping equipment being activated in the interview room; he explained that the recording equipment was actually located in Chief Riga's office. T.438.

3. Other Evidence Presented at Petitioner's Trial

The decedent sold drugs out of petitioner's house on Kensington. See T.751, 958, 978, 1067. A number of witnesses testified that they "got high" there. See T.750, 760, 957-58, 985-87, 1077-78, 1106-08. Some witnesses testified that petitioner was sexually interested in the decedent, but this interested was not reciprocated. Gwen Mitchell, petitioner's paramour, testified that petitioner told her that the decedent was his lover but later retracted this statement.


In his movements prior to his death, it was revealed through testimony that decedent left his father's house after eating dinner around 7:00 p.m. on Monday, January 18, 1999, and never returned. T.269, 291. He did not attend school January 19, 1999, through January 22, 1999.

T.1228. Raychell Smith ("Smith"), a schoolmate of the decedent's, claimed that she saw him alive on January 19, 1999; however, she did not testify at trial. Trial counsel agreed to stipulate that Smith saw the decedent on the morning of January 19, 1999, and again later that evening. At about 8:50 p.m. on January 19th, the decedent received a message on his pager and then departed.

T.1119-20. Smith did not see him again. Damita Love-Jones ("Love-Jones") testified that she had witnessed disagreements between petitioner and the decedent over how much cocaine decedent was giving him; petitioner believed that the decedent was taking advantage of his kindness. T.753-54. Love-Jones, who had sex with the decedent in return for being supplied with drugs, paged him at about 2:30 a.m. on January 20, 1999, in order to buy some drugs, but he did not return her call. T.756.

At about 5 A.M. on Wednesday, January 20, 1999, petitioner called his friend Valerie Hammett and told her that he had paged the decedent all day and that the decedent was "missing." T.963. Petitioner told her he had seen Watson on Monday, January 18th, when Love-Jones and her cousin were at his apartment.

On Wednesday evening, Gwen Mitchell saw petitioner staring out of his window; according to Mitchell, he seemed disoriented and asked her for the date and time, and a cigarette.

T.240-41. Twenty minutes later, he came over to her apartment and said that he was being evicted from his apartment and had "other problems." T.213, 215. At petitioner's request, Mitchell gave him a bed sheet, a garbage bag, and some surgical gloves. Petitioner had also asked her for some rope, but she did not have any so petitioner cut the cable cord from her basement. T.215. Petitioner told Mitchell that he was cleaning up his house and wanted to throw away some old clothes and his couch.

The medical examiner who performed the autopsy testified that in his opinion the decedent probably died between 9:00 A.M. on Tuesday, January 19, 1999, and 9:00 A.M. on Thursday, January 21, 1999. With regard to manner in which Watson died, the medical examiner testified without challenge that he was intentionally killed, T.1189-1227. The cause of death was strangulation by ligature. T.1204, 1211, 1218. According to the medical examiner, absent from the decedent's body were any defensive injuries which would have indicated a struggle between him and his assailant. The decedent did have two abrasions on his skull, which the medical examiner testified were consistent with blunt force injury caused by, for instance, a person's fists. The medical examiner testified that it would have been "almost impossible" for strangulation to have occurred, given the physical findings, if the strangler had been standing in front of the victim. Thus, the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.