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Aaron Tompkins v. Patrick Griffin

March 11, 2012


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


I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner Aaron Tompkins ("Tompkins" or "Petitioner") seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on the basis that he is being detained in Respondent's custody in violation of his federal constitutional rights. Tompkins is incarcerated as the result of a judgment of conviction entered against him on September 19, 2003, following a jury trial in Monroe County Court of New York State (Connell, J.), on charges of second degree murder, burglary, and criminal possession of a weapon.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

The convictions here at issue stem from two separate incidents that occurred in the City of Rochester on August 27, 2002, and September 1, 2002. The August 27th incident resulted in charges of second degree (intentional) murder, third degree criminal possession of a weapon, and second degree criminal possession of a weapon. As a result of the second incident, Tompkins was charged with first degree burglary (three counts), second degree criminal possession of a weapon, and third degree criminal possession of a weapon. New York law permitted joinder of the offenses for trial. A summary of the pertinent testimony follows.

A. The Trial

1. The Portland Avenue Incident

On August 26, 2002, Sammie Cappadonia ("Cappadonia"), a clerical supervisor in the radiology department at Rochester General Hospital ("RGH"), finished his shift at midnight and went to wait for the bus on Portland Avenue in front of the hospital.

T.205.*fn1 Richard Cooper ("Cooper") and his girlfriend,*fn2 whom Cappadonia had seen in the emergency room that night, walked up to the bus top. T.206. Wanting to be alone, Cappadonia walked about fifteen to twenty feet from the bus stop and stood there listening to music on his headphones and watching for the bus. T.207-08. From time to time, he looked back in the direction of the bus stop. At one point, he saw a "pretty fit figure" whom he "assume[d]" was black, walking towards the bus stop. T.208. Cappadonia did not think anything of it until he heard a "popping noise" which he at first thought was firecrackers. T.208. When he turned around, he saw the man firing a gun at Cooper, who was lying on his back in the middle of the street with his hands up in the air. T.210. Eventually, Cappadonia said, the assailant was standing "almost on top of [Cooper]" and firing directly at Cooper's torso and head area. T.211. Cappadonia did not see what happened to Cooper's female companion. As he was running away, Cappadonia heard the woman and Cooper screaming. T.211.

The prosecution introduced Tompkins' statement to the police*fn3 in which he admitted shooting Cooper. Tompkins explained that on the day of the shooting, a person whom he knew as "PT"*fn4 showed up at a house on Bartlett Street and asked Tompkins to "hold him down"

(i.e., back him up). PT explained that his "cousin . . . got his ass kicked by his girlfriend's boyfriend [Cooper]" and the cousin wanted to shoot Cooper. T.179. Tompkins, who did not know Cooper or PT's cousin, agreed and got into the car. Id. Both PT and Tompkins had guns. T.180. There were several other individuals in the car, whom Tompkins refused to identify.

Tompkins and his cohorts decided to try the hospital first, because PT's cousin said that he had bitten Cooper during the fight. T.180. When they arrived at RGH, they saw Cooper, who had a brace on his leg, standing outside of the emergency department. At some point, Tompkins and his group concluded that Cooper had already left, and so they departed as well.

When they returned, they learned that Cooper had been discharged. Assuming that he was going to need to take the bus home, they decided to stake out the bus stop. T.181. Soon enough they saw Cooper and his girlfriend walk up to the bus stop. Tompkins assumed that PT was going to do the shooting, but PT told him to do it because he (PT) had to drive. T.181.

Tompkins did not protest but instead got out of the car, with orders to "make sure [you] leave him", meaning to gun Cooper down.

T.181. Putting a bandanna over his face, Tompkins walked up to the bus shelter and started shooting at Cooper, who started to run. Tompkins continued shooting, and Cooper fell to the ground, screaming. T.181. Tompkins turned back around and fired about four more rounds into Cooper as he was lying on the ground. T.182.

Tompkins ran back to the car and got in; PT and his cousin were acting "real excited" like they had "won the Super Bowl."

T.182. Tompkins told the police that he "never meant for the guy to die" but "just wanted to shoot him a few times to teach him a lesson." Id.

2. The Sanders Street Incident

Jamnita Wilson ("Wilson") was at 61 Sanders Street playing cards when Tompkins and two other men broke into the house at about 12:30 a.m. on September 1, 2002. T.226. According to Wilson, Tompkins was the first one through the door. He was carrying handgun and did not have anything covering his face. T.228-29. Tompkins ordered everyone to "get on the floor" and started walking towards the kitchen, after which, Wilson heard gunshots. T.229. Wilson hid underneath a table and did not move from that spot.


Kenneth Lindsay ("Lindsay"), who lived at 61 Sanders Street

with his mother, was in the kitchen cooking some chicken when he heard a male voice say, "All you get down, get down." A young woman ran through the kitchen saying, "This is a robbery," and then ran out the back door. According to Lindsay, Tompkins entered the kitchen brandishing a handgun and said, "Drop your pants, get on the floor, and put your hands behind your head." Lindsay told Tompkins that he had "babies" (his niece and nephew) asleep in the bedroom, and told him to take whatever money he wanted. Tompkins replied, "Fuck the babies," and hit Lindsay with the gun. The two men wrestled for control of the gun and during the struggle, the gun discharged a few times.

Tompkins yelled to his accomplices that Lindsay was trying to take the gun away from him. One of them came to the doorway and fired a shot at Lindsay, who sustained a gunshot wound to his leg.

T.231. Tompkins and his cohorts then fled the scene. Lindsay threw the gun at Tompkins' retreating form.

Shortly after the intruders had left, Tompkins attempted to get back inside the house--presumably to retrieve his gun--but the occupants refused to let him in. T.232. Ballistics testing linked the 9-mm Ruger gun left by Tompkins at 61 Sanders Street to bullet casings and a bullet fragment ...

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