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Adams v. Khahaifa

June 16, 2010

RIKKI ADAMS, PETITIONER,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT KHAHAIFA, ORLEANS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, RESPONDENT.



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

ORDER

I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner Rikki Daryl Adams ("petitioner") has filed a timely petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction in Monroe County Court of Arson in the Third Degree (N.Y. Penal L. § 150.10(1)), following a jury trial before Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. He was subsequently sentenced to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of five to fifteen years. S.20.*fn1

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

On the evening of September 14, 2003, petitioner set fire to a house in the Susan B. Anthony historic district in the City of Rochester. The house belonged to Pepsy Kettavong ("Kettavong"), a Laotian immigrant who resided next door and was renovating the neighboring property. Petitioner burned Kettavong's house in retaliation for Kettavong's complaints to the city about debris and old cars in petitioner's yard, who lived across from Kettavong's properties.

Two witnesses testified for the prosecution that petitioner admitted to them that he started the fire, that they saw petitioner riding his motorcycle with something on the back that appeared to be an orange gas tank, and that during the fire, they both observed petitioner, who had been drinking, jump up and down saying, "burn, motherfucker." Another witness heard petitioner say on several occasions that he was "going to get" Kettavong.

Following petitioner's arrest the night of the fire, he was found to have a barbeque lighter in his pocket and his clothing and hands smelled of gasoline. An investigation by the Rochester Fire Department revealed that the fire originated in the rear corner of the first floor, and that it was incendiary in nature.

Petitioner testified in his own defense at trial, denying his involvement with the fire. The defense argued that petitioner would have no motive to burn Kettavong's house, and that petitioner did not know who made the complaints to the city regarding the condition of petitioner's property. T. 273-78, 284, 288-290, 388-93, 415-22, 355-59, 380, 422-45, 450-52, 461-87, 575-640.

Through counsel, petitioner filed a direct appeal to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, arguing three points:

(1) expert opinion testimony at trial invaded the province of the jury; (2) an investigator's testimony rendered the proceedings defective; and (3) petitioner was subjected to a de facto arrest without probable cause. Appx. B. He also filed a pro se supplemental brief with his appeal, which included the following arguments: (1) the petitioner was deprived of a fair trial based on discovery and subpoena errors; (2) the evidence was legally insufficient to support the conviction; (3) prosecutorial misconduct; (4) cumulative errors at trial denied petitioner due process and a fair trial; and (5) the sentence was harsh and excessive. Appx. C. The Fourth Department unanimously affirmed the judgment of conviction. People v. Adams, 43 A.D.3d 1423 (4th Dept. 2007); lv denied, 9 N.Y.3d 1004 (2007); Respondent's Appendix ("Appx.") A. Petitioner also filed two motions to vacate the judgment of conviction pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. L. ("C.P.L.") § 440.10 in Monroe County Court. The first, dated August 7, 2005, alleged that the prosecutor's conduct at petitioner's trial deprived him of due process, and that newly discovered evidence existed that required the court to vacate his conviction. Appx. I. In the second motion, dated June 21, 2007, petitioner made another claim of prosecutorial misconduct and that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective. Appx. P. Both motions were denied on procedural grounds. Appx. L, S.

The instant petition for writ of habeas corpus (Dkt. #1) was filed with this Court on February 12, 2008. Therein, petitioner seeks relief on the following grounds: (1) ineffective assistance of trial counsel; (2) the prosecution violated discovery demands; (3) the fire department violated subpoena orders; (4) the evidence was legally insufficient to support the conviction; (5) prosecutorial misconduct; (6) cumulative errors denied petitioner a fair trial; and (7) petitioner's arrest was made without probable cause. Petition ("Pet.") ¶ 19(A)-(H).

For the reasons that follow, I find that petitioner is not entitled to the writ, 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. ยง 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 ...


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