United States District Court, S.D. New York
For Gigi Jordan, Petitioner: Allan Laurence Brenner, Sole practitioner, Long Beach, NY; Michael G. Dowd, Law Office of Michael G. Dowd, New York, NY; Ronald Laurence Kuby, Ronald L. Kuby, Law Office, New York, NY.
For Alex Bailey, Warden of Rose M. Singer Center, Rikers Island Correctional Facility, Respondent: Sara Miriam Zausmer, LEAD ATTORNEY, District Attorney, New York County, New York, NY.
KATHERINE B. FORREST, United States District Judge.
OPINION & ORDER
Petitioner has been in pre-trial incarceration at Rikers Island for over forty-four (44) months, awaiting trial by New York State on a charge of second-degree murder for killing her son. See Peole v. Jordan, No. 621/10 (N.Y. City.). She has filed this unusual petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on the basis that such prolonged pre-trial detention violates her constitutional right to due process. (See ECF No. 1.) Petitioner and respondents agree that she is unlikely to be tried before late 2014.
This is a case of first impression: a state court criminal defendant petitioning a federal court to overturn a pre-trial bail determination on the basis of an alleged due process violation due to the length of the pre-trial incarceration. According to petitioner, her prolonged detention is, under Second Circuit precedent, an unconstitutional violation of due process. She acknowledges a failure to exhaust her state court remedies prior to bringing this petition, but asserts that the state court processes have proven unwieldy, prolonged, and futile. Additionally, petitioner asserts that analyzed do novo, this Court should approve the bail package she has proposed because there is no realistic risk of flight.
Respondents argue that this petition is improvidently brought: this Court should
and must abstain from interfering in ongoing state criminal matters pursuant to the doctrine set forth in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971), and that in any event, petitioner's failure to exhaust her state court remedies requires denial. Respondents assert that petitioner's futility claim is meritless: she has received relatively quick decisions on her state court applications and appeals; and the decisions issued by the state courts have fully and fairly analyzed her arguments. Finally, if this Court were to reach the merits, respondents argue that the appropriate standard of review is that set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (" AEDPA" ), which requires significant deference to a state courts' decisions against the background of established federal precedent; they further contend that even were a do novo standard to be applied, denial of petitioner's requested relief would be required.
While petitioner urges this Court to make new law and to take the unprecedented step of overriding a state court's pre-trial bail determination, there is no legal or rational basis for this Court to do so. Simply put, there is a reason why state court bail determinations are not brought before federal courts on habeas petitions: preservation of a state court's right to handle its own criminal proceedings without interference from the federal courts unless there is a complete absence of a state court mechanism is an entrenched and rational legal principle. This country has a firmly established tradition of comity, evincing respect for state court proceedings. This Court is bound to accept this proposition and does so without hesitation or concern.
Federal habeas proceedings are a final check on state court criminal proceedings, acknowledging that there may be rare instances in which constitutional error has occurred and remains un-remedied. It is, of course, conceivable that such error could occur as part of a pre-trial detention determination, and that a constitutional deprivation of liberty could occur and remain un-remedied throughout all state levels of review. In such a situation, federal court review under 42 U.S.C. § 2241 may be appropriate. This is not such a case.
The briefs and appendices submitted in connection with this petition are extensive. (ECF Nos. 2, 4, 18, 19.) They reflect a heavily-litigated state court criminal proceeding in which no stone has been left unturned.
Only a few facts are necessary to this Court's resolution of the instant petition; those wishing additional factual background shall refer to the parties' submissions.
Petitioner does not deny that she killed her eight-year-old son on February 5, 2010 in the Peninsula Hotel in New York City. Her son had been diagnosed with a severe form of autism;  there is no dispute that he was nonverbal at the time of his death. Just days prior to killing her son, petitioner informed her aunt that she intended to kill him. When the police arrived at the scene, they took petitioner to the hospital; they found a 20-page ...