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Keith L. Laster v. Superintendent

December 17, 2012

KEITH L. LASTER, PETITIONER,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, FIVE POINTS CORRECTIONAL FACILITY RESPONDENT.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Pro se Petitioner Keith L. Laster ("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 two judgments entered December 21, 2005, in New York State, County Court, Monroe County, convicting him, upon a jury verdict, of five counts of Rape in the First Degree (N.Y. Penal Law ("Penal Law") § 130.35[1]), three counts of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree (Penal Law § 130.65[1]), and one count of Sodomy in the First Degree (Penal Law § 130.50).

II. Factual Background and Procedural History

A. Introduction

Between November 28 and December 15, 1995, Petitioner raped three school-age girls (C.S., L.B., D.R.). Each of the rapes occurred in the City of Rochester, New York during the early morning hours as each girl walked to her bus stop. Monroe County Indictment No. 466/2000 charged Petitioner as "John Doe", under his DNA profile, with four counts of Rape in the First Degree, two counts of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree, and one count of Sodomy in the First Degree. See Monroe County Ind. No. 0466, filed 09/22/2000 at Resp't Ex. B.

On the morning of October 15, 1997 in Rochester, Petitioner raped another school-age girl, E.A., as she walked to her bus stop. Monroe County Indictment No. 622/2005 charged Petitioner, under his true name and his DNA profile, with Rape in the First Degree and Sexual Abuse in the First Degree. See Monroe County Ind. No. 0622, filed 08/26/2005 at Resp't Ex. B.

On November 4, 2005, Petitioner proceeded to trial on both indictments before the Hon. Patricia Marks and a jury.

B. The Trial

1. The People's Case VICTIM #1 (C.S.)

At 6:30 a.m. on November 28, 1995, thirteen-year-old C.S. left her home on Glendale Park, and began walking to her school bus stop several blocks away. C.S. observed Petitioner walking towards her, who eventually came up behind C.S. when she felt something press against her back. Petitioner told her that he had a gun, put his hand over C.S.'s mouth, and told her that she should do what he told her to do. Trial Trans. [T.T.] 249-254.

Petitioner pulled C.S. across the street to an enclosed area between a garage and a boat. He told C.S. to remove her pants. C.S. complied, and Petitioner placed his hand on her vagina. Petitioner directed her to lie on the ground and close her eyes, which she did. Petitioner spread C.S.'s legs apart and inserted his penis in her vagina. C.S. cried out in pain, and Petitioner told her to be quiet. T.T. 254-256.

Petitioner told C.S. that he knew where she lived and he would hurt her and her family if she told anyone what happened. Petitioner then left. C.S. was unsure of his identity because she had her eyes closed throughout the incident and never got a good look at Petitioner's face.*fn1 C.S. ran home after the rape and told her father what had happened. Police officer Mildred Witherspoon-Ruffin of the Rochester Police Department("RPD") responded to C.S.'s home at 6:53 a.m. She spoke to C.S. and then did a neighborhood check for the assailant. T.T. 256-257, 263-268.

C.S. went to Rochester General Hospital where physician's assistant Marion Maraszkiewicz ("Maraszkiewicz") examined her. At the trial, Maraszkiewicz testified that C.S. was "very tearful and . . . cried throughout most of [their] interaction." T.T. 299. During the examination, Maraszkiewicz observed a laceration to C.S.'s perineum and noticed that her hymenal ring was swollen and bruised. Maraszkiewicz found clear liquid in C.S.'s vagina and collected samples and created slides for a rape kit. She also retrieved C.S.'s underwear and two vials of C.S.'s blood and placed them inside envelopes. T.T. 297-306.

Maraszkiewicz gave the rape kit and C.S.'s clothing to Officer Witherspoon-Ruffin who, in turn, logged the evidence into the property clerk's office and then transported it to the Monroe County Crime Laboratory. T.T. 270-271, 306.

VICTIM #2 (L.B.)

On November 30, 1995, at 6:40 a.m., seventeen-year-old L.B. left her home on South Plymouth Avenue and walked to her school bus stop several blocks away. As she walked behind a nearby school and recreation center, Petitioner ran up from behind her and collided into her forcefully. Petitioner grabbed L.B. around her mouth, causing her braces to pierce her top lip. L.B. attempted to bargain with Petitioner and told him to take her coat or her pager. Petitioner told her that he did not want them, and began to "back[] [her] up towards the corner area . . . between where the recreation center meets with the school." T.T. 277-282.

Petitioner pressed a cold object against L.B.'s head that she believed to be a gun. Petitioner repeatedly told her to "shut the fuck up," called her a "bitch," and threatened to kill her. Petitioner told L.B. to remover her pants and then tripped her, causing her to fall down face-forward. L.B. felt a sharp pain in her knee and noticed that it was cut. Petitioner then pulled down L.B.'s underwear and put his hands on the back of her neck, holding down her head. Petitioner inserted his penis in her vagina. While Petitioner was raping L.B., she saw a gun on the ground. T.T. 283-285.

Petitioner then got up, buckled his pants, and told L.B. to remain on the ground. Petitioner ran away. L.B. put her cloths back on and went to her grandmother's house nearby. L.B. told her grandmother what had happened and then went to the hospital. T.T. 268, 294-295.

At Strong Memorial Hospital, Susan Dantoni, M.D., examined

L.B., who was "calm and rational, but tearful." T.T. 319. She observed cuts on L.B.'s lip and knee. She aspired secretions from L.B.'s vagina and viewed them under a microscope. Dr. Dantoni observed non-motile sperm. She then collected fluid samples, including blood samples from L.B., and prepared a rape kit. T.T. 317-324. RPD Officer Tim Lawler recovered L.B.'s earmuffs from the location of the rape. He went to Strong Memorial Hospital where he met L.B. and observed the cuts on her lip and knee. He retrieved the rape kit from Dr. Dantoni and brought it to the property clerk's office. Shortly thereafter, he signed it into the Monroe County Crime Laboratory. T.T 309-316.

Victim #3 (D.R.)

Fifteen days later on December 15, 1995, at approximately 7:00 a.m., twelve-year-old D.R. left her home on Maple Street intending to walk several blocks to her school bus stop. She saw Petitioner coming toward her from the parking lot of an automobile parts store. Petitioner grabbed D.R. from behind, put one arm around her stomach and covered her mouth with his other hand. Petitioner tried to drag her, and D.R. screamed. Petitioner told her to "shut up" and called her a "bitch." Petitioner threatened to kill her, and ...


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