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Dupleasis v. Sheahan

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 30, 2017

HILLERY DUPLEASIS, 10B2459, Petitioner,
v.
MICHAEL SHEAHAN, Respondent.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Hillery Dupleasis (“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 January 13, 2012, in New York State Supreme Court, Erie County (Burns, J.), following a jury trial in which he was convicted of felony murder (N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25(3)).[1] Petitioner is currently serving a prison sentence of 25 years to life.

         II. Procedural History

         Following his conviction, petitioner filed a direct counseled appeal to the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, in which he argued that (1)his conviction was not supported by legally sufficient evidence; (2) the trial court abused its discretion by permitting petitioner to be cross-examined on certain prior convictions; and (3) his sentence was unduly harsh and excessive.

         On December 27, 2013, the Fourth Department unanimously affirmed petitioner's judgment of conviction.[2] See People v. Dupleasis, 112 A.D.3d 1318 (4th Dep't 2013), lv. denied, 22 N.Y.3d 1138 (2014). The Fourth Department found that petitioner's legal sufficiency claim was unpreserved and, in any event, meritless. Id. at 1319. Specifically, the Fourth Department held that the testimony of petitioner's accomplice sufficiently established that petitioner was the individual who shot and killed the victim and that the homicide took place during the course of a robbery or burglary. Id. The court further found that the accomplice's testimony was not incredible as a matter of law and that it was sufficiently corroborated. Id.

         The instant petition (doc. 1) contends that (1) the evidence was legally insufficient to support the verdict and (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failure to make a motion to dismiss for legal insufficiency. 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. Legal Sufficiency

         Petitioner contends that the evidence was legally insufficient to support his conviction, arguing that the testimony of his accomplice was incredible and that the evidence did not establish that the homicide of which he was accused occurred during the course of a robbery or burglary. As discussed above, the Fourth Department rejected this claim as unpreserved and without merit. The Fourth Department's finding that the claim was unpreserved constitutes an adequate and independent state law ground precluding habeas review. See, e.g., Richardson v. Greene, 497 F.3d 212, 218 (2d Cir. 2007) (recognizing New York's contemporaneous objection rule as an adequate and independent state ground barring habeas review); Switzer v. Graham, 2010 WL 1543855, *4 (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 16, 2010).

         Moreover, the Fourth Department correctly found that the evidence was legally sufficient to support petitioner's conviction of felony murder under New York law. See N.Y. Penal Law § 125.25(3). The evidence at trial established that petitioner unlawfully entered the dwelling of, and forcibly stole property from, one Donald Sanok while armed with a deadly weapon, facts which established the crimes of robbery and burglary. Petitioner thereafter shot and killed Robert Robinson, who was attempting to thwart the robbery, in the course of and in furtherance of the robbery. The facts at trial were thus “sufficient to have led a rational trier of fact to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” as to every element of the felony murder with which petitioner was charged. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 321 (1979). This claim is therefore dismissed.

         B. Ineffective ...


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