United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.
Proceeding pro se, petitioner Evony Capps ("Capps" or "Petitioner") filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Capps is incarcerated as the result of a judgment entered against her in Erie County Court of New York State on February 21, 2007, following her guilty plea to one count of first degree manslaughter (N.Y. Penal Law § 125.20(1)).
II. Factual Background and Procedural History
The conviction here at issue stems from the fatal stabbing of Arthur Boyd ("Boyd" or "the deceased") on the evening of October 12, 2005, in front of the Shop Rite Market on Fillmore Street in the City of Buffalo. According to an eyewitness, Capps and Jalessa Clay ("Clay"), the girlfriend of the deceased, started fighting, and other individuals joined in the altercation. Boyd approached and attempted to intercede. During the melee, Boyd sustained stab wounds to the neck and abdomen and was transported by friends to the hospital.
Police officers who happened to be at the hospital upon Boyd's arrival spoke to one of the individuals accompanying him. This person told police that he had witnessed the incident and that a black female with blondish hair named "Ebony" had stabbed Boyd.
Based on this description of Boyd's assailant, police officers located Capps as she was walking home with one of her friends. At the police station, after waiving her rights, Capps gave a statement admitting getting involved in a fight with Clay. The girls had a "history" insofar as one of Capps' friends had "maced" the mother of one of Clay's friends. According to Capps, Clay instigated the fight by telling her she had a "smart mouth" that needed to be punched, and then proceeded to punch her in the mouth. The two young women started fighting. After being separated briefly, they "went at it again". While Capps was on top of Clay, Boyd walked up and pulled Capps off of Clay and said, "[Y]ou punched my baby's mother". Capps retorted with an expletive, Boyd punched her, and they began fighting. Boyd was on top of her when the police arrived but according to Capps, he got up and walked away. Capps denied having a knife or stabbing anyone, and stated she did not know who had been stabbed until after the police told her his name. Capps said that the guy who had been fighting her on the ground had been "fine" after he had gotten up.
Before Capps was taken to the holding center, the police advised her that Boyd had died at the hospital as a result of the injuries he had sustained that night, and that she was going to be arrested. Capps made statements informing police of the location of the knife used in the incident.
An autopsy revealed that Boyd died of a stab wound to the neck with loss of blood. He also sustained a number of superficial cuts on the face, shoulder and upper right arm.
Capps subsequently was indicted on one count of second degree (intentional) murder and fourth degree criminal possession of a weapon (a folding knife).
On February 8, 2006, the parties appeared before Erie County Court Judge Timothy J. Drury for a Wade/Huntley hearing. The prosecutor requested an adjournment to continue further plea discussions.
The parties returned to court on November 8, 2006. The prosecutor indicated that an offer to plead guilty to one count of first degree manslaughter had been extended to Capps. Noting that Capps, "ha[d] been somewhat helpful, at least through a family member, " at a recently concluded trial, Judge Drury stated that if Capps accepted the plea, he would cap the sentence at 14 or 15 years determinate, with 5 years of post-release supervision.
On November 29, 2006, the parties appeared before Judge Drury, and Capps entered a plea of guilty to one count of first degree manslaughter in full satisfaction of the indictment.
On February 21, 2007, Capps appeared for sentencing before Erie County Court Judge Sheila DiTullio. In light of the sentence cap articulated by Judge Drury in November 2007, the prosecutor urged imposition of a 15-year determinate sentence, and defense counsel requested a sentence of 14 years. Judge DiTullio ...