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Sanchez v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 13, 2017

JOHN COLVIN, Respondent.



         On December 22, 2015, Gerardo Sanchez, who represents himself pro se, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S .C. § 2254. (Dkt. 1.) This Court referred the Petition to Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck. (Dkt. 14.) On October 7, 2016, Magistrate Judge Peck issued a Report and Recommendation (the "R & R") recommending that the habeas petition be denied. (Dkt. 22.) On November 7, 2016, Sanchez filed objections to the R & R. (Dkt. 24.) For reasons to be explained, the Court adopts the thorough and well-reasoned R & R in its entirety.


         On November 21, 2009, Sanchez fatally stabbed a subway passenger during a fight over a seat. (R & R at 1.) Sanchez was arrested on the train and indicted on December 4, 2009 for second degree murder. (Id.) He ultimately pled guilty to first degree manslaughter before Justice Richard Carruthers of the Supreme Court, New York County, for which he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of twenty-five years, (Id. at 1, 4.) Sanchez filed a pro se C.P.L. § 440.10 motion to vacate the judgment on June 23, 2013. (Id. at 4.) Justice Carruthers denied Sanchez's § 440, 10 motion on November 27, 2013. (Id. at 7.) On July 20, 2014, Sanchez sought an extension of time for leave to appeal from Justice Carruthers' order, which the First Department denied on November 25, 2014. (Id.) The First Department upheld Sanchez's conviction on direct appeal on June 17, 2014. (Id. at 7-8.) The New York Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal on August 29, 2014. (Id. at 8.) Sanchez filed his pro se federal habeas corpus petition on December 22, 2015. (Diet. 1.)

         There is evidence in the record suggesting that Sanchez had a history of mental illness. Sanchez was hospitalized from January 29, 2004 through February 2, 2004, and again from February 14, 2006 through February 27, 2006 for symptoms including depression, paranoia, auditory hallucinations and suicidal ideation. (R & R at 4.)

         Sanchez was evaluated for psychological disorders by several different medical professionals between the time of his arrest and his guilty plea. Shortly after Sanchez's arrest he was admitted to Bellevue Hospital's psychiatric unit and placed on suicide watch. (Id.) On November 25, 2009, he was given a psychological evaluation, at which he presented as disoriented with passive self-injurious ideation and described problems regarding mood as well as loss of sleep and appetite. (Id.) "He endorsed almost every psychotic symptom presented to him, including highly atypical problems (e.g., seeing a gigantic Native American at night and possessing the ability to smell things that enable him to predict the future), " as well as "hearing a low tone or whisper, " and receiving messages from God that "it's all going to end." (Id. at 4-5.) The treatment team found that Sanchez's claims were inconsistent with their behavior observations, that Sanchez did not exhibit a disorganized thought process, and that he had good reality testing. (Id. at 5.)

         On December 8, 2009, Sanchez superficially cut himself in the neck with a paper clip, though following the incident he stated that he "didn't want to die." (Id.)

         On January 4, 2010, Sanchez was evaluated by Dr. Steven Konrad of Bellevue Hospital Center and diagnosed with an unspecified mood disorder. (Id.) Sanchez presented as calm and cooperative with sadness, anxiety, and passive suicidal ideation, and endorsed both visual and auditory hallucinations. (Id.)

         On January 5 and 19, 2010, Sanchez was diagnosed with mood disorder, and on May 6 and July 9, 2010, with schizoaffective disorder. (Id.)

         On March 21, 2011, clinical psychologist Barry Rosenthal issued an evaluation of Sanchez, finding, among other things, no evidence of disordered thinking. (Id. at 6.) Dr. Rosenthal diagnosed Sanchez with polysubstance dependence and adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depression, as well as personality disorder not otherwise specified. (Id. at 7.) However, Sanchez reported that his prescribed medication prevented further hallucinations. (Id. at 6.)


         In reviewing an R & R, a district court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The Court conducts a de novo review of the R & R to the extent Sanchez raises an objection. Id. In order to establish his entitlement to federal habeas relief, Sanchez must make a showing that the trial court's actions were contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 402-13 (2000) (applying 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)).

         I. The R & R's Principal Conclusions and Reasoning:

         In his Petition, Sanchez raised several objections to the state court proceedings. Sanchez argues that the state trial court should have ordered a competency hearing before accepting his plea of guilty, that his sentence was excessive, and that he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel. Magistrate Judge Peck's ...

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