The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Pro se petitioner Timothy Thomas ("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 Rape in the First Degree (Penal Law § 30.35 ) and Rape in the Third Degree (Penal Law § 130.23 ) following a jury trial before Judge Richard A. Keenan. On December 10, 2003, petitioner was sentenced to 20 years in New York State Department of Corrections with respect to his conviction of first-degree rape, and to a concurrent 1 and 1/3 to 4 years term on his conviction of third-degree rape.
II. Factual Background and Procedural History
Petitioner's conviction arises from an April 18, 2002 encounter between petitioner and sixteen year-old Sabrina Tyler ("the victim"). Petitioner approached the victim as she sat on the porch of her parents home in Rochester, New York, and made a sexual proposition. When the victim refused, petitioner took the victim around the side of the house, restrained her with his hands, and had intercourse with her. The victim had known petitioner, who was twenty-nine, from seeing him around the neighborhood. Trial Mins. ("T.M.") 251-285.
Following the victim's testimony at petitioner's trial, the prosecution established through forensic biologist, Marcia Bledsoe, the presence of seminal fluids on the victim's stretch pants. T.M. 333, 348-349. The prosecution also called forensic biologist Ellyn Colquhoun, who testified that she performed DNA extraction analysis on the stains found on the stretch pants, concluding that the DNA matched petitioner's. T.M. 377.
The prosecution also offered into evidence the records from the victim's visit to Strong Hospital Emergency room six days after the incident. Defense counsel objected to the admission of the medical records solely on the grounds that he did not understand them, was unfamiliar with the medical terminology, and did not know "what's in there". T.M. 320-326. Counsel conceded, however, that the records were properly certified as a business and hospital records. Accordingly, the trial court overruled counsel's objection and allowed the records into evidence. T.M. 327. At the close of the prosecution's case-in-chief, defense counsel moved for a trial order of dismissal on the grounds that the prosecution had not met their burden of proof in the presentation of the case. The trial court denied the defense's request. T.M. 394.
Petitioner testified in his own behalf at trial, claiming that he had hugged and kissed the victim consensually. After the victim touched petitioner, he began touching himself which then resulted in ejaculation. He explained that this was how the semen was found on the victim's pants, and maintained that he did not have intercourse with the victim. T.M. 404-408.
The jury ultimately found petitioner guilty on both counts of the indictment. T.M. 545. Petitioner was then sentenced to 20 years on the first-degree rape count and 1 and 1/3 to 4 years on the third-degree rape count. Sentencing Mins. ("S.M.") 13-14.
Petitioner filed a direct appeal to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, which unanimously affirmed Petitioner's judgment of conviction on July 3, 2008. People v. Thomas, 53 A.D.3d 1099 (4th Dept. 2008), lv. denied, 11 N.Y.3d 795 (2008); see also Resp't Appx. A-H.
This habeas corpus petition followed (Dkt. #1), wherein petitioner seeks relief on the following grounds: (1) ineffective assistance of trial counsel; (2) prosecutorial misconduct; (3) the trial court improperly admitted the victim's medical records; and (4) the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. Petition ("Pet.") ¶ 12, Grounds One-Three.*fn1
A. General Principles Applicable to ...