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Devere Seabrook v. William A. Lee

December 27, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kiyo A. Matsumoto, United States District Judge:


Petitioner Devere Seabrook ("petitioner"), who is incarcerated pursuant to a judgment of conviction imposed in the New York State Supreme Court in Kings County, seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 1, Petition ("Pet.") at 1.) Specifically, petitioner asserts that he was deprived of his due process right to present a defense in violation of the United States Constitution. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.


I.Petitioner's Indictment

Pursuant to Kings County Indictment Number 6146/2004, petitioner was indicted for events that occurred on August 4, 2004. (ECF No. 5, Affidavit in Opposition to Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Gov't Opp.") at 3.) Petitioner was specifically indicted with Attempted Murder in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 110/125.25(1)), Assault in the First Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 120.10(1)), two counts of Assault in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 120.05(2)), two counts of Burglary in the First Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 140.30(1), (2)), Burglary in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 140.25(2)), Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 140.15), Attempted Robbery in the First Degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 110/160.15(2)), and one count each of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second, Third, and Fourth Degree (N.Y. Penal Law §§ 265.03(2), 265.02(4), 265.01(1)). (Id.)

II.Petitioner's 2005 Trial

Petitioner's trial commenced on June 21, 2005.

A.The People's Case

On or around August 1st, 2004, Heather Luces ("Luces") and her son Jeffrey Britt ("Britt"), the complaining witnesses, testified that they attended a barbecue hosted by Roy Seabrook ("Roy"), the petitioner's uncle. (ECF Nos. 5-1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Tr. of State Court Trial ("Tr.") at 66-70, 165-66.) At the barbecue, the complaining witnesses met the petitioner. (Tr. at 68.) Luces testified that although she and Britt did not speak to petitioner, they did discuss, in petitioner's presence, Britt's recent inheritance. (Tr. at 66-70, 165-66.) Britt testified that he inherited about $30,000 from his great grandmother, Luces' grandmother. (Tr. at 164-65.) Luces, however, could not recall how much was inherited by Britt. (Tr. at 91-92.) At the time of the incident, Britt still had $12,000 left, in cash, in the apartment that he shared with his mother. (Tr. at 189-91.)

Luces and Britt both testified to essentially the same subsequent chain of events. They testified that on August 4, 2004, Luces was entering her apartment when three men with guns and shirts over their faces forced their way into the apartment. (Tr. at 56.) When Britt heard the commotion he came out of his room and was subsequently shot in the thigh by one of the assailants. (Tr. at 56,155.) Two of the assailants then ran out of the apartment while the third was tackled by Britt. (Tr. at 61, 158.) As the two were wrestling on the floor, Luces attacked the assailant with scissors, stabbing him in the right shoulder. (Tr. at 61, 159.) The assailant then took the scissors from Luces and proceeded to stab her in the arm and Britt in the head. (Tr. at 62, 159-60.) During the course of the struggle, the t-shirt that the assailant was using to cover his face came off. (Tr. at 63.) Luces and Britt were able to see the attacker's face and were able to later identify him as petitioner. (Tr. at 64, 161-62.) The police officers who responded to the crime scene did not testify that they found drugs or drug paraphernalia at the scene. (See, e.g., Tr. at 255-57, 343-44, 382-87.)

New York City Police Department ("NYPD") Detective Raymond Holzwarth ("Detective Holzwarth") testified that on August 15, 2004, a man who identified himself as petitioner called him stating that he heard they were looking for him and that he was out of state but would go to the precinct in a few days. (Tr. at 270.) A month later, the police received an anonymous tip that the petitioner was in Virginia. (Tr. at 223, 273.)

On September 23, 2004, Detective Holzwarth and NYPD Detective Walton Richardson went to Virginia to retrieve the petitioner. (Tr. at 224.) When questioned about his identity, petitioner responded with a fake name and claimed he was from South Carolina. (Tr. at 226.) After a few minutes, he admitted to his true identity and was subsequently arrested. (Tr. at 226, 228.) Detective Holzwarth testified that on the flight back to New York, petitioner stated that he was "not going to go down alone for it," but did not elaborate. (Tr. at 231, 279.)

B.The Defense Case

On cross-examination of the People's witness, Luces, defense counsel inquired about her possible knowledge and involvement in drug-related transactions. Luces denied seeing any drug transactions in her building, and denied any involvement in drug trafficking with Roy or anyone in the Seabrook family and denied ever selling drugs. (Tr. at 101, 140, 143, 145.) Defense counsel also asked Britt if the $12,000 he told officers was in his apartment was drug money. (Tr. at 189-92, ...

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