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Cornelius Green v. James Conway

December 13, 2010


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


I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner Cornelius Green ("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 Murder in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal L. ("P.L.") § 125.25(3)), Attempted Murder in the Second Degree (P.L. §§ 110.00, 125.25(1)), Attempted Robbery in the First Degree (P.L. §§ 110.00, 160.15(1)), and two counts of Burglary in the First Degree (P.L. § 140.30(1),(2)), entered on August 30, 2000, following a jury trial before Judge Patricia D. Marks. Petitioner was sentenced as a second felony offender to an aggregate term of imprisonment of fifty years to life.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

On November 7, 1995, Shalanda Lockett was watching television at her mother's house at 431 Hawley Street in Rochester, New York. when her uncle, Eric Lockett ("Lockett"), ran in "screaming that he was shot." T. 170-72.*fn1 He appeared to be in shock, but was conscious and still able to speak. T. 172-74. Shalanda observed that her uncle was "running back and forth through the house" and his face was "full of blood . . . he had no face. He just had two pieces of skin hanging from his chin."

T. 172-73. When Shalanda asked him what had happened, Lockett answered that "Cornelius shot him." T. 179. Shalanda knew who Cornelius was; he lived about five houses away at 448 Hawley Street. T. 180, 203.

Rochester Police Officer Laurie Robinson ("Robinson") arrived at 431 Hawley Street responding to a call reporting a person shot. There, she was led to a bedroom where she found Eric Lockett. "There was extensive damage to his whole mouth . . . I couldn't see any lips, any teeth. [He] was profusely bleeding."

T. 195-97, 202. When the officer asked him what happened, he told her that he had been shot at a brown house and gestured east, consistent with the location of 397 Hawley Street. T. 198-99. Robinson asked Lockett who had shot him, and Lockett said "Cornelius." T. 201. She asked what Cornelius' last name was, and Lockett "indicated with a direction across the street." When Robinson asked if that's where Cornelius lived, Lockett nodded his head. T. 202.

Eric Lockett was treated for his injuries at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. The surgeon attending to him found "jagged lacerations to the lower portion of his face involving the lips and upper lip," with "swelling of his tongue and the soft tissue and the mandible, the jaw was unstable, there was a fracture."

T. 247. A CAT scan revealed that fragments of metal were in the soft tissues around Lockett's face. T. 248.

Shortly after the police call went out for 431 Hawley Street, Rochester Police responded to a call for a person shot at 397 Hawley. T. 196. There, the responding officer found a woman, subsequently identified as Elizabeth Conner ("Conner"), lying motionless and bloody on the kitchen floor. T. 162-63, 168. The apartment was in disarray, with broken pieces of furniture and blood spatters. T. 168. A police investigator discovered a bullet fragment that had gone through the refrigerator door, and various items of drug paraphernalia were also found in the residence. T. 215, 217-18.

Conner was pronounced dead on November 20, 1995, with the cause of death determined as a shotgun wound to the head. T. 299, 306. An autopsy revealed an injury to the head and "tiny pellets consistent with shotgun pellets in the scalp." T. 299. Conner also had an injury to her right hand that was consistent with a "defensive-type wound." T. 302.

Petitioner was arrested nearly five years later in January, 2000, following an investigation by the Rochester Police Department. He was apprehended at a rural address in Greenville, Florida, and was taken to the Madison County Sheriff's Department for questioning. T. 224-25, 310-11. There, Rochester Police Investigator Anthony Capione ("Inv. Campione") read petitioner his Miranda warnings, and petitioner agreed to waive his rights and speak with the investigators. T. 226-31, 311-12. Initially, petitioner denied his involvement and denied being in Rochester at the time of Conner's murder. T. 232, 312. As the investigators confronted him with evidence to the contrary, petitioner agreed to tell them what had happened, but refused to put anything in writing. According to Inv. Campione, petitioner told him that "he [petitioner] knows that if he told me anything it would only be hearsay and that I couldn't use it against him in court." T. 273.

Petitioner then proceeded to confess that he, Eric Lockett, and another man known as "B" planned to rob a crack house at 397 Hawley Street. T. 234, 313. They arranged to send Lockett into the house because he "knew the people there that were using drugs." If there were no drugs or money inside, Lockett would come out after a short time. If he stayed inside, however, that would indicate that there were money or drugs, and petitioner and B would go in to rob the house. T. 235, 313. Lockett entered the house and did not come out right away, so petitioner and B, both armed, went to the door and knocked. Petitioner had his shotgun pointed at the door. T. 235-36, 313-14. A woman answered the door, saw the two men, and started screaming. According to petitioner, she grabbed the barrel of the shotgun, which "just went off," and that he did not even pull the trigger. T. 236, 267, 314. She was struck in the head, and, when she fell to the floor, petitioner "knew she was dead at that time." Id. Petitioner and B then continued into the house, where petitioner re-loaded the shotgun and shot Lockett once in the face, because "Eric Lockett was the only person that could identify him."

T. 236-37, 314. Panicking, petitioner ran outside and jumped a fence, later meeting back up with B. According to petitioner, B disposed of the weapons--petitioner's shotgun and B's handgun.

T. 237-38, 314-15. As petitioner walked back towards his mother's house on Hawley Street, he saw police officers near the home and decided not to return. Shortly thereafter, petitioner left for Greenville, Florida, where he had relatives. T. 238.

No one who was inside the Hawley Street drug house testified at petitioner's trial*fn2 , and the defense called no witnesses. The jury ultimately found petitioner guilty of second-degree murder (felony murder), second-degree attempted murder, first-degree attempted robbery, and two counts of first-degree burglary. T. 394-95. Petitioner was then sentenced ...

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