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Ronell Agee v. J. Brandt

August 26, 2011


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


I. Introduction

Pro se Petitioner Ronell Agee ("Petitioner") has filed a timely petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the constitutionality of his custody pursuant to a judgment entered February 17, 2005, in New York State, Supreme Court, Monroe County (Hon. Joseph D. Valentino), convicting him, after a jury trial, of Assault in the First Degree (N.Y. Penal Law ("Penal Law") § 120.10 [3]). Petitioner was sentenced as a second felony offender to a determinate term of fifteen years imprisonment, with five years of post-release supervision.

For the reasons stated below, habeas relief is denied and the petition is dismissed.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

Under Indictment No. 2004-0372, Petitioner was charged with two counts of Assault in the First Degree in violation of Penal Law §§ 120.10 [1], [3]) (intentional assault and depraved indifference assault). The charges arose from a stabbing incident that occurred on April 15, 2004 in the City of Rochester, New York. See Resp't App. B at 6-7.

Prior to the date of the incident, Petitioner and his friends went to the home of Harriett Williams located at 382 Arnett Boulevard looking for her adult son, Lynn Henderson ("Henderson"). Petitioner and his friends threatened Henderson, and Harriett Williams called the police. Trial Trans. [T.T.] 477, 481-489.

On the date of the incident, Harriett Williams' nephew, Byron Williams, arrived at 382 Arnett Boulevard just after Harriett Williams had returned home from work. Byron Williams told his aunt that the people who had "jumped" Henderson were trying to get a group together to beat up Henderson. In an effort to settle the on-going dispute, Henrietta Williams told her nephew to stay in the house while she went for her husband, Lucius Williams, and his brother, Chris Williams, to speak to the men who were harassing her son and nephew. Henrietta Williams picked up her husband and Chris Williams (who were both at Chris Williams' house), and then picked up Henderson (who was at his girlfriend's house). The four individuals then returned to 382 Arnett Boulevard and walked down Arnett Boulevard toward a group of individuals who had congregated outside 366 Arnett Boulevard. T.T. 490-493, 646-650.

As the four individuals neared the larger group, Henderson exchanged words with one of the men in the group and picked up a bottle and threw it. The bottle broke Tony Porter's ("Porter") car window. Daniel Dixon ("Dixon"), who was one of the men who came to Henrietta Williams' home looking for Henderson, threw a bottle back and then ran away. T.T. 493-494, 496-501, 857. While Henrietta and Lucius Williams were speaking to Porter about having her car window fixed, Petitioner suddenly appeared and approached Henrietta and Lucius Williams. Petitioner then approached Henrietta Williams, stating, "what's up, nigger," and then swung around her and stabbed Lucius Williams. Lucius Williams testified that he turned around just in time to see his attacker, whom he did not know, but had seen around the neighborhood for years. Lucius Williams did not realize he had been stabbed until he began having trouble breathing and saw blood. Lucius Williams said nothing to Petitioner before or during the attack. Petitioner stabbed Lucius Williams several times with a knife that had a black handle and silver blade. T.T. 502-506, 653-656, 688, 693, 695.

Chris Williams and Henderson approached the group of men and began fighting with Petitioner. At some point during the altercation, Petitioner was also stabbed. Chris Williams helped Harriett Williams bring her husband back to 382 Arnett Boulevard, and Chris Williams then took Lucius Williams to the hospital. T.T. 503-507, 524.

Upon arrival at Strong Memorial Hospital, Lucius Williams had three stab wounds: one to his anterior abdominal wall, one to his left shoulder, and one to his left ventricle. T.T. 719. The Carhartt-brand jacket Lucius Williams was wearing that night also showed signs of three separate knife wounds --- two holes in the front and one in the back. T.T. 660. In the emergency room, Lucius Williams was intubated, given a blood transfusion, had a chest tube inserted, and had fluid removed from his pericardial sack with a needle. Lucius Williams was categorized as a level one trauma patient, indicating that his condition was life-threatening. Shortly after his arrival, Lucius Williams underwent surgery to repair a laceration to his left ventricle. Dr. Carolyn Jones performed the surgery, cutting the skin over Lucius Williams' breastbone, sawing his breastbone, opening his pericardium, and exploring his heart to determine the source of the blood. Dr. Jones discovered a laceration at the base of the heart, and closed it with two stitches and inserted a drain to avoid fluid build-up. Dr. Jones then closed the breastbone, wiring it shut. The surgery performed on Lucius Williams lasted approximately three hours, and he remained at Strong Memorial for the following four days. Dr. Jones testified that Lucius Williams' injuries were caused by a sharp object and that had he not sought medical attention after the stabbing, he would have died. T.T. 720-730.

Meanwhile, while Lucius Williams was being treated at the hospital, members of the Rochester Police Department had arrived at 366 Arnett Boulevard, secured the scene, and searched for evidence. A knife with a black handle and silver blade was recovered from the middle of Arnett Boulevard. A second knife handle was also recovered on Warwick Street nearby. Police also observed what appeared to be blood on the sidewalk outside of 366 Arnett Boulevard. Lucius Williams identified the knife recovered from Arnett Boulevard as the one Petitioner used to stab him. T.T. 539-543, 570, 611-613, 659.

At trial, Petitioner presented three witnesses: Trisha Dailey, Lamar Parnell, and Dixon. Although varying greatly in their recall of the events of April 15, 2004, all three witnesses testified that the group of people who approached them as they stood near 366 Arnett Boulevard consisted of approximately ten men and no women. The group was swearing and some were brandishing knives. They all recalled a bottle being thrown and a car window breaking. However, none of these witnesses recounted the stabbing of Lucius Williams. They each testified that after the bottles were thrown, Petitioner ran and was pursued by the large group of men with knives. According to these witnesses, at some before or during the chase, Petitioner fell and was stabbed multiple times. Dixon testified that Lucius Williams was one of the people who chased Petitioner and that he was involved in the stabbing of Petitioner. Dixon also testified that it was Chris Williams who was wearing the Carhartt-brand jacket and that Lucius Williams was dressed in black. T.T. 765-766, 784-788, 835-847, 874.

At the close of his trial, Petitioner was found guilty of depraved indifference assault (Penal Law § 120.10 [3]) and not guilty of intentional assault (Penal Law § 120.10 [1]). T.T. 1110. He was subsequently sentenced as a second felony offender to a determinate term of fifteen years ...

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