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Blair v. Graham

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 12, 2017

LESLIE BLAIR, Petitioner,
v.
HAROLD H. GRAHAM, Superintendent of Auburn Correctional Facility, Respondent.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. MICHAEL A. TELESCA, United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Leslie Blair (“petitioner”), proceeding pro se, petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is incarcerated pursuant to a judgment entered February 15, 2008, in Monroe County Court (Egan, J.), after a jury convicted him of one count of felony murder (N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25(3)). Petitioner is currently serving a prison sentence of 25 years to life.

         II. Factual Background and Procedural History

         Petitioner was convicted by a jury of shooting and killing Donovan Allen while petitioner and accomplices robbed Allen of 15 kilograms of cocaine. Petitioner filed a direct counseled appeal to the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, in which he argued that (1) the trial court interfered with the cross-examination of petitioner and (2) the trial court should have precluded evidence that petitioner had engaged in prior robberies with his co-defendants.

         The Fourth Department unanimously affirmed petitioner's judgment of conviction. See People v. Blair, 94 A.D.3d 1403 (4th Dep't 2012), lv. denied 19 N.Y.3d 971. Specifically, the court held that petitioner's contention regarding the trial court's questioning during cross-examination was unpreserved and, in any event, without merit. Id. at 1403-04. The court found that petitioner's claim regarding preclusion was also unpreserved and meritless, noting that “[t]he evidence of [petitioner]'s guilt in assisting in the murder [was] overwhelming, and there [was] no significant probability that defendant otherwise would have been acquitted.” Id. at 1404.

         On February 24, 2014, petitioner filed a pro se application for a writ of error coram nobis to the Fourth Department, arguing that appellate counsel was ineffective for various reasons. The Fourth Department denied the application and the Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. See People v. Blair, 117 A.D.3d 1505 (4th Dep't 2014), lv. denied, 23 N.Y.3d 1059, reconsideration denied, 24 N.Y.3d 1042.

         The instant petition[1] (doc. 9) contends that (1) trial counsel was ineffective; (2) appellate counsel was ineffective; (3) the trial judge interfered with the cross-examination of petitioner; (4) the grand jury proceedings were defective for various reasons; and (5) the evidence was legally insufficient to support the verdict; and (6) petitioner is actually innocent. For the reasons discussed below, the petition is dismissed.

         III. Standard of Review

         The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) applies to this petition. AEDPA “revised the conditions under which federal courts may grant habeas relief to a person in state custody.” Kruelski v. Connecticut Super. Ct. for Judicial Dist. of Danbury, 316 F.3d 103, 106 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254). Under AEDPA, a federal court may grant a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 only if the state court's adjudication of the petitioner's claim on the merits is “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), or involved an “unreasonable determination of the facts” in light of the evidence presented. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2).

         IV. Grounds Asserted in the Petition

         A. Time-Barred Claims (Ground Five)

         Ground five of the amended petition asserts that the verdict in petitioner's case was based on legally insufficient evidence and that petitioner is actually innocent. As respondent argues, these claims were included for the first time in the amended petition and do not relate back to the claims of the original petition. See Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 664 (2005).

         Petitioner's judgment of conviction became final on October 16, 2012, 90 days after the Court of Appeals denied his leave application on July 18, 2012. See 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2); Carey v. Saffold, 536 U.S. 214, 217, 219-221 (2002). The statute of limitations expired one year later, on October 16, 2013. See id. Accordingly, petitioner's claims contained in ground ...


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