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Lawrence Guinyard v. Robert Kirkpatrick

June 26, 2012


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


I. Introduction

Pro se*fn1 Petitioner Lawrence Guinyard ("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 August 6, 2008, in New York State, Supreme Court, Erie County, convicting him, upon a jury verdict, of Murder in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal Law ("Penal Law") § 125.25[1]) and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree (Penal Law § 265.02[1]).

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

Under Erie County Indictment No. 01004-2007, Petitioner was charged with one count of Murder in the Second Degree (Penal Law § 125.25[1]) and one count of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree (Penal Law § 265.02[1]). See Ind. No. 01004-2007, dated 05/11/07 at Resp't Ex. B.

Tieshawn Pettigrew ("Pettigrew") testified that in April of 2007 she lived in apartment 1 of a four-unit apartment building at 148 Blaine in the City of Buffalo, New York with her fiancee, Demetrius Stewart ("Stewart"), and her three children. Trial Trans. [T.T.] 492-494. McAllister lived across the hall from Pettigrew in apartment 2. T.T. 496. On the morning of April 18, 2007, Pettigrew received a call from an upstairs neighbor informing Pettigrew that there was a diabetic kit and mail at the back door of Pettigrew's apartment. T.T. 497. Prompted by that phone call, Pettigrew observed the items outside her door and noticed that the mail was addressed to McAllister. T.T. 499-500. Pettigrew and Stewart then called the police who responded shortly thereafter, entered McAllister's apartment, and told Pettigrew "that the lady was in there dead." T.T. 500. The Buffalo Police Homicide Unit took Pettigrew and Stewart to police headquarters for questioning. T.T. 500. After police ended questioning Pettigrew, she left the police station. T.T. 501. At the request of police, Stewart gave a bucal swab for a DNA sample. T.T. 507.

Lance Huddleston ("Huddleston") testified that at the time of the murder he lived in upstairs apartment 4 at 148 Blaine.

T.T 517-518. When questioned by police, Huddleston told them that he had been with a friend the night before at Voelker's Bowling Alley and the New Humboldt Inn. T.T. 520-521. Huddleston testified that he came home around 4:30 a.m., saw the diabetes kit in the hallway, and "moved it to the side because [he] had noticed that it had syringes in it. . . ." T.T. 522. He then went up to his apartment and went to sleep. T.T. 522. At approximately 7:00 a.m., Huddleston's female friend called him to come open the door to the apartment building, which he did. T.T. 525. As he was walking to the door of the apartment building, he noticed that the front door to McAllister's apartment was slightly ajar. T.T. 526. Huddleston accompanied his female friend from the door and the two then went upstairs. T.T. 526. After McAllister's body was discovered, Huddleston and his female friend were questioned by police. T.T. 520. At the request of the police, Huddleston gave a bucal swab for a DNA sample. T.T. 531.

Buffalo Police Department ("BPD") Detective James Maroney was the crime scene investigator for the murder. T.T. 553. Detective Maroney testified that McAllister's body was found lying face down in the doorway of her bedroom. T.T. 557. Yellow residue from the discharge of a fire extinguisher was found throughout the apartment. T.T. 556-557. Detective Maroney recovered a black polymer knife and dentures from the crime scene. T.T. 557. Blood stains were found on the kitchen floor. T.T. 557. Detective Maroney took photographs of various items at the murder scene, including the victim's mail, the diabetic kit, footprints in the discharge from the fire extinguisher, and the indentation on the victim's finger where she had worn a ring. T.T. 556-557, 569-570, 585.

BPD Detective Daniel Rinaldo developed a lead in the investigation of McAllister's murder when he received a call on April 23, 2007 from Matthew Lowe ("Lowe"), the proprietor of the Blessed Variety Store located at 291 East Delevan. T.T. 666-667. Lowe told Detective Rinaldo that he bought two rings and a DVD player from a black male, who he knew as "New York", who frequented his store. T.T. 668, 679. Lowe told Detective Rinaldo that he paid $20 for the rings and $40 for the DVD player. T.T. 668. Lowe described "New York" to Detective Rinaldo as a black male in his late forties, standing five feet ten inches, weighing approximately 175 lbs. T.T. 668. Detective Rinaldo asked Lowe to bring the rings and the DVD player down to police headquarters, which Lowe did about one hour later. T.T. 669. Police subsequently took the items to some of the victim's family members for identification purposes. T.T. 670. The victim's grandson, Kelly Craig, was not able to identify the items as his grandmother's. T.T. 670. Brenda Taylor, the victim's daughter, identified one of the rings as her mother's. T.T. 670. Nicole Brooks, the victim's granddaughter, identified one of the rings and the DVD player as belonging to McAllister. T.T. 671.

Police reviewed photos with Lowe while he was at headquarters and then set out to look for Petitioner at his last known address, 250 Humboldt Parkway. T.T. 696. Detectives Michael Mordino, Rinaldo and Michael Acquino located Petitioner at this address, and Petitioner agreed to come to the police station for questioning. T.T. 696. Detective Mordino testified that in the police car on the way to the station, Petitioner spontaneously stated, "I bet this is about the woman from the side of Humboldt that was killed. I used to do some work for her . . . ." T.T. 700.

At the station, Petitioner was read his Miranda rights and agreed to sign a "rights card" indicating that he understood the right to remain silent but was waiving it. T.T. 701-703. Petitioner then proceeded to give a four page statement that was read back to him. T.T. 704, 711. Petitioner stated that he had done some work as a handyman for McAllister about three months ago. T.T. 707. Petitioner also stated that McAllister had called him that winter and complained about "the guy upstairs from her." T.T. 709. Following the interview, Petitioner agreed to give police a DNA sample and to submit his clothing, including his footwear, for analysis. T.T. 711-712. Petitioner was given a white paper outfit to wear after his clothing was removed. T.T. 712. Detective Mordino then initiated a second conversation with Petitioner. T.T. 713. He showed Petitioner photographs of individuals who had been arrested on Blaine. T.T. 713, 719. Detective Mordino also told Petitioner he had been identified as the person who sold McAllister's rings and DVD player. T.T. 714. Petitioner initially denied that he had possessed the items belonging to McAllister, but subsequently told Detective Mordino that he found the rings and the DVD player in a flower pot on Blaine. T.T. 714. Detective Mordino then indicated to Petitioner that they had a video from a Canisius College security camera, of a black male on a bicycle which was next to the victim's house. T.T. 715. The police did not, however, have this video to show Petitioner when Petitioner insisted that Detective Mordino "show him the proof." T.T. 715. Detective Mordino then asked Petitioner if he had been in McAllister's home, to which he responded in the negative. T.T. 716. Detective Mordino indicated to Petitioner that the footprints found at the crime scene matched the prints on Petitioner's boots, and showed Petitioner the photographs of the footprints. T.T. 716-717. After seeing the photographs, Petitioner stated "they look like mine." T.T. 717. At that point, Petitioner changed his story and told Detective Mordino that he was riding his bike near McAllister's apartment building when he saw her arguing with a black male on the street. T.T. 716-717. Petitioner stated that he went to see "what was going on" and that everything appeared "okay" and he left. T.T. 718. Detective Mordino testified that at no time during the interview was Petitioner threatened or promised anything, nor did Petitioner appear to have any difficulty understanding what was taking place. T.T. 720. He further testified that Petitioner was offered food, drink, and cigarettes throughout the interview. T.T. 721.

Detective Acquino, who was primarily involved in interviewing Petitioner along with Detective Mordino, testified that when Petitioner was brought to police headquarters, he was read his Miranda rights and waived those rights. T.T. 747. Detective Acquino testified that Petitioner initially denied selling the rings and the DVD player to Lowe, but then changed his story and indicated that he did sell these items after finding them in a flower pot on Blaine. T.T. 748-750. Detective Acquino testified that when confronted with his inconsistent answers, Petitioner told the detectives that he did not want to speak with them anymore, wanted an attorney, and stated that, "the more I talk, the more I get into trouble." T.T. 752. At this point, the detectives stopped the interview. T.T. 752. The detectives left the room and about fifteen minutes later another detective, who had been observing the interview through a two-way mirror, told Detective Acquino that Petitioner was lying on the floor. T.T. 753.

Detective Acquino returned to the interview room to find Petitioner curled up on the floor in a fetal position and repeating, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." T.T. 753. Detective Acquino testified that he asked Petitioner if he was okay, and, upon Petitioner's request, gave Petitioner a cigarette. T.T. 753. Petitioner asked that Detective Acquino sit with him while he smoked the cigarette and he agreed. Petitioner then initiated a conversation with Detective Acquino and stated that he had "lied." T.T. 753-754. Petitioner told Detective Acquino that he was on the street the day of the murder and saw the door to McAllister's apartment open. T.T. 754. Petitioner told Detective Acquino that his footprints were found in her apartment because he entered her apartment and saw that McAllister was dead. T.T. 754. Petitioner also told Detective Acquino that he had taken the rings and the DVD player from McAllister's apartment. T.T. 754. Detective Acquino testified that he did not ask any questions of Petitioner while Petitioner was talking to him, and that all of the statements Petitioner made were spontaneously volunteered. T.T. 754.

Christopher Chisholm ("Chisholm"), an inmate at the Erie County Correctional Facility, spoke with Petitioner while they were housed together there. T.T. 781, 784. Chisholm testified that Petitioner told him that he went to McAllister's apartment to talk to her about doing some work, and she declined his services. T.T. 782. Chisholm testified that Petitioner told him, "that's when it all happened." T.T. 782. According to Chisholm, Petitioner choked McAllister with his hands and then stabbed her with a knife. T.T. 782. Petitioner also told Chisholm that he took McAllister's rings and sold them. T.T. 809-811. Chisholm testified that he subsequently wrote a letter to then district attorney Frank Clark relaying this information. T.T. 784. Chisholm stated in the letter that he knew the victim's family and was not looking for anything in return for the information. T.T. 784-785.

Forensic serologist Mark Kalinowski ("Kalinowski") testified that he tested blood stains found on Petitioner's sweatshirt. T.T. 902. He testified that the blood found on the sweatshirt matched the victim's genetic profile, and that the chances that the blood did not belong to McAllister was one in two hundred eighty-three quadrillion. T.T. 904. Kalinowski testified further that he swabbed the collar of the sweatshirt and that "the major profile that was obtained . . . is the same DNA profile obtained from the known buccal sample of [Petitioner]." T.T. 905. Kalinowski testified that the chances that the blood swabbed from the collar of the sweatshirt was not Petitioner's blood was one in two point seventeen quadrillion. T.T. 904.

Forensic chemist Michelli Schmitz ("Schmitz") testified that she was qualified in footprint comparison. T.T. 949. Schmitz testified that after examining Petitioner's sneakers and the footprints found at the crime scene, she determined that they were the same. T.T. 959.

Petitioner testified in his defense; and stated that he had known McAllister for approximately one year, and had worked for her infrequently by doing odd jobs, including shoveling snow. T.T. 964-965. That, on April 18th, he went to McAllister's home, entered her apartment, and found her dead on the floor. T.T. 965. He testified that he became nervous and ran out of the house and on his way out, he found a ring on the ground "down the driveway" and a "little walkman." T.T. 966. On cross-examination, Petitioner denied ever being in the victim's room, despite detectives finding footprints matching his boots there. T.T. 982-983. He also denied selling a DVD player to Lowe, maintaining that it was a "walkman" instead that "takes DVDs . . . ." T.T. 986-988.

At the end of his trial, the jury found Petitioner guilty as charged. T.T. 1147. He was subsequently sentenced to an indeterminate period of imprisonment of twenty-five years to life on the murder conviction and a concurrent indeterminate term of imprisonment of two and one-third to seven years on the weapons possession ...

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