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Wood v. MacCarone

United States District Court, W.D. New York

July 18, 2017

SCOTT M. WOOD, Petitioner,
ROBERT M. MACCARONE, Chairman and Director of Probation, Respondent.


          MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Scott M. Wood (“petitioner”), proceeding pro se, petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner was convicted by a jury of misdemeanor aggravated driving while intoxicated (N.Y. Veh. and Traff. Law [“VTL”] § 1192(2-a)) and driving while intoxicated (VTL § 1192(3)). Petitioner's judgment of conviction originated from the New York State Town Court, Town of York (Purtell, J.). Petitioner was sentenced to a term of three years probation[1] and a fine of $1, 500, along with an ignition interlock requirement.

         II. Factual Background and Procedural History

         Petitioner filed a direct pro se appeal to Livingston County Court, which reserved judgment pending remission to Town Court for a hearing to determine whether the sheriff's deputy exceeded the allowable level of Fourth Amendment intrusion pursuant to People v. DeBour, 40 N.Y.2d 210 (1976). After the Town Court found that the deputy's actions were lawful, County Court affirmed petitioner's judgment of conviction on July 31, 2013.

         In the decision and order affirming petitioner's conviction, County Court (Wiggins, J.) specifically rejected petitioner's legal sufficiency claim as unpreserved. Alternatively, the court found the claim meritless because the evidence was sufficient to allow the jury to infer from the circumstances that petitioner, who was found seated in the driver's seat of a running vehicle with the vehicle's lights on, intended to drive the vehicle. The court also rejected petitioner's prosecutorial misconduct claim, finding that (1) although the prosecutor arguably committed prosecutorial misconduct in the opening statement when he implied that petitioner could “operate” the vehicle just by sitting in the vehicle and with no accompanying evidence of intent, the trial court corrected the error by advising the jury that nothing said in opening statement was evidence and by issuing a curative instruction from the pattern criminal jury instructions (“CJI”); and (2) the prosecutor's alleged misconduct on summation constituted fair comment on the evidence. Finally, the court found that the trial court did not err in denying petitioner's request to deviate from the standard CJI definition of the element of operation.

         The instant petition alleges four grounds, arguing that (1) petitioner's arrest was the product of an illegal search and seizure; (2) the evidence was legally insufficient to support his conviction; (3) the prosecutor committed misconduct in the opening and closing statements; and (4) the trial court erred in submitting its instructions to the jury, refusing to allow a video to be played by defense counsel, and “barr[ing]” counsel from objecting to the prosecutor's summation.

         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. Fourth Amendment Claim (Ground One)

         Petitioner's Fourth Amendment claim is barred from habeas review by Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465 (1976). “Where the State has provided an opportunity for full and fair litigation of a Fourth Amendment claim, a state prisoner may not be granted habeas corpus relief on the ground that evidence obtained in an unconstitutional search or seizure was introduced at his trial.” Id. at 494 (footnotes omitted). The Second Circuit has noted that Stone requires only that “the state have provided the opportunity to the state prisoner for full and fair litigation of the Fourth Amendment claim.” Gates v. Henderson, 568 F.2d 830, 839 (2d Cir. 1977) (en banc), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1038 (1978). A federal court may undertake habeas review only in one of two instances: (1) “if the state provides no corrective procedures at all to redress Fourth Amendment violations, ” or (2) if “the state provides the process but in fact the defendant is precluded from utilizing it by reason of an unconscionable breakdown in that process. . . .” Id. at 840.

         A petitioner receives a “full and fair opportunity” to litigate his Fourth Amendment claim where the state provides a “‘statutory mechanism' for suppression of evidence tainted by an unlawful search and seizure.” McPhail v. Warden, Attica Corr. Facility, 707 F.2d 67, 69 (2d Cir. 1983). New York State affords defendants the requisite corrective procedures. See CPL § 710.10 et seq.; see also u v. Riley, 975 F.2d 67, 70 n.1 (2d Cir. 1992) (noting that “federal courts have approved New York's procedure for litigating Fourth Amendment claims, embodied in N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 710.10 et seq., as being facially adequate”) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

         Stone bars petitioner's claim that his arrest was unsupported by probable cause (see Edwards v. Phillips, 2007 WL 1834828, *4 (S.D.N.Y. June 26, 2007)). Here, petitioner was provided with the opportunity to fully and fairly adjudicate his Fourth Amendment claims in state court, which County Court ensured by remitting petitioner's case for a suppression hearing on his Fourth Amendment claim prior to ruling on ...

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