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Rashad Darden v. James T. Conway

August 24, 2011

RASHAD DARDEN, PETITIONER,
v.
JAMES T. CONWAY, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner Rashad Darden ("Darden" or "Petitioner") has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the constitutionality of his detention in Respondent's custody. Darden is currently incarcerated as the result of his conviction, following a jury trial in Monroe County Court, on a charge of intentional murder.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

Darden's conviction stems from an incident that occurred on January 13, 2005, on Salina Street in the City of Rochester. At about 5:15 p.m., as Asia McCray ("McCray") of 138 Salina Street was leaving to go to the store, she saw Petitioner pointing a shotgun at Keanon "Smurf" Smith ("Smith") in front of her house. She immediately went back inside and told her aunt, Charde Tillison ("Tillison"), what she had just seen. When she looked out the window a moment later, she saw Petitioner shoot Smith at close range. Smith fell to the ground but then got up and attempted to walk across the street.

As he did so, Petitioner, who had started to flee after he fired the first shot, returned to approach the victim and shot him twice more before running away again . McCray never saw anything in the victim's hands.

Tillison testified that after her niece told her someone had a gun, she called 911 and watched the incident from a "peephole." Tillison witnessed Petition shoot Smith three times. She, too, could see that the victim did not have anything in his hands during the encounter. Tillison testified that after the first shot was fired at Smith, he fell down, but jumped up again and started walking across the street. After the second shot, Smith fell down once again and Darden stood over him and shot him once more.

From the window of their house across the street at 149 Salina Street, Hellen Greene Jordan and her husband, Kevin Jordan, also witnessed the shooting. Although neither recognized the individuals involved, both saw the man with the shotgun shoot the victim once and then, as the victim was staggering and shooting, "call the police," shoot him twice more. Mr. Jordan said that the third shot was fired at point-blank range.

The Jordans then went outside and approached the victim. Neither saw a gun in the victim's hands but noticed as they went to him that he was clutching some jewelry. They stayed with Smith until emergency assistance arrived.

The first police officer on the scene saw no weapons in the area. Ambulance personnel then arrived and began working on the victim, who was not responsive. An EMT noticed plastic shotgun wadding protruding from the victim's neck. About twenty minutes later, after continuous attempts to resuscitate him, the victim was declared dead.

When Darden and a companion were stopped by a police officer who thought they were witnesses to the shooting, Petitioner stated that he had not heard any gunshots.

Later, the police brought Darden in for questioning. After waiving his Miranda rights, he initially denied knowing the victim or that he was on Salina Street at any time that day. Petitioner stated that he knew nothing about the shooting.

He eventually admitted shooting Smith with the shotgun, which had been recovered in a backyard nearby. According to Petitioner, he shot the victim after the victim, who had according Petitioner robbed him the previous day, pulled a pistol on him.

At trial, Petitioner admitted shooting Smith but asserted a claim of self-defense. Petitioner testified that Smith, whom he knew from seeing him frequently around the neighborhood, had robbed him at gunpoint the day before the shooting. Petitioner explained that he did not report the robbery to the police because he was scared and "didn't want to get involved."

The next day, Petitioner testified, he obtained a shotgun from a friend he knew only as "T" who lived "across town on the east side." Petitioner hid ...


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