The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alvin K. Hellerstein, U.S.D.J.
ORDER AND OPINION DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
Petitioner Sergio Parra, proceeding pro se, seeks review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 of a conviction by the New York Supreme Court of Murder in the Second Degree. Petitioner claims that the conviction violated his rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution because the jury did not recognize his defense of extreme emotional disturbance, and because the instructions to the jury increased his burden of proof and failed to require unanimity.
For the following reasons, the petition is denied.
On September 16, 2004, an argument broke out between Petitioner, Sergio Parra, and his wife, Yajaira Parra. Petitioner had learned that Ms. Parra was having an affair, and had had sex, with another man, and confronted her. Ms. Parra was unrepentant, and the argument escalated. Petitioner stabbed his wife multiple times; she fell to the ground, and Petitioner continued to stab her until she was dead. In excess of thirty stab wounds were found on Ms. Parra's body.
At trial, Petitioner presented an expert witness to explain that he had been overcome by an extreme emotional disturbance. The trial judge instructed the jury that "if you find that the defendant has proven the affirmative defense by a preponderance of the evidence, then you must find the defendant not guilty of murder in the second degree . . . [and instead find him] guilty of the reduced charge of manslaughter of the first degree." Trial Tr. at 785, March 20, 2007, (Doc. No. 5).
Nevertheless, the jury returned a verdict of guilt of Murder in the Second Degree. The court sentenced Petitioner to an indefinite term of 23 years to life. Petitioner is serving that term.
On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed Petitioner's conviction. People v. Parra, 870 N.Y.S.2d 335 (App. Div. 2009). It held that the verdict was not against the weight of the evidence and that Petitioner's challenges to the jury instructions were unpreserved. Id. It also held, however, that if it were to review Petitioner's objections to the jury instructions on the merits, it would reject them because the jury instructions paralleled the New York Criminal Jury Instructions and any differences were in form rather than substance. Id. The Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. People v. Parra, 12 N.Y.3d 820 (2007).
On June 25, 2009, Petitioner timely filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 2254.
A petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C § 2254 may be granted only if the state court adjudication (1) "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," or (2) "resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." § 2254(d)(1)-(2).
A decision is contrary to Supreme Court precedent if the state court "applies a rule that contradicts" that precedent, or reaches a different result on facts that are "materially indistinguishable." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). "[A] federal habeas court making the 'unreasonable application' inquiry should ask whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was objectively unreasonable." Id. at 409. It "may not issue the writ simply because [it] concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." Id. at 410-11. Also, it is to be presumed that the state court correctly determined factual issues unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C § 2254(e)(1) (2010); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 ...