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Alfredo Rivera v. James Walsh

December 8, 2010

ALFREDO RIVERA,
PETITIONER,
v.
JAMES WALSH, SUPERINTENDENT,
RESPONDENT.



OPINION

This is a petition by a state prisoner for a writ of habeas corpus, filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Respondent has answered, contending that the petition should be denied.

The petition is denied.

In April, 2003, after a jury trial, the New York Supreme Court convicted petitioner of one count of murder in the first degree, and one count of murder in the second degree. The court sentenced petitioner to concurrent indeterminate prison terms of 25 years to life. Having exhausted his appellate review, petitioner now raises two claims in the instant petition. First, petitioner claims that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support a conviction of first-degree felony murder. Second, petitioner claims that the jury's verdict was repugnant because of inconsistency.

Background

This account of the facts underlying petitioner's conviction is taken from his § 2255 motion and the Government's response to that motion. Facts

On October 27, 2000, petitioner was staying at the apartment of his friend, Israel Cotto. Cotto and his live-in girlfriend, Ridiayah Gomez, both testified at trial that petitioner received a phone call that morning, and that shortly thereafter, petitioner announced that he was going out.

Petitioner testified at trial that when he went out that morning, he coincidentally ran into his friend, Jose Rios, while walking down the street. Petitioner was on his way to buy marijuana from Edward Vaughn, who lived alone and sold marijuana from his apartment. Petitioner invited Rios to come with him, and the two walked together to Vaughn's apartment.

Petitioner further testified that he had anticipated some degree of conflict, because he knew that Vaughn disliked Rios, and for this reason, petitioner rang Vaughn's buzzer at the outside of the building while Rios hid from sight. Vaughn looked out his window, saw petitioner, and buzzed him into the building. Rios accompanied petitioner into the apartment building. Before they reached Vaughn's apartment door, which was open, Rios announced to petitioner that he intended to rob Vaughn. Petitioner responded: "No, don't do it. Not while I'm here."

When both men entered the apartment, Vaughn got very upset when he saw Rios and immediately grabbed him. The two began to struggle, and Rios struck Vaughn in the head multiple times. Petitioner grabbed Vaughn, but Vaughn pushed him away. Rios and Vaughn then fought in the bathroom for a period of time, while petitioner stood outside. When they came out, Vaughn was bleeding from his face and neck. Vaughn asked petitioner to help him but, in response, petitioner struck him in the head with a vase. A latent print recovered from the broken vase matched petitioner's left hand index finger.

Rios then began kicking Vaughn repeatedly, while intermittently throwing nearby objects at him until Vaughn stopped moving. At this point, Rios began ransacking the apartment, looking through drawers and closets. When he noticed that he was bleeding, Rios took a towel from the apartment and wrapped it around his hand. One of the two men poured liquid detergent around Vaughn's body before they left the apartment.

Once they left the apartment, Rios and petitioner parted ways. Rios went to an emergency room to have his wound treated, while petitioner returned to his friend Cotto's apartment. The body was later found by a third party.

The autopsy report revealed that Vaughn had been stabbed twenty-seven times, and had suffered severe head wounds. It also reported that Vaughn was an enormous man, weighing around 228 pounds and standing over six feet tall. Petitioner and Rios are substantially smaller men.

Procedural History

On June 8, 2001, petitioner and Rios were charged with murder in the first degree, three counts of murder in the second degree, and four counts of robbery in the first ...


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