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Kot v. Keyser

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 23, 2017

BLAZEJ J. KOT, Petitioner,
WILLIAM KEYSER, JR., Respondent.

          EASTON, THOMPSON LAW FIRM Attorney for Petitioner.

          HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN Attorneys for Respondent.





         Petitioner 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.").[1]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.

         Petitioner 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").[2]Petitioner filed a Reply Memorandum of Law. Dkt. No. 22, Reply Memorandum of Law ("Reply Mem.").

         For the reasons that follow, the petition is denied and dismissed.


         A. Factual Background and the Trial

         In 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.

         While 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.

         During 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.

         In 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 ¶ 520-21.

         In January 2009, petitioner returned to his doctoral program at Cornell University. Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶ 710-11.

         In May 2009, petitioner and Coffey held a wedding in Costa Rica. Dkt. No. 16-1, at ¶ 521-22.

         According 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.

         On June 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.

         After 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.

         As was 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, 2009.[3]

         Once 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. 19, 2009.

         Petitioner 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.

         Officer 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.

         The 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.

         The 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.

         A 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 ...

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