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Ayala v. Artus

April 12, 2010


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


I. Introduction

Pro se Petitioner Wenceslao Ayala ("Petitioner") has filed a timely petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the constitutionality of his custody pursuant to a judgment entered January 23, 2004, in New York State, County Court, Erie County, convicting him, after a jury trial, of Rape in the First Degree (N.Y. Penal Law ("Penal Law") § 130.35 [1]), Sodomy in the First Degree (Penal Law § 130.50 [1]), and Robbery in the Third Degree (Penal Law § 160.05).

For the reasons stated below, habeas relief is denied and the petition is dismissed.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

On the evening of August 3, 1994, Sharlene Von ("Von" or "the victim"), a/k/a Sharlene Miller, attended a baseball game with co-workers. Von left early to go to the movies with her husband. As Von walked toward the parking lot to her car, she noticed Petitioner walking toward her. Petitioner asked Von if she had a light for his cigarette. She stated she did not, unlocked her car, and got inside. Petitioner asked if he could use the lighter in her car. When Von looked up, Petitioner was at her window. He reached inside Von's window, unlocked her door, got in, and shoved her toward the passenger side. Von tried to get to the passenger side door, but Petitioner grabbed her by the back of her neck and shoved her head between her knees. Petitioner asked for Von's money. Von heard Petitioner rifling through what she thought was her purse, although she could not see him. Petitioner shoved Von onto the passenger side floor while she struggled against him screaming and crying. Petitioner then started to drive her car. Von begged Petitioner to let her go, and Petitioner indicated that he would. Shortly thereafter, Petitioner stopped the car, pulled Von up by the back of her shorts, and told her to get in the back seat. Von told him no. The two struggled face to face, but Petitioner succeeded in pushing her to the backseat. When they were both in the backseat, Petitioner grabbed Von's head, put it between his knees, and sat on it. Petitioner began taking Von's clothing off. Von struggled to break free and reached for the window three times. Each time, Petitioner pulled her back and punched her in the head. Petitioner then instructed Von to take off her shorts and underwear and turn away from him, which she did. Petitioner then inserted his penis into her vagina and anus.

Petitioner then bound Von's hands and legs and took her wedding ring. Petitioner instructed Von not to look at him when he left, and that he would come back and hurt her if she did. After a short while, Von untied herself, put on her underpants and shoes, walked in the direction of the baseball game, and collapsed. An ambulance was called and Von was taken to Erie County Medical Center where she was questioned by police and rape kit samples were taken. Von described her attacker to police. An investigation was conducted, but Von was unable to positively identify a suspect. She initially identified a different individual by photo array, who was later excluded on the basis of DNA. The case went cold until July 2002. Trial Transcript [T.T.] 122-150.

In July 2002, the Erie County Central Police Services Forensic Laboratory ("Erie County Forensics Lab") learned that there was a match between a sample taken from Petitioner and evidence collected from the victim. A new DNA sample was taken from Petitioner, compared to the unknown sample in Von's case, and determined to be a match. T.T. 627-629, 632-633, 636, 641, 646-650.

Two Buffalo Police Department sex offense detectives spoke with Petitioner on January 8, 2003 at the Gowanda Correctional Facility, where he was incarcerated on an unrelated crime. The detectives told Petitioner that they were following up on a rape that occurred in Buffalo in August 1994. At the end of the interview, detectives typed up a statement, which Petitioner read and signed. T.T. 500-508.

Shortly thereafter, Petitioner was indicted for the rape, sodomy and robbery of Von.

Prior to the trial, a Huntley hearing was held, wherein the trial court determined that the statements Petitioner made to police were not involuntarily made and therefore admissible at trial. A Sandoval hearing was also held, wherein the trial court determined that the People could question Petitioner about a 1995 conviction for rape and sodomy, if Petitioner testified at trial.

Also prior to trial, Petitioner filed a motion, pursuant to New York Criminal Procedural Law ("CPL") § 30.10, alleging unjustifiable delay in prosecuting the case. The Erie County Court denied this motion, finding that the statute had been tolled, pursuant to CPL § 30.10(4)(a)(ii), because the identity and whereabouts of Petitioner were continuously unknown and unascertainable by the exercise of reasonable diligence during the period of time at issue. See Memorandum, Decision and Order of the Erie County Court, Ind. No. 03-0008, dated 11/18/03.

A jury trial commenced in the Erie County Court on January 16, 2004 before the Honorable Timothy J. Drury. Petitioner did not testify at trial. On January 23, 2004, Petitioner was found guilty as charged. On March 17, 2004, he was sentenced as a second violent felony offender to consecutive indeterminate terms of twelve and one-half to twenty-five years for the rape charge, twelve and one-half to twenty-five years for the sodomy charge, and two and one-third to seven years for the robbery charge. Sentencing Minutes [S.M.] 37-38.

The Appellate Division, Fourth Department unanimously affirmed the judgment of conviction. People v. Ayala, 27 A.D.3d 1087 (4th Dept. 2006). Leave to appeal was denied by the New York Court of Appeals. People v. Ayala, 6 N.Y.2d 892 (2006).

On November 7, 2006, Petitioner filed a CPL § 440.10 motion to vacate his judgment of conviction, which was denied by the Erie County Court on procedural grounds on May 2, 2007. See Decision of the Erie County Court, Ind. No. 00008-2003, dated 05/02/07. Petitioner appealed the denial to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, which was denied on June 29, 2007. See Decision of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, Ind. No. 00008-2003, dated 06/29/07.

This habeas petition*fn1 followed, wherein petitioner seeks relief on the following grounds: (1) Petitioner's statements were admitted into evidence in violation of Miranda; (2) ineffective assistance of trial counsel; (3) the trial court's Sandoval ruling was in error and prevented Petitioner from testifying at trial; (4) the sentence was unduly harsh and excessive; and (5) Petitioner's indictment and conviction should have been barred by the statute of limitations. Petition [Pet.] ¶22A-D (Dkt. #1); Supplemental Memorandum of Law in Support of Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus [Supp. Memo.] (Dkt. #10).

III. General Principles Applicable to Habeas Review

A. The AEDPA Standard of Review

Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), a federal court may grant habeas relief to a state prisoner only if a claim that was "adjudicated on the merits" in state court "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," 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), or if it "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding." § 2254(d)(2). A state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law "if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme Court] has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413 (2000). The phrase, "clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," limits the law governing ...

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