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Muhammad v. Artus

August 5, 2010

TEHRAN MUHAMMAD, JR., PETITIONER,
v.
DALE ARTUS, SUPERINTENDENT, RESPONDENT.



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

ORDER

I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner Tehran Muhammad, Jr., ("petitioner") has filed a timely petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his conviction in Erie County Supreme Court of Rape in the First Degree (N.Y. Penal L. § 130.35(1)), and Attempted Burglary in the First Degree (N.Y. Penal L. §§ 110.00, 140.30(3)), following a plea of guilty before Justice Joseph F. Forma. Petitioner was sentenced to concurrent, determinate terms of imprisonment of fifteen years with five years of post-release supervision.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

Petitioner's conviction arose out of an incident that occurred on July 22, 2005 in Cheektowaga, New York, wherein petitioner broke into the home of his ex-girlfriend ("the victim") and had forcible sexual intercourse with her at knifepoint. Plea Minutes ("P.M.") at 24-28.

In a counseled brief submitted to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, petitioner raised four issues for appeal:

(1) his waiver of his right to appeal at the plea proceeding was invalid; (2) the court erred in denying petitioner's motion to withdraw his guilty plea; (3) the trial court erred in denying petitioner's motion to substitute counsel; and (4) the sentence was harsh and excessive. See Respondent's Exhibits ("Ex.") B. The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the judgment of conviction. People v. Muhammad, 41 A.D.3d 1282 (4th Dept. 2007); lv. denied, 9 N.Y.3d 879 (2007).

The instant habeas petition followed (Dkt. #1), wherein petitioner raises the same claims as he did on direct appeal. See Petition ("Pet.") ¶12 (1)-(4). 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

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 limited to state court decisions so far off the mark as to suggest judicial incompetence." Francis S. v. Stone, 221 F.3d 100, 111 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Under AEDPA, "a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct. The [petitioner] shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); see also Parsad v. Greiner, 337 F.3d 175, 181 (2d Cir. 2003) ("The presumption of correctness is particularly important when reviewing the trial court's assessment of witness credibility."), cert. denied sub nom. Parsad v. Fischer, 540 U.S. 1091 (2003). A state court's findings "will not be overturned on factual grounds ...


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