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Madrid v. Ercole

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 31, 2014

MANUEL MADRID, Petitioner,
ROBERT ERCOLE, Superintendent of Greene Haven Correctional Facility, Respondent.


ERIC N. VITALIANO, District Judge.

Pro se petitioner Manuel Madrid filed, on March 24, 2011, a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus. For the reasons stated below, the writ is denied and the petition is dismissed with prejudice.


On September 20, 2004 petitioner shot four men, killing one and injuring the other three.[1] Shortly thereafter police arrested petitioner, a Spanish-speaker who speaks limited English, and transported him to the 103rd precinct. Madrid waived his Miranda rights and gave both oral and written confessions through an interpreter. Madrid was charged with two counts of second degree murder, three counts of second degree attempted murder, six counts of first degree assault, three counts of first degree reckless endangerment, second degree criminal possession of a weapon and third degree criminal possession of a weapon. Following his trial, on March 14, 2006, a Queens County jury convicted him of murder in the second degree and all but one of the various lesser charges. Madrid was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 21 years to life on the second degree murder conviction and 20 years for the second degree attempted murder and first degree assault convictions. Madrid was further sentenced to 15 years for his second degree weapons conviction and seven years on his third degree weapons conviction, to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to the murder and attempted murder sentences.

On direct appeal, Madrid advanced four arguments: (1) the police lacked reasonable suspicion to pursue him prior to arrest, (2) his confession should have been suppressed because he did not understand enough English to comprehend his Miranda rights, (3) the court illegally imposed consecutive sentences, and (4) the trial court improperly usurped the role of the jury in making certain findings of fact upon which it based its sentence. On June 3, 2008 the appellate division, second department affirmed the judgment of conviction on all counts. The Court of Appeals denied Madrid leave to appeal on September 30, 2008. He then made his application to this Court for a writ of habeas corpus on October 22, 2008. On January 28, 2009, Madrid initiated a series of collateral state proceedings to exhaust his state-level remedies, and, at Madrid's request, the Court stayed these proceedings on July 27, 2009. (Dkt. No. 11).

While the instant petition was stayed, petitioner pursued a variety of collateral attacks on the adequacy of both his trial counsel and appellate counsel. First, on January 28, 2009 petitioner filed a motion in Queens Supreme Court seeking to vacate the judgment pursuant to CPL § 440.10 on the ground that that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the introduction of testimony by Dr. Henry Nields, an expert in forensic pathology. Supreme Court found that petitioner's claim was procedurally barred and the Appellate Division granted leave but, upon considering the appeal, affirmed.

Next, by motion dated June 10, 2009 petitioner sought a writ of error coram nobis, claiming that he was denied effective assistance of appellate counsel for two reasons. First, he contended that his counsel should have - but did not - argue that his trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting to the admission of Dr. Nields' testimony. Second, he contended that counsel failed to argue that his trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting to the trial judge's disclosure of a jury note revealing that the jury had not yet reached a unanimous verdict. On December 1, 2009, the Second Department denied petitioner's application for the writ, and the Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal on April 2, 2010.

On November 20, 2009 petitioner filed a second CPL § 440.10 motion in Supreme Court seeking to vacate the judgment of conviction. Madrid contended this time that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to advise him (1) that he had the right to testify at a pre-trial suppression hearing, and (2) that, if convicted on all counts, he could be sentenced to a minimum term of incarceration exceeding 25 years. On March 5, 2010, Supreme Court denied petitioner's motion, holding that his claims were not supported by any evidence and, in fact, were contradicted by a sworn affidavit submitted by trial counsel. On September 13, 2010, the Appellate Division denied leave to appeal.

At that point, Madrid returned to federal court and his federal habeas case was reopened on March 1, 2011. About three weeks later, on March 24, Madrid filed an amended habeas petition. Madrid's amended petition asserts that his trial counsel and appellate counsel were both constitutionally ineffective in two ways. With respect to his trial counsel, Madrid claims that counsel failed to advise him about his right to testify at the pre-trial suppression hearing and also failed to advise him that his conviction could result in a sentence of over 25 years. Petitioner additionally complains that his appellate counsel failed to raise the issues of Dr. Nields' testimony and the trial judge's disclosure of the jury note.

With proceedings on the amended petition underway, Madrid sought to open yet another front. On June 18, 2012, he asked the Court for a second stay to permit him to exhaust a new claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in a third § 440.10 application. In a Memorandum & Order dated December 6, 2012, the Court denied a second stay (See Dkt. #30, 2012 WL 6061004), concluding that (a) Madrid's first amended petition was not a "mixed" petition because all of Madrid's claims were exhausted, and (b) any new claim that Madrid sought to add in a second amended petition would be barred by the applicable limitations period of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). The Court further concluded that Madrid had failed to demonstrate good cause for his failure to exhaust and that his new ineffective assistance of counsel claim (failure to advise him to roll the dice and make a naked plea to second degree murder, rather than either accept the People's offered bargain or go to trial) was plainly meritless.[2]

Standard of Review

This petition, as noted earlier, is governed by AEDPA, which provides that a federal writ of habeas corpus may not be granted to a state prisoner held subject to the judgment of a state court unless "the state court arrive[d] at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decide[d] a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 1523 (2000) (citation omitted). Clearly established federal law "refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme] Court's decisions.'" See Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 74, 127 S.Ct. 649, 653 (2006) ( quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 412, 120 S.Ct. at 1523). To be "clearly established" under AEDPA, federal law must be "law that is dictated by [Supreme Court] precedent existing at the time the defendant's conviction became final.'" McKinney v. Artuz, 326 F.3d 87, 96 (2d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). A state court's "unreasonable application" of law must have been more than "incorrect or erroneous"; it must have been "objectively unreasonable." Sellan v. Kuhlman, 261 F.3d 303, 315 (2d Cir. 2001) (internal quotation omitted). This is a highly deferential standard, as § 2254(d) "demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." Bell v. Cone, 543 U.S. 447, 455 (2005). "If this standard is difficult to meet - and it is - that is because it was meant to be." Burt v. Titlow, 2013 WL 5904117, at *4 (2013) (internal citations omitted). Federal courts should not "lightly conclude that a State's criminal justice system has experienced the extreme malfunction for which federal habeas review is the remedy." Id.

To prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a habeas petitioner must satisfy the two-part inquiry set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 2064 (1984). First, a petitioner must show that "counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Id. at 688. But, there is, of course, "a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance, ' bearing in mind that there are countless ways to provide effective assistance in any given case' and that even the best criminal defense attorneys would not defend a particular client in the same way.'" United States v. Aguirre, 912 F.2d 555, 560 (2d Cir. 1990) ( quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689, 104 S.Ct. at 2065). Second, a petitioner must "affirmatively prove prejudice, " demonstrating that "but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 693-94, 104 S.Ct. at 2067-68). Where ineffective assistance in the sentencing context is alleged, the prejudice prong of ...

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