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Ture v. Racette

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 26, 2014

NICHOLAS TURE, Petitioner,
v.
STEVEN RACETTE, Superintendent, Clinton Correctional Facility, [1] Respondent.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

JAMES K. SINGLETON, Jr., Senior District Judge.

Nicholas Ture, a New York state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus with this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Ture is currently in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and is incarcerated at Clinton Correctional Facility. Respondent has answered, and Ture has not replied.

I. BACKGROUND/PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

On December 1, 2009, Ture was charged with attempted murder in the second degree, assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree, and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree after he repeatedly stabbed his mother one day after being released from county jail. Ture was arraigned and entered a not guilty plea in Saratoga County Court on December 4, 2009. The People requested a competency evaluation to determine whether Ture was fit to stand trial. The court ordered the examination and stayed the proceedings pending the outcome.

At a conference held on March 1, 2010, the court noted that a Criminal Procedure Law ("CPL") § 730.30 competency examination had been performed and that two psychiatrists reported that Ture did not by reason of mental disease or defect lack the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense. The court then indicated that it would proceed to a hearing on the matter. The prosecutor informed the court that the People were ready to proceed with a hearing but that she understood that the defense had decided to consent to the issue of capacity and agree with the doctors' evaluations. Counsel for Ture confirmed that the defense would not be contesting Ture's capacity to proceed in the matter. Ture then asked to address the court and stated, "Well, I just wanted to say that, you know, I do love my mother, and I'm sorry this whole thing happened, and I just - you know, I'll do my time." The court then admonished Ture that "the less said, the better."

At the next conference, Ture requested new counsel, and the court denied the request. The court also explained to Ture that the prosecutor had indicated that the People would be willing to accept a plea. The prosecutor stated that the People were willing to accept a guilty plea to attempted murder with a sentence of 20 years. The court also stated that "it's possible in this case that you might be successful in entering a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect." The court explained the process for doing so, and the prosecutor indicated that the People would not object to such a plea. In response to his question, the court also informed Ture that he had time to consider his options.

On April 21, 2010, the prosecutor stated that the People were offering Ture the opportunity to plead guilty to all counts in the indictment in exchange for a sentence of 15 years' imprisonment. The prosecutor indicated that Ture would also be required to waive his right to appeal. The court additionally informed Ture that a period of post-release supervision ranging from 2½ years to 5 years would also be imposed. When asked if he understood the terms of the offer, Ture stated that he did not understand "supervision." The court instructed defense counsel to explain post-release supervision to Ture off the record. Afterwards, the court asked Ture if he understood the entire offer, including post-release supervision; Ture answered in the affirmative. The court then asked Ture if he was in agreement with the terms and Ture responded, "Yes, sir, your Honor."

The court then explained the rights that Ture was giving up by pleading guilty, including the privilege against self-incrimination and his rights to a speedy and public jury trial and to cross-examine and offer witnesses. The court also explained that, as part of the plea agreement, Ture would be required to waive his right to appeal. The court asked Ture whether he understood what that meant, and Ture responded, "Does that mean I can't appeal? Cannot appeal or can appeal?" The court permitted Ture to confer off the record with his attorney. Thereafter, Ture stated that he understood the waiver of the right to appeal. The court additionally warned Ture that the instant offense was a felony and that a future felony conviction could lead to enhanced sentencing because of the instant offense. Ture indicated that he understood. Ture further stated that he understood the court's statement that he could not be forced into pleading guilty but would have to do it freely and voluntarily.

The court then asked Ture, "This morning are you on any kind of drugs or medication or are you suffering from any kind of illness that would make it difficult for you to understand what is being said here?" Ture replied, "No, I'm not." Ture confirmed his intention to enter an Alford plea.[2] The prosecution then explained the evidence against Ture, including two knives, three eyewitnesses, the statement of the victim, and photographs of a blood smear on Ture and his clothes. Ture then pled guilty to each of the charges.

On June 17, 2010, Ture appeared with counsel for sentencing. The People requested that the negotiated 15-year sentence be imposed and that an order of protection be issued for the victim. Ture addressed the court and asked for leniency, stating:

I realize what I have done is terrible. Believe me when I say no one is more sorry than I am I want to make it very clear that I honestly did not intentionally mean for this to happen, and I would never hurt her in the right mind. I honestly don't remember attacking her at all. I don't - I blacked out, and I was - I was blacked out for most of the end of last Summer.
On a positive note, my mother has been coming to see me regularly. We've been having good talks, and we've moved on from what has happened, and there are no hard feelings between us. We both agree this was a blackout, and we both agree that it was caused by me not being on my medications for so long. We also feel it could have been prevented. Like she said, we're angry with the Saratoga City Court system. They had sent out a warrant... to take me to the hospital to be treated. Instead of doing so, they incarcerated me early on a misdemeanor. Judge Wait knew of my condition and knew I needed to be hospitalized. He instead sent me to County Jail for an evaluation, and the doctors didn't help, and I did my 20 days and just got worse. And I was never put on my medicine, and I was then released to my parents in worse condition [sic] I've been in. I committed my act the following morning of being released. And we feel none of this would have happened if I had only been sent to the hospital like the warrant had said.
.... I've spent the last ten months in the medical unit of the County Jail, two of those months were at Marcy Psychiatric. I've been taking my meds everyday, I've caused no trouble, and I've been doing very well.

The court sentenced Ture to concurrent determinate prison terms of 15 years for the attempted murder and first-degree assault convictions plus an additional 5-year term of postrelease supervision. The court also sentenced Ture to a concurrent determinate term of 5 years' imprisonment plus 3 years of post-release supervision for the second-degree assault conviction and a concurrent 1-year term of imprisonment for the criminal possession of a weapon conviction.

By papers dated January 24, 2011, Ture moved pro se to vacate the judgment of conviction pursuant to CPL § 440.10 on the ground that there was newly discovered evidence of his innocence, namely, his untreated mental illness. Ture also claimed that his attorney failed to inform him of his right to testify before the grand jury and that his sentence was harsh and excessive. The County Court denied the motion, finding that the newly-discovered evidence claim was without merit and that his excessive sentence claim was a matter of record and thus not properly subject to collateral review. Ture did not appeal the court's § 440.10 denial.

Through counsel, Ture appealed his conviction, arguing that the trial court should not have accepted Ture's guilty plea in light of the evidence that Ture was not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. The Appellate Division denied the appeal in a reasoned opinion concluding that "the proof regarding his mental capacity does not establish that he was incompetent." People v. Ture, 941 N.Y.S.2d 530, 530-31 (N.Y.App.Div. 2012). Ture sought leave to appeal the denial to the New York Court of Appeals, which was summarily denied on June 7, 2012. People v. Ture, 973 N.E.2d 218 (N.Y. 2012).

Ture timely filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus to this Court on November 30, 2012.

II. GROUNDS RAISED

In his pro se Petition before this Court, Ture raises four grounds for relief. First, Ture argues that he is "[n]ot guilty due to [the] negligence of county jail and Saratoga Court" because he was denied hospitalization and unmedicated when he was released from his prior incarceration. He next argues that his pre-trial counsel was prejudiced against him and told him that he would not assert arguments or raise evidence that challenged his culpability and that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the issue of the negligence of the County Jail on appeal and by failing to request oral ...


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