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Carlos Rodriguez v. Joseph Smith

May 11, 2011

CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, PETITIONER,
v.
JOSEPH SMITH, SUPERINTENDENT,
RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard J. Holwell, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM

OPINION AND ORDER

Petitioner Carlos Rodriguez petitions for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner was convicted of second-degree depraved indifference murder. The Appellate Division, Second Department modified the conviction and reduced it to second-degree manslaughter. Petitioner seeks relief from the modified conviction on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. Magistrate Judge Paul E. Davison issued a Report and Recommendation on April 14, 2011 advising that the petition should be denied. Having reviewed the report, the record, and petitioner's objections, the Court concludes that the petition should be denied and Magistrate Judge Davison's report should be adopted in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Petitioner's conviction arose out of a incident which occurred while he was incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. According to Petitioner's post-arrest statement, made after receiving warnings pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), an inmate who had previously made verbal sexual advances to Petitioner made physical sexual contact with Petitioner on November 4, 1997. Fearing that he would be the victim of a forcible sexual encounter, Petitioner chased the inmate with a sharpened metal shank and stabbed him the chest, back, and arm. The inmate later died from his injuries. In his post-arrest statement, Petitioner stated that he "didn't mean to kill" the fellow inmate.

Petitioner was indicted for first degree murder, second degree murder, and first degree manslaughter. A jury acquitted Petitioner of first degree murder but convicted him of second degree murder. On March 23, 1999, Petitioner was sentenced to twenty-five years to life imprisonment.

The Appellate Division, Second Department, modified the conviction. See People v. Rodriguez, 826 N.Y.S.2d 271 (2d Dep't 2006). The Appellate Division held that, based on the evidence adduced at trial, "there was a valid line of reasoning and permissible inference that could have led a rational person to conclude, as the jury here unanimously did, that the killing was reckless rather than intentional." Id. at 273. However, New York law requires the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that "[u]nder circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life," the defendant "recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person, and thereby causes the death of another person. . . ." N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25(2). Accordingly, the Appellate Division noted that, under New York law, "reckless homicide cannot be elevated into depraved indifference murder merely because the actions of the defendant created a risk of death, however grave or substantial that risk may have been." 826 N.Y.S.2d at 273. And on the facts of Petitioner's case, the Appellate Division held that "although the evidence here was legally sufficient to establish that the defendant caused the death of the deceased recklessly, it was not legally sufficient to prove that he did so under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life." Id. Accordingly, the Appellate Division reduced the conviction from second degree murder to second degree manslaughter.

Petitioner was re-sentenced to seven and a half to fifteen years imprisonment. Petitioner sought leave to appeal the Appellate Division's decision, but the Court of Appeals denied the application without opinion. See People v. Rodriguez, 872 N.E.2d 889 (N.Y. 2007).

On September 17, 2007, Petitioner filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus on the ground that the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient for any jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Petitioner was guilty of second degree manslaughter. On April 13, 2011, Judge Paul E. Davison issued a Report and Recommendation [15] ("the Report"), advising that the petition should be denied. Rodriguez submitted objections to the Report on April 26, 2011.

LEGAL STANDARD

A district court judge may designate a magistrate to hear and determine certain motions and to submit to the court proposed findings of fact and a recommendation as to the disposition of the motion. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Within ten days of service of the recommendation, any party may file written objections to the magistrate's report. Id. Upon review of those portions of the record to which objections were made, the district court judge may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

Where timely objections are made, the court is required to "make a de novo determination of those portions of a report . . . to which objection is made." Id.; see also United States v. Male Juvenile, 121 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 1997). But "when a party makes only conclusory or general objections, or simply reiterates his original arguments, the Court reviews the Report and Recommendation only for clear error." Walker v. Vaughan, 216 F. Supp. 2d 290, 292 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).

DISCUSSION

Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death ...


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