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Young v. Kirkpatrick

November 22, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR E. Bianchini United States Magistrate Judge


I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner James Young ("Young" or "Petitioner"), by means of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenges the constitutionality of his state custody pursuant to a criminal judgment entered against him in New York State Supreme Court (Erie County). Following a jury trial, Young was found guilty of, inter alia, burglary in the second degree (New York Penal Law ("P.L."§ 140.25(2)) (two counts), arson in the second degree (P.L. § 150.15) (one count), and assault in the third degree (P.L. § 120.00(1)) (one count).

Young has asserted claims contesting the sufficiency of the evidence to support the various convictions; alleging error in the trial court's failure to hold a hearing on his pre-trial C.P.L. § 30.30 motion; and assailing trial counsel's performance. Respondent asserts that all of the claims must fail on the merits.

The parties have consented to disposition of this matter by a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). For the reasons that follow, the petition is dismissed.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

The following summary of the evidence is the proof as viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, which is the standard the Court must use in determining the merit of Young's insufficiency-of-the-evidence claims.

On January 25, 2001, Arkillia Hubbard ("Arkillia") had lived in the lower apartment at 137 Goemble Avenue in the City of Buffalo with her two children for the past five years. T.59.*fn1 The upper apartment at Hubbard's house was occupied by Janice Taylor ("Taylor"). Id.. Most of the homes on Goemble Avenue were duplexes. T.95.

Petitioner was the biological father of Hubbard's six-year-old daughter. However, Petitioner's and Hubbard's relationship had ended and they did not live together. Petitioner had last visited with his daughter on January 20th. See T.60, 61, 73.

At 11:30 p.m. on the night of January 25th, Hubbard had gone to bed. Her boyfriend Antone Martin ("Martin"), whom she had been dating for the past three months, was with her. All of a sudden she heard a "bang" and some other "noises" coming the front of the house, including the porch Hubbard got out of bed and, followed by Martin, headed towards the living room in the front of the house. T.63.

As Hubbard entered her darkened living room, she saw a person's figure--and then she was hit over the head. The person, in a voice which she recognized as Petitioner's, announced, "I knew you was [sic] with that nigger." T.65. Petitioner and Martin, who had followed Hubbard into the room, then began to fight. Hubbard managed to extricate herself from the fracas and called 911 from her bedroom. T.66.

When she returned to the living room, Martin had subdued Petitioner. Petitioner told Martin, "You can have her," referring to Hubbard. T.67. As the bizarre love triangle waited for the police to arrive, a man, later identified as Melvin Johnson ("Johnson"), appeared at Hubbard's now-broken front window. Johnson asked what was going on, mentioning that whatever it was, he did not want to become involved. T.68.

Upon spying Johnson, Petitioner told him to "Go get the gun," to which Johnson replied "What gun?" T.68. Johnson attempted to allow Hubbard and Young to release Petitioner under his aegis, but Hubbard refused, telling him that she was detaining Petitioner until the police arrived. Martin, in act of appeasement which would later prove unwise, vetoed Hubbard and acceded to Johnson's plea to release Petitioner.

Before Petitioner got into Johnson's car to leave, he left Hubbard with these parting words:"Bitch, I swear to you I'm going to kill you." T.69.

The following morning, Hubbard and Martin took her children to school and then drove to Cheektowaga in order to purchase a replacement window. Before leaving the house that morning, Hubbard locked her front and back doors, and Martin put a board over the broken window. T.75.

The window-buying errand took longer than expected. Later that morning, when they returned to Hubbard's home so she could check on the house and get her mail, they found nothing out of the ordinary. They then went to Martin's house, which was located, two blocks away, so he could check his mail. T.77. As Hubbard waited in the car for Martin to return, she used his cell phone to check her answering machine for messages. When she hung up, Martin's cell phone rang and to her surprise she saw her home telephone number displayed on the screen. T.78. Thinking petitioner was at her house, Martin and Hubbard headed to 137 Goemble. When they got there, Hubbard tried to open her front door. Meanwhile, suspecting something was amiss at the house, Martin retrieved his shot gun from the trunk of his car. T.79, 80. Martin finally was able to open the door.

While Hubbard was standing outside on the porch, she saw a cushion from her couch came sailing through open front door. Martin directed her to leave the porch because an intruder was in the house. T.80.

As Hubbard stood on the sidewalk, she observed smoke coming out from under her front door. The smoke was followed by a "big gulp of fire." T.80. Hubbard began screaming that the house was on fire. Her cries brought the upstairs resident, Taylor, and Taylor's friend, John Hall, ("Hall") running from the upstairs apartment. T.82.

On the day after the fire, Petitioner called Martin's cell phone. Hubbard answered and asked him what he was thinking. Petitioner told her that he did set the fire "because she was with that nigger," and threatened that he would not stop until she was dead. T.85.

Petitioner's acquaintance, Johnson, provided the following testimony about the events of January 25, 2001. That night, he was at the home of his girlfriend, Danielle King ("King"), who happened to be Petitioner's sister. At 11:00 p.m., Petitioner asked him for a ride to Hubbard's home. T.105, 107. Johnson drove Petitioner to the address and parked and waited in his car two houses away. T.108.

When Johnson heard people on a porch nearby talking about a commotion at Hubbard's home, he got out to investigate. He observed that the front window on Hubbard's porch was broken and inside he saw Petitioner fighting with Martin. T.111. From the sidelines, Johnson attempted to convince Martin to release Petitioner so they could leave and asked Hubbard not to call the police. T.112. Johnson recalled that he showed Hubbard his driver's license so that she would not think he was attempting to enter her home, although it is not clear how or why that would have reassured her. T.112.

Antone Martin's testimony was consistent with that provided by his girlfriend, Arkillia Hubbard. On the night of January 25th, he was in her bedroom when he heard the sound of breaking glass in the living room at the front of the house. T.254, 256. Martin followed Hubbard to the dark living room where a man (later identified as Petitioner) hit her and yelled at her as she fell to the floor. T.257. Martin was unable to see Petitioner's face or understand what he was saying. T.257. Martin jumped on top of Petitioner and they wrestled on the couch, eventually falling onto the floor on top of Hubbard. T.258. Martin recalled that Petitioner struggled to get away, biting Martin's arm and scratching his face in the process. T.260. When Martin released him and pushed him out the front door, Petitioner yelled, "You can have Arkillia, you can have the bitch. I'm going to kill you." T.264.

After Petitioner left, Martin put a piece of wood over the broken front window and observed that Petitioner's bite mark had broken his skin. T.267. Martin applied an antibacterial ointment to the wound which left him with a sore arm for two weeks and a scar for three months. T.267. The skin on his face where Petitioner had scratched him was broken, bleeding, and swollen. A scar remained for two weeks, fading gradually after that. T.268, 269.

On the following morning, Martin accompanied Hubbard as she took her children to school and then they took the broken window to be repaired in Cheektowaga. T.270. While waiting for the window to be repaired, Martin returned with Hubbard to 137 Goemble so she could check her mail and they then drove to his home so he could do the same. T.273. When he returned to the car, Hubbard gave him his cell phone which rang. The phone displayed the caller as Hubbard. T.274. When Martin answered, the caller hung up, at which time they headed to Hubbard's home. T.275.

Martin did not see any smoke or flames on their arrival. While Hubbard went to open the front door, Martin went to his trunk for his shotgun. T.276. Hubbard was unable to open the front door so Martin pushed on it and it opened. Inside, he saw Petitioner standing in front of a fire on the floor, spreading up the curtains. T.278. Petitioner threw a cushion from the couch at Martin, causing him jump back outside onto the porch. T.279. When Martin entered the house again, Petitioner was gone and the fire had spread. In the rear of the house he found the back door leading to the upstairs apartment open; the back door leading into Hubbard's apartment was open as well. T.280, 281.

The upstairs neighbor, Taylor, also testified regarding the events of the following morning, January 26, 2001. At about 11:00 a.m., Taylor was in her apartment at the upper level of 137 Goemble Avenue with her boyfriend, Hall. T.114. Taylor heard Hubbard screaming her name and telling her to get out because the house was on fire. T.116. Taylor recalled that as she ran down the back stairs she smelled smoke. T.117. Outside, the front window and door of Hubbard's apartment were engulfed in flames which reached her (Taylor's) apartment. The fire left Hubbard's house in total ...

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