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Craig Lynch v. Harold Graham

October 28, 2011

CRAIG LYNCH, PETITIONER,
v.
HAROLD GRAHAM, RESPONDENT.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner Craig Lynch ("Lynch" or "Petitioner") has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the constitutionality of his conviction, following a jury trial, on charges of second degree (felony) murder, first degree manslaughter, and second degree burglary. He was sentenced as a second felony offender to an aggregate term of 25 years to life in prison, and he is presently serving that sentence.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

Lynch's conviction arises from the murder of Sister Klimczak in Buffalo, New York, in April 2006. Lynch, who was on parole at the time, had been staying at Bisonette House, a halfway house for parolees. Beth Ann Hart-Bader ("Hart-Bader"), Lynch's parole officer, first learned of Sister Klimczak's disappearance on the morning of Monday, April 17, 2006. Hart-Bader went to Bisonette House to check on Lynch, where she learned that all of the parolees were at the parole office.

Later that morning, Hart-Bader spoke to Lynch about his whereabouts on April 14th and 15th. Lynch replied that on April 14th he had gone to visit his mother, who had given him money to get her car (a white van) repaired. Instead, Petitioner used the money to buy crack. He explained that he drove around and smoked crack and marijuana. When his parole officer inquired about April 15th, Lynch became extremely agitated and refused to say anything else because "she was just going to lock him up anyway." The parole officer ceased questioning Lynch, told him to provide a urine sample, and then placed him in a holding area in the parole office. Petitioner's urine test came back positive for illegal drugs.

In the meantime, the homicide investigation had uncovered some evidence possibly linking Petitioner to Sister Klimczak. Significantly, the police had been able to trace phone calls from Sister Klimczak's cell phone, which had been sold on the street by a man driving a white van--and Lynch had told his parole officer that he had been using a white van over the weekend.

A warrant eventually was issued for Lynch's arrest, and he was brought to the police department where he gave a statement incriminating himself in Sister Klimczak's death. When Petitioner broke into Sister Klimczak's room, the victim saw him and in an attempt to make her "go unconscious", he put his hands over her mouth and nose. Instead of "going unconscious", she died.

Petitioner then sought to dispose of the body. After removing the victim's outer clothing (leaving her in her bra and panties, Lynch brought the corpse to his grandmother's abandoned house, where he dug a deep, narrow hole in the garage and placed the corpse in it feet-first. After giving his statement, Lynch led the police to the place where he had buried the victim's body.

Lynch was charged with two counts of murder in the first degree (N.Y. PENAL LAW ("P.L.") § 125.27(1),(a),(vii)), three counts of murder in the second degree (P.L. § 125.25(1), (2), (3)), burglary in the second degree (P.L. § 140.25(2)) and robbery in the third degree (P.L. § 160.05). Following a jury trial, he was convicted of second degree (felony) murder and second degree burglary, as charged in the indictment, as well as the lesser included offense of first degree manslaughter in the first degree. He was acquitted of the remaining charges.

Lynch was sentenced as a second felony offender to an indeterminate term of twenty-five years to life on the murder conviction, a determinate term of twenty-five years and five years post-release supervision on the manslaughter conviction and a determinate term of fifteen years and five years post-release supervision on the burglary conviction. The sentences were ordered to be served concurrently, but consecutive to any sentence imposed for his violation of parole due to his drug use.

Petitioner's conviction unanimously was affirmed by Appellate Division, Fourth Department ("the Fourth Department"), of New York State Supreme Court, and leave to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals was denied. This timely habeas petition followed.

For the reasons that follow, the petition is dismissed.

III. Analysis of the Petition

A. Illegal Detention and Questioning by the Division of Parole

Petitioner contends as he did on direct appeal that he was illegally detained and questioned by the Division of Parole without probable cause and at the behest of the Buffalo Police Department. Accordingly, Petitioner argues, the trial court erred in refusing to suppress both his statements to the police and physical evidence recovered by the police after those statements were made. The Fourth Department held that based on the record of the suppression hearing, it could not find that the trial court erred in concluding as a matter of law that the questioning and detention of Lynch by parole officers was in furtherance of parole purposes and ...


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