United States District Court, N.D. New York
BLAZEJ J. KOT, Petitioner,
WILLIAM KEYSER, JR., Respondent.
EASTON, THOMPSON LAW FIRM Attorney for Petitioner.
ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN Attorneys for Respondent.
COUNSEL: BRIAN SHIFFRIN, Esq. MICHELLE ELAINE MAEROV, AAG.
DECISION AND ORDER
T. SUDDABY, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Blazej J. Kot, through counsel, filed a petition for a writ
of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Dkt. No.
1, Petition ("Pet."); Dkt Nos. 3 through 5, State
Court Records filed by petitioner; Dkt. No. 7,
Petitioner's Memorandum of Law ("Pet.
Mem.").Petitioner challenges a 2010 judgment of
conviction, following a jury trial in Tompkins County Court
of Murder in the Second Degree, Arson in the Third Degree,
and Tampering with Physical Evidence. Pet. at 2.
Petitioner's conviction stems from his actions on the
evening of June 2, 2009. That evening, while out jogging with
his wife, petitioner struck her in the head with a pipe, slit
her throat, and left her for dead. Petitioner then returned
home and attempted to destroy evidence from the killing. As a
result of his conviction, petitioner was sentenced to an
aggregate term of twenty-five (25) years to life in prison
with one year of post-release supervision. Id.
argues in his habeas petition that his trial counsel was
ineffective for various reasons. Pet. at 5-6; Pet. Mem. at
18-49. Respondent opposes the petition. Dkt. No. 14, Answer;
Dkt. No. 14-1, Respondent's Memorandum of Law
("Resp. Mem."); Dkt. Nos. 15-1 through 15-6, State
Court Records ("SR"); Dkt. Nos. 16-1 and 16-2,
Transcripts ("T").Petitioner filed a Reply
Memorandum of Law. Dkt. No. 22, Reply Memorandum of Law
reasons that follow, the petition is denied and dismissed.
Factual Background and the Trial
2007, petitioner was a doctoral student at Cornell University
in Information Science. After becoming disappointed in his
Ph.D. program, petitioner dropped out and joined Predictive
Systems, a technology start-up company started by a friend,
Peter Brodsky. Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶ 535-36.
working at Predictive, petitioner began dating Caroline
Coffey. Although petitioner seemed happy with the
relationship, he confided in Brodsky that he felt uneasy that
they were moving in together and had started discussing
marriage. Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶ 541-42.
the spring and summer of 2008, petitioner's performance
at Predictive began to deteriorate. Petitioner began drinking
heavily, was missing work, and drastically reduced his office
hours. Dkt. No. 6-1, at ¶ 543-44, 547. The produce
launch went poorly, and according to Brodsky, was the result
of petitioner's inadequate work. While petitioner was on
vacation, Brodksy and Predictive's CEO emailed petitioner
about their concerns, and when he returned, they offered
petitioner a leave of absence or his resignation. Petitioner
felt he was treated unfairly, left the company, and never
spoke to Brodsky again. Id. at 544-46, 549.
October 2008, petitioner and Coffey married in a small civil
ceremony in Ithaca, New York. They planned to hold a larger
wedding in Costa Rica the following year. Dkt. No. 16-1, at
January 2009, petitioner returned to his doctoral program at
Cornell University. Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶ 710-11.
2009, petitioner and Coffey held a wedding in Costa Rica.
Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶ 521-22.
to each witness that testified during the trial, no one was
aware that petitioner was unhappy in his marriage, and none
of the witnesses expressed observing any signs that
petitioner suffered from a mental illness.
2, 2009, Coffee went to work as usual around 9 a.m. Later
that day, petitioner went to see Coffey to drop off wedding
photographs which had arrived. Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶
598-99, 602. Petitioner also met with his faculty advisor,
who informed him that additional funding was received for his
work, and that he was happy to continue supporting
petitioner's research for the foreseeable future.
Id. at T 720-22.
work, petitioner went to a friend's house to lift
weights. They joked and laughed, and petitioner expressed
that everything was going well, and that he and Coffey were
planning to go away for a few days together. Petitioner left
to go home at 6:00 p.m. Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶ 512-19.
their routine, petitioner and Coffey went for an evening jog.
On the trail, petitioner recalled letting Coffey take the
lead while jogging. When he ran past a pipe he had previously
seen on the trail, he picked it up and sprinted to his wife.
He then struck her in the head with the pipe. After Coffey
fell to the ground, petitioner struck her again. Petitioner
proceeding to slash Coffey's neck with a box cutter he
had brought with him. Petitioner left Coffey on the trail and
ran home. Defense Exhibit D ("Ex. D"), Jul. 19,
home, petitioner saw his clothes were covered in blood and
attempted to burn them. He doused his clothes with paint
thinner and placed them in the fire place. When he saw that
his face and hands were covered with Coffey's blood,
petitioner decided he was going to kill himself. Ex. D, Jul.
left the box cutter he used to murder Coffey at home, and
drove to a park. Once there, petitioner lost his nerve to
jump off a bridge and returned home to get a sharper knife to
kill himself. Ex. D, Jul. 19, 2009. At approximately 9:45
p.m., New York State Police Officer Gerald Lewis saw
petitioner sitting in his car in the parking lot of the park.
The officer shined his flashlight into the vehicle and saw
that petitioner was covered with dried blood all over his
left arm and hand. When he tapped on the window, petitioner
did not make eye contact, but started his car and accelerated
out of the parking lot. Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶ 83-91.
Lewis called in petitioner's description and pursued
petitioner as he drove over 90 miles per hour down a road.
After other police vehicles joined in the pursuit, the
roadway became congested, and petitioner was forced to slow
down. All of a sudden, petitioner's vehicle drifted over
the double yellow line and came to a stop near some trees.
Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶ 91-95.
police found petitioner in his car with several large
lacerations on his neck. He was unconscious and holding a
utility knife in his hand. Petitioner was only clothed in his
bathrobe. The police and paramedics administered first aid,
and when they found his identification in his glove
compartment, petitioner began to gain consciousness. He
corrected the police on how to pronounce his name, and asked
where his wife was. Petitioner then became agitated and
yelled that he wanted to die. Petitioner was airlifted to a
medical facility in Pennsylvania. Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶
98-103, 123-24, 144-46, 183-87.
following morning, Coffey's body was found by two
pedestrians on the trail where petitioner had killed her the
night before. Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶ 111-13, 165-68.
forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy of Coffey's
body concluded that she sustained a blow with a heavy linear
object to her right eye area. Other bruises and scrapes to
her right wrist and forearm, as well as her nose and right
eyelid, suggested that Coffey tried to defend herself from
the blow to her face. Although the blow was not fatal, the
pathologist opined it rendered her unconscious. Coffey then
sustained a stab wound to her carotid ...