United States District Court, S.D. New York
Martin Jordan K. Hummel, Esq. Assistant District Attorney
HONORABLE LORETTA A. PRESKA, U.S.D.J.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
C. FRANCIS IV UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Martin brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Mr. Martin is challenging
his conviction for murder in the second degree in violation
of New York Penal Law § 125.25(1) following a jury trial
in New York Supreme Court, Bronx County. Mr. Martin contends
that: (1) the trial court improperly admitted statements of
non-testifying co-defendants in violation of his Sixth
Amendment right to confrontation under Crawford v.
Washington, 54 U.S. 36 (2004), and (2) the admission of
these statements violated his Sixth Amendment right to
confrontation under Bruton v. United States, 391
U.S. 123 (1968). For the reasons set forth below, I recommend
that the petition be denied.
Littlejohn was murdered on March 18, 2003. On that day, Mr.
Martin, Royan Jackson, Marvin Forrester, and Oneil Reid
approached Nickiesha Harris in 216th Street Park in the
Bronx. (Tr. at 124-27). Ms. Harris is the petitioner's
cousin; she was sitting in the park talking with friends when
the men approached. (Tr. at 124, 126). The petitioner asked
her if she was acquainted with Mr. Littlejohn and if she knew
where he lived. (Tr. at 128). Ms. Harris said she did know
him, and she took Mr. Martin, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Forrester, and
Mr. Reid to Mr. Littlejohn's apartment building at 720
East 216th Street, across the street from the park. (Tr. at
128-30). As they were returning to the park, one of Ms.
Harris' friends called out to the young men, and they
rushed down the block, surrounding Mr. Littlejohn in front of
his house. (Tr. at 129-32). They then fired a number of shots
at Mr. Littlejohn, hitting him multiple times. (Tr. at 133).
Littlejohn was taken to the hospital, but died later that
night of his wounds. (Tr. at 257-60, 395-96). In an interview
with detectives the day after the shooting, the victim's
brother identified the petitioner as one of the shooters (Tr.
at 572-74, 579). The police also interviewed Ms. Harris on
the day of the shooting, and she told them there were three
shooters: Mr. Reid, Mr. Forrester, and a third man she did
not know. (Tr. at 165). When she met with the police again on
April 12, 2003, she identified the Mr. Martin as one of the
shooters. (Tr. at 167-69). After receiving a tip that Mr.
Martin was staying in a nearby hotel, the investigating
officers apprehended and arrested him on April 11, 2003. (Tr.
at 453-55). The officers found him in a hotel room with Ashar
Forrester, the brother of Marvin Forrester. (Tr. at 455,
479). When the officers entered the hotel room, Ashar
Forrester was attempting to hide one of the murder weapons.
(Tr. at 479). Ashar Forrester told the police he thought the
weapon had been used by Marvin Forrester in a murder on March
18, 2003. (Tr. at 479). Mr. Jackson was arrested on December
1, 2005, and Mr. Reid was arrested on January 10, 2006. (Tr.
at 626-28, 636).
Trial, Verdict and Sentencing
Martin, Mr. Jackson, and Mr. Reid were charged with murder in
the second degree and tried together. At trial, the jury heard the
eyewitness testimony of Nickeisha Harris and Tanye Fisher.
Ms. Harris testified about the events of March 18, 2003, as
described above. She stated that she showed the defendants
Mr. Littlejohn's house and watched as they shot and
killed him on 216th Street a few minutes later. (Tr. at
128-33). As she was Mr. Martin's cousin and saw him
multiple times each week, she had no difficulty identifying
him on the day of the shooting or at trial. (Tr. at 126).
Harris' testimony was supported by that of her friend,
Ms. Fisher, who provided a similar account of the events
leading up to the shooting. She described seeing Ms. Harris
talk to four young men, leave the park with two of them, and
return a few minutes later. (Tr. at 287-88). After they
returned, she testified that she saw the same four men leave
the park again a few moments later, pursue Mr. Littlejohn
down 216th Street, surround him, and begin firing. (Tr. at
290-93). However, Ms. Fisher did not identify the four men.
(Tr. at 287).
Reynolds also testified, supplying a potential motive for the
crime. She was Mr. Reid's ex-girlfriend, and she said
that their relationship had recently fallen apart because she
had talked to a man named Miguel, presumably Mr. Littlejohn.
(Tr. at 102-04).
addition to the eyewitness testimony, a New York City Police
Department (“NYPD”) examiner testified that the
lead residue on Mr. Littlejohn's clothing meant that the
shots were fired at very close range. (Tr. at 425). The
doctor who performed the autopsy concluded that the stippling
around the wounds also indicated that the shots were fired
within a few feet of Mr. Littlejohn. (Tr. at 591). The
testimony of these two experts corroborated the eyewitness
accounts of Ms. Harris and Ms. Fisher, who described the
shooting as occurring at very close range. Several other
police officers described the events surrounding the
investigation and arrest of the co-defendants. The doctor who
performed the autopsy testified that the cause of Mr.
Littlejohn's death was gunshot wounds to the head and
torso. (Tr. At 613). Ballistics experts from the NYPD
testified that the guns found on the Forrester brothers were
used in the shooting.
issue in this petition is the admission of statements Mr.
Jackson and Mr. Reid made to the police. Detective Michael
DePaolis, one of the detectives investigating the case,
testified that after being read his Miranda Rights:
[Mr. Jackson] said that he had been hanging out with Marvin,
Elvis and [Mr. Reid] at Evander Childs High School for about
a half hour when they decided to walk up Barnes Avenue
northbound. And when they reached 216th Street, East 216th
Street, Marvin, Elvis and [Mr. Reid] made a left hand turn
going in the direction of White Plains Road, he remained on
Barnes Avenue. Several minutes later he heard some gunshots.
(Tr. at 632).
Mr. DePaolis also testified that Mr. Reid made a written
statement after being arrested and read his Miranda rights:
On March 18th, 2003 at about twelve PM I left school and met
my friends, [Mr. Jackson], Marvin, Elvis. We all went to
216th park, we played around for about twenty minutes. After
about twenty-five minutes we were about to leave the park.
(Tr. at 641).
Reid also made a video statement on January 10, 2006. The
video and transcript were both shown to the jury. The primary
difference between the written and video statements is that
in the latter Mr. Reid added at the end of the statement