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Hancy Maxis v. William E. Philips and the Attorney

April 13, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge:



Hancy Maxis petitions for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Maxis seeks relief from his May 2002 conviction in New York State Supreme Court, Kings County of second-degree murder. He challenges his conviction primarily on the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel, but also alleges that the trial court committed constitutional error in denying his counsel's request for a continuance at sentencing. Oral argument was heard on September 28, 2010, and an evidentiary hearing, followed by additional oral argument, was conducted on November 15, 2010. For the reasons set forth below, Maxis's petition is denied.


A. The Offense Conduct

The evidence at trial established that on July 25, 2001, Maxis and John Cooper got into an altercation in front of Cooper's apartment building in Brooklyn. Yolanda Stokes,*fn1

Maxis's girlfriend, attempted to help Maxis in the fight by hitting Cooper over the head with a beer bottle, but Cooper did not relent. After a few minutes of fighting in which Cooper quickly gained the upper hand over Maxis, Maxis retreated to his vehicle, retrieved a gun from underneath the driver's seat, walked back towards Cooper, and shot him four times at close range, killing him. Maxis and Stokes then fled the scene in Maxis's vehicle.

B. Procedural History

1. The Trial Court Proceedings

In connection with his conduct on July 25, 2001, Maxis was charged with two counts of second-degree murder under N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25(1) and (2), and other related offenses.

a. The Dunaway/Huntley/Wade Hearing

On April 18 and 22, 2002, Justice Carolyn Demarest of the New York State Supreme Court, Kings County held a combined Dunaway/Huntley/Wade hearing*fn2 on Maxis's pretrial omnibus motion. By that motion, Maxis sought to suppress statements obtained at the time of his warrantless arrest and evidence concerning the pre-trial identifications of him.*fn3

Detective William Ryan testified regarding his investigation of the shooting on the evening of July 25, 2001. Ryan ascertained Maxis's license plate number from a witness at the scene, prepared a photo array from which a witness identified Maxis, and obtained Maxis's address through further investigation of his license plate number. Ryan then visited that address, 109 East 95th Street, Brooklyn, with several other detectives the following day, and searched Maxis's vehicle, which was parked at the end of a common driveway at 109 East 95th street and was partially visible from the street. He also arrested Maxis and Stokes after calling the Emergency Services Unit to break down the door to Maxis's apartment, and brought Maxis to the precinct that afternoon. Later that evening, Ryan placed Maxis in a line-up, where he was identified by two witnesses separately. Ryan thereafter read Maxis his Miranda rights, after which Maxis gave a statement placing himself at the crime scene.

After hearing Ryan's testimony, the trial court found that a Payton violation had occurred when Maxis was arrested in his home without a warrant. See Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 576 (1980) (holding that Fourth Amendment prohibits police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home to make a routine felony arrest). The hearing then continued with the testimony of Shante Wills, Cooper's former girlfriend who had been physically abused by Cooper in the past. Wills testified that she witnessed the physical altercation between Maxis, to whom she referred as "Yolanda's boyfriend," which began when Stokes told Maxis that Cooper had been in her face. Wills testified that after Cooper gained the upper hand in the fight, Maxis staggered to his car, retrieved a pistol from under the driver's seat, walked back to Cooper, and shot him twice. Wills also testified that Maxis then got into his car with Stokes and fled the scene.

Kevin Doggett, Wills's then-boyfriend and another resident of Cooper's apartment building, testified that he arrived home the night of the offense to find Cooper and Wills in a fight in their hallway. Doggett testified that as he tried to call the police, Cooper knocked his cell phone out of his hand, and Doggett then went up to his apartment. Soon after, Doggett testified that Cooper called up to him to come outside and fight, and that when Doggett went downstairs to do so, he came upon Cooper fighting with Stokes on the front steps of the apartment building. After Doggett told Cooper, "You are not going to hit that young lady, Mr. Cooper," Doggett testified that he saw a man who looked like Maxis walk up from down the street, and that Stokes told that man that Cooper had been in her face. Doggett testified that the man then slapped Cooper in the face, after which a fight ensued. Doggett also testified that during the fight, Stokes hit Cooper in the back of the head with a beer bottle, and that Doggett attempted to break up the fight to no avail. Doggett then testified that the man who resembled Maxis staggered to his car, retrieved a pistol from under the driver's seat, walked back to Cooper, and shot him four times.

After these witnesses testified, the trial court held that in spite of her finding that a Payton violation had occurred, sufficient attenuation existed to justify admitting the subsequent lineup identifications of Maxis and his statement to law enforcement.

b. The Trial and Sentencing

Maxis proceeded to a jury trial before Justice Demarest in April of 2001. The People called Detective Ryan, Wills and Doggett, who gave substantially the same testimony they had given at the Dunaway/Huntley/Wade hearing. The People also called Police Officer Daniel Mulvanerty, who testified regarding the ballistic evidence recovered from the scene, i.e., discharged gun shells containing no fingerprints; Jerome McMillan, who testified that he looked out of his apartment window on the night of the shooting and saw Cooper fighting with another man, and corroborated Wills's and Doggett's account of the fight and the shooting (without identifying Maxis as the shooter); Detective Anthony Stevenson, who testified that he tracked down the owner of a car parked on the street near Cooper's apartment building at the time of the shooting and passed that information on to Detective Ryan; Santos Valladares, who provided Stevenson with the license plate number of the vehicle parked near Cooper's apartment on the night of the shooting; Detective Nicholas Simms, who testified that he possessed a search warrant to search Maxis's apartment that had been drawn up by Detective Ryan, that he and other police officers executed the search warrant late in the evening of July 26, 2001, and that he seized and vouchered Maxis's blood-spattered sneakers during that search; Lisa Palumbo, a criminalist who testified that blood samples extracted from Maxis's sneakers belonged to Cooper; and Dr. Frede Frederic, who performed Cooper's autopsy and testified regarding the injuries he observed on Cooper.

The defense called Police Officer Norman F. Maes, who testified regarding his observations of Cooper's body at the crime scene on the night of the shooting and the fact that he did not see anyone attempting to approach Cooper's body.

At the conclusion of the trial, only the intentional second-degree murder charge, id. § 125.21(1), was submitted to the jury, and on May 1, 2002, the jury convicted Maxis of that offense. On May 21, just prior to the scheduled sentencing, defense counsel requested an adjournment so that he could investigate information he had just received from another attorney*fn4 regarding an alleged recantation by one of the People's witnesses. The trial court denied counsel's request on the ground that he ...

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