United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION AND ORDER
G. KOELTL, District Judge
petitioner, Charles Santana, brings this petition for a writ
of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On June
25, 2010, following a joint trial at which the
petitioner's brother was also tried, the petitioner was
found guilty by a Bronx County jury of one count of
first-degree manslaughter but acquitted of second-degree
murder. Thereafter, the petitioner was sentenced as a
second-felony offender to twenty years' imprisonment with
five years' post-release supervision.
petition, the petitioner argues that he was denied effective
assistance of trial and appellate counsel in violation of his
rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. For the
reasons explained below, the petition for a writ of habeas
corpus is denied.
record reflects the following relevant facts.
approximately 2:15 a.m. on New Year's Day in 2008,
Tiffany McClinton joined her cousin Kenneth McClinton at a
party. Tr. 274-75. Kenneth McClinton, who had been drinking
alcohol and smoking marijuana, left the party about five
minutes after Tiffany arrived. Tr. 275, 328-29.
after he left the party, Kenneth McClinton went to his
mother's house, where he met Donisha Riggins. Tr. 374,
390. Just after they left the home, Kenneth McClinton pulled
out a baseball bat that he had hidden in his pants. Tr. 391.
Kenneth and Ms. Riggins then met up with Anthony McClinton,
one of Kenneth McClinton's cousins. Tr. 330, 347. The
three of them went to an apartment building where the
petitioner and his brother, Alex Santana, lived with their
mother, stepfather, and younger brother. Tr. 393. Mileni
Fernandez, the Santanas' mother, told the three from her
window that the brothers were not there, and the McClintons
and Ms. Riggins left. Tr. 393. The trio soon ran into the
Santana brothers, who were on their way back to their
mother's apartment. Tr. 393-94. Kenneth McClinton asked
the Santanas why they were always bothering him, and that
confrontation precipitated a massive street brawl involving
thirty to forty people. Tr. 379, 394-97.
the fight that broke out, Kenneth McClinton swung the bat at
petitioner, and Alex Santana fought with a number of other
people nearby. Tr. 357-58. Ms. Fernandez and Virgilio Ruiz,
the stepfather of Alex and the petitioner, as well as Ray
Sanchez, entered the fray as well. Tr. 357-59. According to
Tiffany McClinton, a group was trying to drag another
McClinton cousin into a nearby building while Ms. Fernandez
was hitting him. Tr. 283-85. Tiffany McClinton yelled for
help, and Kenneth McClinton ran over and struck Ms. Fernandez
in the head with his baseball bat. Tr. 285, 468. The Santana
brothers came to their mother's aid and helped her back
into their apartment building. Tr. 286.
melee ended, the Santana brothers, along with Ms. Fernandez,
Virgilio Ruiz, and Ray Sanchez, reemerged from their
apartment building. Tr. 28 6. Someone shouted that the
Santanas had a gun, and people still on the street began to
scatter. Tr. 287. Although none of them was in fact carrying
a gun, Alex was armed with two knives, and the petitioner and
Ray Sanchez were each carrying a knife. Video 31 at 3:15.42;
Video 40 at 2:43.40, 2:43.45.
McClinton then ran away from the Santanas' group around
the corner of Walton Avenue and 183rd Street. Tr. 290. The
Santanas pursued Mr. McClinton and eventually caught up to
him. Tr. 290.
McClinton, who had been present on the outskirts of the
melee, testified that she then ran around the corner at
Walton Avenue as well. Tr. 290. Tiffany McClinton testified
that, from across the street, she saw Ray Sanchez and the
petitioner holding Kenneth McClinton up by his arms so that
he seemed to have surrendered. Tr. 291-92. Tiffany McClinton
testified that Alex, standing in front of Kenneth McClinton,
then stabbed Kenneth in the chest. Tr. 292. The petitioner
then allegedly stabbed Kenneth in the side. Tr. 292. Tiffany
McClinton testified that she then turned away, and when she
looked back, the Santanas and Ray Sanchez were running back
to their apartment building. Tr. 293.
Riggins had run away from the fight fleeing southbound on
Walton Avenue after someone yelled that the Santanas had a
gun. Tr. 383. Donisha Riggins then walked back in the
direction that Kenneth McClinton had run and came upon the
scene of the stabbing. Tr. 384. Donisha Riggins testified
that Alex Santana and the petitioner were leaning on two
separate parked cars while Kenneth McClinton lay on the
ground trying to catch his breath. Tr. 385. Donisha Riggins
then shouted, "[W]hy did you all do that? It wasn't
even that serious, " to which Alex replied,
"Don't move . . . before I stab you." Tr.
385-86. Donisha Riggins testified that Alex Santana then
stabbed Kenneth McClinton in the heart. Tr. 386. Donisha
Riggins stayed with Kenneth McClinton and Tiffany McClinton
until the police and an ambulance arrived. Tr. 387. Donisha
Riggins did not testify that she saw the petitioner stab
a police surveillance video system was monitoring the area at
the time, the stabbing itself was not within the field of
view. Tr. 4 45. The surveillance system did capture the
following events which preceded the stabbing. Tr. 445-46.
Santana family - including Charles, Alex, Mileni, and
Virgilio - entered their apartment building at 2270 Walton
Avenue. Video 4 0 at 2:11.55; Video 41 at 2:12.56. Kenneth
McClinton, who was carrying a baseball bat, and two of his
associates - presumably Tiffany McClinton and Anthony
McClinton, see Tr. 391 - walked up to the front of
2270 Walton Avenue and spoke with someone on the second floor
of the building, presumably Mileni Fernandez, see
Tr. 393. Video 40 at 2:38.20. The group left shortly after
speaking to Mileni Fernandez. Video 40 at 2:39.44.
outbreak of the initial melee is the next scene visible on
the surveillance video. Video 40 at 2:40.38. Kenneth
McClinton struck Mileni Fernandez in the head with a baseball
bat. Video 40 at 2:40.44. Virgilio Ruiz wielded a hammer.
Video 40 at 2:41.38. The petitioner' and Alex Santana
attacked a member of the McClinton group. Video 40 at
2:41.21. Eventually the initial melee broke up, and part of
the McClinton group attempted to follow the Santana group
into the entrance of the apartment building. Video 40 at
surveillance in the entrance of the apartment building showed
Alex Santana and Mileni Fernandez run out of what appears to
be a stairwell door and chase after the McClinton group
shortly after they had entered the apartment building. Video
41 at 2:43.32; Video 40 at 2:43.40. The petitioner followed
them with a knife in his right hand. Video 40 at 2:43.40.
Virgilio Ruiz and a man in a grey sweatshirt carrying a knife
in his right hand -- later identified as Ray Sanchez -- can
be seen following the petitioner shortly after. Video 40 at
surveillance camera on the corner of Walton Avenue and 183rd
Street shows Alex Santana chasing after a group of people
with a knife in each hand. Video 31 at 3:15.42. The
petitioner can be seen following him shortly afterward,
carrying one knife. Video 31 at 3:15.46. Mileni Fernandez and
Virgilio Ruiz followed both of them. Video 31 at
3:15.49-3:15.56. Virgilio Ruiz was carrying a hammer. Video
31 at 3:15.55. Ray Sanchez followed closely behind the
Santana family. Video 31 at 3:16.00.
remaining video surveillance apparently captures what
occurred following the stabbing. Surveillance footage from
outside the Santanas' apartment building shows the group
returning after having run around the corner of 183rd Street,
where the stabbing apparently occurred. Video 40 at
2:44.22-2:44.58. Video from an elevator in the apartment
building shows the Santana group returning to their apartment
shortly thereafter. Video 41 at 2:45.12. Alex Santana and the
petitioner entered the elevator with their mother. Video 41
at 2:45.17. The petitioner was wearing a long-sleeved beige
shirt under a darker colored vest, and Alex was wearing a
green t-shirt. Video 41 at 2:45.17. The petitioner had blood
on his hands, and Mileni Fernandez was bleeding from her
head. Video 41 at 2:45.17. Alex also had a bloodstain on his
hand. Video 41 at 2:45.56. The petitioner can be seen briefly
holding a knife and then dropping it on the floor. Video 41
at 2:45.19-2:45.20. The petitioner held his mother''s
head in his hands during most of the elevator ride. Video 41
at 2:45.17-2:45.56. As the group exited the elevator, Alex
bent down briefly over the narrow space between the floor and
the elevator. Video 41 at 2:45.59-2:46.00.
began to arrive on the scene shortly after the Santanas
reentered their apartment building. Video 40 at 2:46.49. The
stabbing itself does not appear in any of the surveillance
footage. Tr. 445.
Alejandro Ponce was on plainclothes duty in the 46th Precinct
the night of New Year's Eve 2007 and into New Year's
Day 2008. Tr. 191-92. Officer Ponce was with Sergeant Patrick
Hennessy and Officer Joe White. Tr. 71, 192. The officers,
who were on patrol, eventually responded to a "radio
run(]" of shots fired near 183rd Street and Walton
Avenue. Tr. 194. When they arrived, the officers saw a large
group of people standing around the corner as if "there
had just been an altercation or some sort of fight." Tr.
194. Officer Ponce recognized Kenneth McClinton lying in the
street, conscious but unable to speak. Tr. 195. Mr. McClinton
was taken to Saint Barnabas Hospital, where he was pronounced
dead. Tr. 50-51.
after the officers arrived on the scene, Tiffany McClinton
and another young woman approached Officer Ponce in order to
identify Ray Sanchez as one of the perpetrators of Kenneth
McClinton's homicide. Tr. 196-97, 295-97. Officer Ponce
apprehended Ray Sanchez. Tr. 198. The two women, joined by a
third, also pointed to where Alex and the petitioner were
standing near an ambulance tending to their mother's head
wounds. Tr. 199-200. Officer Ponce then apprehended Alex
Santana and the petitioner. Tr. 203. Officer Ponce vouchered
for evidence a baseball bat and a number of knives that were
found at the crime scene. Tr. 201, 207, 432.
Gerald Heanue was the detective on duty assigned to handle
the McClinton homicide. Tr. 426, 428. At the time he was
taken into custody, the petitioner was wearing a long-sleeved
white or beige hooded sweatshirt with blue jeans and white
sneakers. Tr. 434-35. Detective Heanue did not observe any
blood on the petitioner's clothing. Tr. 434-35. Detective
Heanue vouchered both the petitioner's and Alex
Santana's clothing for evidence. Tr. 435, 439.
Heanue spoke with Tiffany McClinton later that night. Tr.
462. At that time. Tiffany McClinton did not tell Detective
Heanue that the petitioner had stabbed Kenneth McClinton, and
did not mention witnessing the stabbing in a written
statement she provided to police. Tr. 463, 465.
the course of Detective Heanue's cross-examination at
trial, Alex Santana's counsel, Robert Laureano, elicited
testimony regarding Ray Sanchez's arrest, booking, and
eventual release. Tr. 472-75. Mr. Laureano apparently hoped
to suggest to the jury that the police released a person who
should have been considered a suspect. Tr. 473-74. The
prosecution objected to certain of the questions on relevance
grounds. Tr. 472-73. At a sidebar, the court instructed that
Mr. Laureano was free to elicit that Ray Sanchez had been
arrested and released, but that if Mr. Laureano inquired into
why Sanchez was released, the door would then be opened to
testimony regarding Sanchez's identification of the
petitioner and Alex Santana as the perpetrators. Tr. 473-74.
The petitioner's counsel, Fred Bittlingmaier, did not
object to Mr. Laureano's cross-examination, and did not
say anything during the sidebar. Tr. 472-75. Detective Heanue
went on to testify that Ray Sanchez was released from custody
at the direction of the Bronx District Attorney's Office.
Tr. 475. Mr. Laureano then questioned Detective Heanue about
Fernando Valentine, who had also been arrested and
subsequently released, and a statement Mr. Valentine made to
the police while in custody about the fact that Ray Sanchez
had a knife. Tr. 480-81. No. party objected to this line of
questioning. Tr. 480-81.
redirect, the prosecutor elicited from Detective Heanue that
"there was no evidence that Ray Sanchez had ever stabbed
anyone in connection with" the McClinton homicide. Tr.
48 9. He also questioned Detective Heanue about the witness
statement Mr. Valentine made while in police custody,
including eliciting that Mr. Valentine had stated that Ray
Sanchez, Alex Santana, and the petitioner had all carried
knives to the scene of the crime. Tr. 490-91. Mr.
Bittlingmaier and Mr. Laureano both objected to the
prosecutor's question regarding whether Mr. Valentine had
told Detective Heanue that anyone other than Ray Sanchez had
had a knife, and the trial judge overruled those objections.
prosecutor next attempted to ask Detective Heanue whether
Fernando Valentine gave Detective Heanue "any
information about in fact who did stab" Kenneth
McClinton. Tr. 4 91. Mr. Bittlingmaier and Mr. Laureano both
immediately objected on hearsay grounds. Tr. 4 91. At a
lengthy sidebar, the prosecutor argued that the question was
proper because Mr. Laureano opened the door to Detective
Heanue's explanation of the police investigation by
asking him whether Fernando Valentine stated that Ray Sanchez
had a knife. Tr. 492-93. In response, Mr. Bittlingmaier noted
that his own client was now "in an untenable
position" because Mr. Laureano opened the door to
testimony unfavorable to the petitioner. Tr. 493-94. The
court noted that Mr. Bittlingmaier was present and said
nothing at the sidebar when the court and the prosecutor
pointed out that Mr. Laureano's cross-examination would
"open the door" to testimony about why Ray Sanchez
was released from custody. Tr. 496. Nonetheless, the court
directed the prosecutor to restrict his question to whether
Fernando Valentine had indicated that Ray Sanchez did not
stab anyone. Tr. 496-97. Detective Heanue testified that it
was clear to him after speaking with Fernando Valentine that
Ray Sanchez did not stab Kenneth McClinton. Tr. 497.
Monica Smiddy, a medical examiner in New York City's
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ("OCME"),
performed an autopsy on Kenneth McClinton and testified
regarding the cause of death. Tr. 512, 516. She testified
that Kenneth McClinton received three stab wounds to his
chest. Tr. 520. One stab wound near Mr. McClinton's
clavicle perforated the upper lobe of his right lung. Tr.
524. A second stab wound perforated the lower lobe of the
right lung and the liver. Tr. 531. The third stab wound
perforated the lower lobe of the left lung, the pericardial
sac, the lower border of the heart, and the abdominal aorta.
Tr. 533. These three stab wounds resulted in Kenneth
McClinton losing approximately half of his blood volume. Tr.
534. Dr. Smiddy testified that any one of the two stab wounds
to the lungs would have been fatal within seconds to minutes
if not treated very quickly, and the stab wound to the heart
would have been fatal in seconds. Tr. 536-37. Dr. Smiddy also
testified that the wounds to the lungs would have made it
close to impossible to breathe. Tr. 536. Dr. Smiddy testified
that it was "unlikely" that the same knife produced
all three stab wounds. Tr. 542-43.
Nori, a forensic scientist and senior supervisor with the
OCME, testified regarding the DNA evidence gathered by
police. Tr. 572-73.
OCME received and tested clothing from Alex Santana and the
petitioner along with a baseball bat and eight knives
recovered from in and around the crime scene. Tr. 57 9. The
petitioner's clothing did not contain any DNA from
Kenneth McClinton. Tr. 583. Two bloodstains on Alex's
t-shirt and a bloodstain on his shoes tested positive for
Kenneth McClinton's DNA, and Kenneth's DNA was
contained in a mixture of DNA found on Alex's jeans. Tr.
baseball bat contained a bloodstain that matched Mileni
Fernandez's DNA. Tr. 582-8 3. Kenneth McClinton's DNA
was found on a bloodstain on a knife with a bent blade. Tr.
589-90. The handle of that same knife contained "touch
DNA" - DNA deposited on objects from skin cells - in
minor amounts from Alex and in major amounts from the
petitioner. Tr. 590, 593. The OCME identified the petitioner
as a contributor of touch DNA to a second knife handle, and
he could not be excluded as a provider of touch DNA to two
other knife handles. Tr. 599-600. Ms. Nori acknowledged that
there is no way to tell when touch DNA, or any kind of DNA,
is left on an object. Tr. 598.
OCME also tested a bloodstain on the shirt Alex Santana was
wearing the night of the murder, and that stain tested
positive for Kenneth McClinton's DNA. Tr. 585-88. One of
the bloodstains was deposited on the shirt in a
"transfer-like pattern, " which Ms. Nori testified
was evidence that the blood was "rubb[ed] or
transfer[ed] from [one] item to another item." Tr.
620-21. The prosecution argued to the jury that the
petitioner wiped the blade of the knife on Alex Santana's
t-shirt in the elevator after the stabbing. Tr. 847-48.
Kenneth McClinton's DNA was not found on any clothing
collected from the petitioner. Tr. 583.
Nori did not personally conduct any examination of the
t-shirt that Alex Santana had been wearing or the knife with
the bent blade that contained DNA from both Kenneth McClinton
and the petitioner. Tr. 638, 643, 645. The record is silent
as to whether she conducted testing of any of the other
physical evidence submitted to OCME. Ms. Nori testified that
OCME works on a rotation basis whereby analysts are assigned
to different tasks on different weeks. Tr. 644. All analysts
who do DNA testing have the same training and credentials as
Ms. Nori, and supervisors are always present while analysts
conduct these tests. Tr. 644-45.
petitioner was tried on charges of murder in the second
degree and manslaughter in the first degree. He was acquitted
of the murder charge and convicted of first-degree
manslaughter, and was sentenced as a second-felony offender
to twenty years' ...