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Paul Watkins v. Robert Ercole

April 11, 2011

PAUL WATKINS, PETITIONER,
v.
ROBERT ERCOLE, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Paul A. Crotty, United States District Judge:

USDC SDNY DOCUMENT

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

DOC #:

ORDER ADOPTING R&R

Pro se petitioner Paul Watkins ("Watkins") seeks habeas relief following his February 15, 2002 conviction in New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County of two counts of Attempted Murder in the Second Degree and one count of Robbery in the First Degree. He requests relief based on any of the following claims: (1) ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel; (2) the trial court's failure to properly adjudicate his speedy trial motions; (3) the admission of a complainant's hearsay testimony in violation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment; (4) the trial court's failure to disqualify an interpreter for speaking a different dialect than the witness; (5) the line-up in which he was identified was unduly suggestive; (6) the trial court's failure to charge to jury on the suggestive and speculative nature of the identification; (7) the admission of an unduly prejudicial letter from Watkins to his co-defendant; (8) the prosecution's use of the allegedly perjured testimony of Watkins's co-defendant; (9) the imposition of consecutive sentences on offenses that arose out of a single transaction. (See Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus, July 8, 2006 ("Pet.") (Dkt. 2); Amended Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Feb. 23, 2007 ("Am. Pet.") (Dkt. 4).)

On March 16, 2007, this Court referred the general pretrial matters and dispositive motions in the case to Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. (Dkt. 7.) On September 9, 2008, Magistrate Judge Gorenstein issued a Report & Recommendation ("R&R"), recommending that the Court deny the Petition. (Dkt. 30.) After receiving several extensions, Watkins filed late objections to the R&R on November 14, 2008. (Dkt. 33.) The Court has reviewed the R&R and Watkins's objections. For the reasons that follow, the Court adopts Magistrate Judge Gorenstein's findings and recommendations in full and denies Watkins's petition.

BACKGROUND

I.Facts*fn1

A.Speedy Trial Motion

On November 20, 2000, Watkins was indicted by a grand jury on numerous charges, including attempted murder and robbery. (R&R at 1; Affidavit in Opposition to Petition for Habeas Corpus, filed May 22, 2007 ("Resp. Aff.") (Dkt. 9), at ¶ 15.) On June 27, 2001, Watkins moved to dismiss the charges against him on speedy trial grounds under N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law §§ 30.20 and 30.30 ("Speedy Trial Motion"), arguing that there were over 180 days countable against the state since the commencement of the action against him. (R&R at 2; Notice of Motion, June 27, 2001 (Resp. Aff. Ex. 4).) Justice Patricia A. Williams of the New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County denied the motion on September 4, 2001, finding that there were only 111 days chargeable to the state. (Decision and Order, Sept. 4, 2001 (Resp. Aff. Ex. 6) ("30.30 Dec.").)

Before trial, Watkins's trial counsel, Robert Bornstein, moved for reconsideration of the decision on the Speedy Trial Motion. (Notice of Motion, Dec. 3, 2001 (Resp. Aff. Ex. 10).) Bornstein argued that a cooperation agreement between the Bronx County District Attorney's Office and Watkins's co-defendant Jonathan Keitt was probative of the fact that the prosecution was not ready for trial by the time determined in Justice Williams's decision, "since the prosecution was unwilling to proceed to trial against the defendant without first securing the co-defendant as a witness against the defendant." (Id. at 7.) Justice Williams orally denied the motion on December 6, 2007 because a "defendant, any defendant, has a right to make whatever agreements he wishes with the prosecution . . . at whatever time they see fit.". (Transcript, Dec. 6, 2007, at 8-14 (Dkt. 13).) Justice Williams found that, after reading the Grand Jury minutes, "the People had a case. The evidence was sufficient. . . . The People don't become unready simply because they acquire better or more information or evidence nor are they compelled to be unready because their case gets better. That's essentially the entirety of this motion . . . ." (Id. at 10.)

B. Trial

Watkins was tried in January and February of 2002. (R&R at 3.) On February 15, 2002, the jury found Watkins guilty of two counts of Attempted Murder in the Second Degree and one count of Robbery in the First Degree. (Id. at 3-4.) On May 22, 2002, Watkins was sentenced to two consecutive prison terms of 20 years on the attempted murder counts, and a concurrent prison term of 10 years on the robbery count. (Id. at 4.)

Bornstein made a post-trial motion requesting relief on several grounds.*fn2 (R&R at 4; Resp. Aff. Ex. 11.) The motion was denied in all ...


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