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John Henry Monk v. Mark L. Bradt

April 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR E. Bianchini United States Magistrate Judge


I. Introduction

Petitioner pro se John Henry Monk ("Monk" or "Petitioner") seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On December 6, 2006, Monk was indicted for the June 2005 murder of Sandra Hainesworth ("Hainesworth" or "the victim") in her home. Monk became a suspect after detectives in the Buffalo Police Department's "cold case" squad matched DNA evidence found at the crime scene to a DNA sample that Monk had previously submitted to the state-wide DNA databank. Following a jury trial in New York State Supreme Court (Erie County), the jury convicted him of one count of first degree murder (New York Penal Law ("P.L.") § 125.27(1)(a)(vii)),*fn1 one count of first degree burglary (P.L. § 140.30(3)), and one count of third degree criminal possession of a weapon (P.L. § 265.02(1)). In his Section 2254 petition, Monk contends that his state-custody is unconstitutional as the result of certain constitutional errors at his trial.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

A. The Prosecution's Case

1. Kimberly King, the Victim's Neighbor

On the day of Hainesworth's death, Kimberly Lynette King ("King") noticed that her neighbor had not answered her door or telephone all day. T.382.*fn2 Finally, at around 9:00 P.M., King decided to go into Hainesworth's house to check on her. T.383.

As King approached the house, she noted a blue garbage tote or container outside by a first-floor window; there was broken glass in the area. T.383. King testified that the blue garbage tote was "never there by her window" before. Id. When King put her hand up to the window, she thought "something is not right." Id. King went and got her husband.

Upon entering the house, they could see that it had been ransacked: "The curtains were a mess[,]" torn from the wall; there were "papers everywhere"; the "kitchen table was . . . a mess"; drawers were open in the bedroom; and "things in the bathroom didn't look right." T.385. King, who had regularly been inside Hainesworth's house two to three times a week, stated that she had been invited inside the house on June 23rd, the day before the murder, and everything was "clean" and "in place." T.387. King testified that the kitchen window had not been broken; Hainesworth "would never stay there in the house if a window was broken" and "[a]nytime something got broken like that it would be fixed right then." T.387. King did not see any blood on the kitchen floor. T.387. King stated, "When you go to Miss Sandra's house everything is always in place."


King and her husband found Hainesworth's body in the bedroom. She was lying sideways across her bed, and her left hand was tied to the bedpost while her legs dangled a little off the bed. T.384. King said that she saw "a lot of blood." T.385. King immediately began trying to call the police.

2. The Crime Scene Investigation

Buffalo Police Department Detectives Michael Mordino ("Det. Mordino") and Michael Acquino ("Det. Acquino") went to 500 Goodyear Street at 10:10 P.M. in response to King's 911 call. T.390, 444. Det. Mordino observed the blue garbage tote near the broken window on the south side of the house. T.392. Several cigarette butts that appeared to have been recently discarded near the garbage tote, which had footprints on top of it. T.392-93. Det. Mordino deduced that the window above the garbage tote had been the point-of-entry into Hainesworth's house. T.392.

Inside the kitchen, Det. Mordino found some broken glass, as well as a brick that was similar appearance to a brick he had noticed in the backyard. T.395. He also found a telephone cord on the table; the cord had a small blood smear on it. T.395, 405. A small droplet of blood was present on the floor near the kitchen table. T.403. A wrapped envelope containing $875 was discovered in Hainesworth's freezer. T.407-08, 484.

In the bathroom, Det. Mordino found Hainesworth's underwear in the sink and a bottle of rubbing alcohol sitting on the floor. T.397. He also noticed that there were a couple of pink washcloths on the floor and there was something (either tissue or a rag) inside the toilet. T.397.

In the bedroom, Det. Mordino found the body of an elderly black female, tied with white pantyhose or nylons to the bedpost; both arms were tied at the wrists. T.398. The victim was wearing a nightgown but was nude from the waist down. She had one sneaker on her left foot.

T.417l. Bloody stab wounds were "all around" her neck area. The victim had an orange kerchief on her head; wrapped around her face, covering her mouth and eyes, was a pink towel. T.398. There was a purse, with its contents emptied out, on the bed. T.417.

Det. Acquino performed a canvass of the victim's neighborhood. A friend of the deceased named Ruffin told him about a nephew, David Johnson ("Johnson"), who had a crack cocaine addiction. T.447, 450. Johnson denied anything to do with the crime, stating that he was with a female companion. T.447. Johnson provided a DNA sample by means of a buccal (interior of the mouth) swab; the results eliminated him from being at the crime scene. T.447.

A few days later, the police received a lead about Jeffrey Dubose ("DuBose"), whom one of the victim's neighbors had seen near the house on the day of the murder. T.448. Dubose, however, had an alibi which checked out. T.449. In addition, Dubose gave a DNA sample, the results of which eliminated him from the murder scene. T.449.

Detective James Maroney ("Det. Maroney") assisted with evidence collection at the crime scene. T.470 et seq. In particular, Det. Maroney catalogued the "very slight impression of a shoe or a sneaker in dirt" on top of the blue garbage tote; the cigarette butts lying in the driveway; and a soda bottle by the side door to the house. T.473. There were no usable latent fingerprints or DNA on the garbage tote. T.475. The cigarette butts seemed fairly fresh, though they did not have any ashes attached, so they had been there for a little while. The DNA results from the cigarette butts indicated they were from an unidentified male and did not match Petitioner's DNA profile. T.525. The sneaker print was not able to be individualized; the report just came back as a saw-tooth shoe print pattern with no real class characteristics. T.477.

Det. Maroney, during his investigation, found some small, copper-colored filaments on the bedroom floor, the type of material sometimes used to stuff the inside of a crack pipe. T.485, 512. With regard to the usable latent prints found in the house, the police were unable to connect them with anyone who had been arrested before. T.500. The blood droplet on the floor in the kitchen was fairly intact; it had not flaked or cracked. T.507.

As set forth further below in the forensic serologist's testimony, the telephone cord with the dry red smear-type stain on it was submitted for testing, and the profile from the stain matched Petitioner's DNA profile. T.527.

3. Petitioner's Arrest

On April 17, 2006, Detective Charles Aronica ("Det. Aronica") of the Homicide Cold Case Bureau received a call from Det. Mordino indicating that they had a DNA match from the Hainesworth case. T.552. Later that day, Det. Aronica and his partner interviewed Petitioner at the police department. T.553. Petitioner waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with the detectives. T.555-56. He did not ask why they wanted to talk to him.

When asked where he had been in June 2005, Petitioner stated that he had been living at 17 West Utica, in a veteran's housing facility. T.559. Petitioner was familiar with Goodyear Street; his former fianceee, Kathy McIlwain, lived on Goodyear Street near East Ferry with her daughter. T.560. Petitioner stated that the last time he had been on Goodyear Street was between 2003 and 2004; the latest would have been 2004. T.560. Det. Aronica asked Petitioner this question different ways at least six times; each time, Petitioner stated that he had not been on Goodyear Street in 2005; that the latest time he would have been there was 2004; and he stated the was "positive" about that. T.560, 561. The last time he had been there, he had picked up Hainesworth and McIlwain to go buy cigarettes in 2004. T.562.

When asked if he knew Hainesworth, Petitioner said that he did and that he also knew her late husband, Leo. Petitioner said that he used to go over and visit with Leo; they would watch basketball games together. T.561. Petitioner said that he had been inside the house "maybe three times", and indicated that he had been in the bathroom, the kitchen, and the food pantry. T.563. Petitioner denied ever having been in a bedroom at Hainesworth's house. T.564.

When asked about the last time he saw Hainesworth, Petitioner began "volunteering information about his medical problems", saying that it had to be no later than 2004 because he was "quite sick" in 2005. T.562. He specifically denied being at the victim's house on June 23rd

or June 24th of 2005, explaining that he was not able to get around, that he had to use medical transportation, that his feet were swollen, and that he had a spinal infection. T.562, 563. Petitioner explained that he did not work and collected disability insurance--approximately $600 per month.

Det. Aronica asked Petitioner if he had ever been romantically involved with Hainesworth and he answered, "[N]o way." T.564. Petitioner told Det. Aronica that Hainesworth had three or four boyfriends. T.571.

Petitioner flatly denied killing Hainesworth. T.564. Det. Aronica's last question was: "[Y]ou tell me how your DNA got into Sandra Hainesworth's bedroom." T.565. Petitioner "got up from his chair, he says, I know where this is going, I need a lawyer. And he walked out of the room." T.565. Up until that question, Det. Aronica had not told Petitioner that his DNA had been found inside the house. T.565.

4. The Jailhouse Informant

John Avent ("Avent" or "the informant") gave a statement under oath to Det. Aronica on May 20, 2006, regarding a conversation he allegedly had with Petitioner at the holding center the month beforehand. Det. Aronica testified that the first time he saw Avent was on May 20th and that he did not tell Avent that the murder appeared to have been part of a burglary. T.568.

At trial, Avent testified that he was forty-years-old and was currently in the Erie County Holding Center on a parole violation and an arrest warrant for failing to appear at a hearing in Monk's case. T.582. Avent pled guilty in 1986 to second degree assault for throwing a baseball bat a woman's head after she had thrown a bat at him during an argument with some people over a baseball game they had all played in. T.584. Avent violated the terms of his probation and had to serve jail time for that. He was also convicted in 1986 for stealing a car; he was having a few drinks at the friend's house and took the keys and drove off with the car. T.585. In 1991, he was convicted of first degree robbery for robbing a convenience store after having been out drinking all night. T.586. Avent explained that he put his hand underneath his shirt, pretending it was a gun. T.586. He did not really have a gun on him at the time. Id. Avent was sentenced to 11 to 22 years for that offense.

After serving the minimum (11 years), he was paroled in 2001 and was currently on parole in regards to that conviction at the time of Monk's trial. T.587. During that time, his parole had been revoked four times for smoking marijuana T.588. Avent admitted that he had had a drug problem*fn3 throughout his life--marijuana, cocaine, acid, crack, mushrooms, heroin--"[j]ust about everything." T.589.

After testifying about his criminal history, Avent testified about his encounter with Monk in April 2006 at the Erie County Holding Center. T.593-95. They were both housed in "Delta Long" block although they had separate cells. T.595. Avent had been there for a while before Monk arrived. One day, during recreation period in the unit, Avent went up to Monk and asked him what he was doing there--"just normal conversation." T.596-97. Monk showed him a letter he had received; Avent assumed it was from a girlfriend because it said "I love you, things like that." T.597. The letter was "saying that she shouldn't be writing a letter, she should not let him know but that the detectives were questioning her about the homicide pertaining to John Monk."

T.597. Avent did not know who the letter was from. Id. As of that time--April 2006--Monk had not been charged or arrested in connection with the Hainesworth homicide. Id.

A couple of days later, Avent had another conversation with Monk in front of Monk's cell. Monk said that there were a few things that was [sic] bothering him that he needed to get off his chest, and he stated that it was a burglary eventually ended up going bad. He had broke into . . . the house to burglarize it, to look for a few things, and in the process of going through certain things a lady came out [of] a room and surprised him that he thought was sleeping, and he grabbed her by the neck, they were wrestling, he was choking her, and next thing you know he said that he started stabbing her.

T.598. Monk told Avent that he had been at the victim's house before the murder. Id. Monk did not say how he had gotten into the house; nor did he say why he thought Hainesworth had been sleeping. T.599. Monk did not say where he had gotten the knife or how many times or where he had stabbed her.

After Monk stabbed the victim, he "found a few things that he had to conceal so he could leave" and "took a few things that he had under his jacket" and "went down the street with those things" to a crack house where he bartered them for some crack. T.599-600.

A few days later, Avent saw a news report about Monk being arrested. T.600. Avent "was kind of shocked that what he told me was actually was true." Id.

Monk got transferred to the medical unit within the jail and Avent, as part of his job duties, had the occasion to go to Monk's dorm at the medical unit. Avent said, "John, what's up, you know, what's--on being on the news, you know." T.602. According to Avent, Monk replied, "I'm not worrying about it, says they don't have anything on me, I got this beat." T.602.

Avent testified that he had seen Monk wearing arm braces. However, Monk did not tell him anything about the braces or his ability to walk. T.602.

On May 15, 2006, three days after Monk's arrest, Avent wrote to the Erie County District Attorney's Office indicating that he had information about the Hainesworth case. T.603. Avent came to speak to the detectives on May 20th. In July 2006, Avent met with the prosecutor who promised to make a recommendation that he should receive only a year's incarceration for his parole violation if he cooperated in Monk's prosecution. T.607.

Avent testified at the grand jury but subsequently violated the terms of his parole again and also failed to appear at a preliminary hearing in Monk's case. T.608. As a result, the prosecutor had a warrant issued for his arrest. Id. The prosecutor promised that if Avent testified at trial, he would recommend to the parole board that Avent some type of alternative to incarceration in connection with the latest parole violation. T.609.

With regard to his statement, Avent testified that the police never told him any details about the Hainesworth murder or crime scene. T.609-10.

On cross-examination, defense counsel pointed out that Avent was handcuffed and chained around the waist. T.610. Avent claimed that he was testifying because he wanted the person who was guilty of the murder to be convicted. T.611. Avent admitted that in his letter to the District Attorney he said that they "needed [him] because ...

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