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Griggs v. Lempke

United States District Court, W.D. New York

June 1, 2017

PERRY GRIGGS, 11B2588, Petitioner,
v.
JOHN LEMPKE, Respondent.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Perry Griggs (“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 June 9, 2011, in New York State Supreme Court, Erie County (Wolfgang, J.), following a jury trial in which he was convicted of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 265.03(3)). Petitioner, who was sentenced as a second felony offender, is currently serving a prison sentence of 15 years followed by five years post-release supervision.

         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, as relevant here, that (1) the court erred in allowing evidence of prior bad acts; (2) the prosecutor committed misconduct on summation; and (3) defense counsel was ineffective for failing to object to prosecutorial misconduct.

         On July 5, 2013, the Fourth Department unanimously affirmed petitioner's judgment of conviction. See People v. Dupleasis, 112 A.D.3d 1318 (4th Dep't 2013), lv. denied, 21 N.Y.3d 1074.[1]Specifically, the Fourth Department found that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of prior bad acts, but “conclude[d] that the error [was] harmless” because “[petitioner], by his own admission, possessed the loaded firearm, ” and his innocent possession defense was at odds with the trial evidence. Id. at 1063. The court summarily rejected petitioner's prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel arguments, “conclud[ing] that [they did not] warrant[] modification or reversal.” Id.

         Petitioner filed a post-conviction motion to vacate his judgment of conviction pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law (“CPL”) § 440.10, arguing that the evidence was legally insufficient and that the prosecutor committed misconduct. The trial court denied that motion on August 20, 2012, and the Fourth Department denied leave to appeal. Petitioner filed an application for a writ of error coram nobis with the Fourth Department on December 20, 2013, which application was denied on October 2, 2015. See People v. Griggs, 132 A.D.3d 1327 (2015), lv. denied, 26 N.Y.3d 1088.

         The instant petition (doc. 1) contends that (1) the trial court erred in allowing evidence of prior bad acts and (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failure to object to prosecutorial misconduct. 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. Prior Bad Acts

         Petitioner contends that the trial court erred in allowing evidence of prior bad acts in the course of the testimony of petitioner's girlfriend. As discussed above, the Fourth Department held that the admission of the prior bad acts constituted harmless error. Griggs, 108 A.D.3d at 1062. “A decision to admit evidence of a criminal defendant's uncharged crimes or bad acts under [People v. Molineux, 168 N.Y. 264 (1901)] constitutes an evidentiary ruling based on state law.” Jones v. Conway, 2011 WL 1356751, *2 (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 4, 2011) (citing Sierra v. Burge, 2007 WL 4218926, *5 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 30, 2007)). “As such, state court Molineux rulings are generally not cognizable on habeas review.” Id. (citing Roldan v. Artuz, 78 F.Supp. 2d, 260, 276 (S.D.N.Y. 2000)).

         Habeas relief is available for Molineux violations “only if the petitioner demonstrates that the alleged evidentiary error violated a constitutional right and that the error ‘[was] so extremely unfair that its admission violates fundamental conceptions of justice.'” Id. (quoting Dunnigan v. Keane, 137 F.3d 117, 125 (2d Cir. 1998)). ...


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