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Musumeci v. NYS Dep't of Corrections

June 1, 2010

CARLO MUSUMECI, PETITIONER,
v.
NYS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.



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

ORDER

I. Introduction

Petitioner Carlo Musumeci ("petitioner"), who is represented by counsel, has filed a timely petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the constitutionality of his conviction in Wayne County Court of Manslaughter in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal Law ("P.L.") § 125.15[1]) and Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree (P.L. § 120.03[1]).

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

Petitioner's convictions arose out of a motor vehicle accident occurring on August 20, 2003, wherein petitioner drove his car off the highway and crashed, causing serious injuries to himself, his ex-wife, Sabrina Musumeci, and causing the death of a third occupant, Robin Bridwell.

With respect to Robin Bridwell, petitioner was charged with two counts of Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degree (former P.L. § 125.12[1][2]) and one count each of Manslaughter in the Second Degree (P.L. § 125.15[1]) and Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree (P.L. § 120.25). As to Sabrina Musumeci, petitioner was charged with two counts of Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree (former P.L. § 120.03[1][2]) and one count of Assault in the Second Degree (P.L. § 120.05[4]). He was also charged with two counts of Driving While Ability Impaired (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. § 1192[1],[4]).

A pre-trial hearing was held on April 8, 2004, in which the suppression of petitioner's blood samples was denied. Following an unsuccessful plea negotiation, a jury trial was scheduled for July 12, 2004. On the day of the scheduled trial, however, petitioner's counsel negotiated a plea arrangement with the prosecution wherein petitioner would plead guilty to two counts of the indictment, Manslaughter in the Second Degree and Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree. The agreed-upon sentence was 2 to 6 years incarceration on the manslaughter charge and 1 1/3 to 4 years on the vehicular assault charge, to run concurrently to one another. Petitioner was sentenced accordingly, except that the vehicular assault sentence was reduced to 1 to 3 years by the trial court.

On June 21, 2005, petitioner sought to vacate the judgment of conviction pursuant to New York Crim. Proc. Law ("C.P.L.") § 440.10 on the following grounds: (1) petitioner lacked the necessary mental capacity to enter a plea of guilty; (2) petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel; and (3) petitioner was misinformed as to the nature of the sentence to be imposed. See 440.10 Mot. and Supporting Mem., No. 03-131, dated 6/21/05. The county court denied petitioner's motion on the merits. See Mem. Decision, No. 03-131, dated 11/18/05. Leave to appeal that decision was denied by the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, on February 27, 2007. See People v. Musumeci, No. 03-131 (KA 05-02673), dated 2/27/07.

Petitioner then brought the instant petition ("Pet.") for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, alleging essentially the same grounds for relief as he did in his 440.10 motion in state court. (Dkt. #1). The respondent filed an answer to the petition denying all of the claims. (Dkt. #6). For the reasons that follow, I find that habeas relief is not warranted and the petition is dismissed.

III. Discussion

A. General Principles Applicable to Federal Habeas Review

1. 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 a habeas petitioner's claims to the holdings (not dicta) of the Supreme Court existing at the time of the relevant state-court decision. Williams, 529 U.S. at 412; accord Sevencan v. Herbert, 342 F.3d 69, 73-74 (2d Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1197 (2004).

A state court decision is based on an "unreasonable application" of Supreme Court precedent if it correctly identified the governing legal rule, but applied it in an unreasonable manner to the facts of a particular case. Williams, 529 U.S. at 413; see also id. at 408-10. "[A] federal habeas court is not empowered to grant the writ just because, in its independent judgment, it would have decided the federal law question differently." Aparicio v. Artuz, 269 F.3d 78, 94 (2d Cir. 2001). Rather,"[t]he state court's application must reflect some additional increment of incorrectness such that it may be said to be unreasonable." Id. This increment "need not be great; otherwise, habeas relief would be ...


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