Brumfield v. Stinson

Citation297 F.Supp.2d 607
Decision Date04 December 2003
Docket NumberNo. 98-CV-0233E(F).,98-CV-0233E(F).
PartiesOma BRUMFIELD, Petitioner, v. James STINSON, Superintendent, Green Haven Correctional Facility, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of New York
297 F.Supp.2d 607
Oma BRUMFIELD, Petitioner,
James STINSON, Superintendent, Green Haven Correctional Facility, Respondent.
No. 98-CV-0233E(F).
United States District Court, W.D. New York.
December 4, 2003.

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Oma Brumfield, Comstock, NY, Pro se.

Howard R. Relin, District Attorney, Monroe County (Wendy Evans Lehman, Assistant District Attorney, of Counsel), Rochester, NY, for Respondent.


ELFVIN, Senior District Judge.

The Honorable Leslie G. Foschio, a Magistrate Judge in this judicial district, having conducted all proceedings necessary to determine the merits of the factual and legal issues presented by this action, pursuant to this Court's referral under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and having on November 12, 2003 filed his Report and Recommendation concerning such and no objection thereto having been made, it is hereby

ORDERED that Judge Foschio's Report and Recommendation is confirmed in its entirety, that the Petition shall be dismissed, that this Court finds there is no substantial question presented for appellate review, a certificate of appealability should not issue and this case shall be closed.


FOSCHIO, United States District Judge.


Petitioner Oma Brumfield, acting pro se, commenced this action on April 7, 1998, requesting habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The matter was referred to the undersigned by the Honorable John T. Elfvin on July 10, 1998, for all proceedings necessary to reach a determination in this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(b). (Docket Entry Item No. 7).


In August of 1995, Petitioner ("Brumfield") was convicted of Aggravated Assault upon a Police Officer, Robbery in the First Degree, and Grand Larceny in the Third Degree. Brumfield contends that his conviction should be vacated for the following six reasons: (1) the jury's verdict on aggravated assault was against the weight of the evidence, (2) the trial court erred by refusing to redact a prejudicial sentence from a written statement Brumfield made, (3) the trial court made an erroneous Sandoval ruling, (4) the trial court erred by excusing a sworn juror over Brumfield's objection, (5) the cumulative effect of the trial court's errors, and (6) the trial judge's sentence was harsh and excessive. (Docket Entry Item No. 1).


On the afternoon of December 16, 1994, while on routine patrol, Rochester Police Sergeant James Strassner received a radio

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dispatch regarding a bank robbery at the Marine Midland Bank on 1500 Hudson Avenue in Rochester, New York. (T. at 487-88).2 The dispatch contained a description of the suspected robber and the direction in which the suspect was traveling from the bank. (T. at 490, 494-95). Sergeant Strassner, who was nearby, searched the surrounding area. (T. at 494-96). Approximately twelve blocks away from the bank, Sergeant Strassner noticed Brumfield who matched the suspect's description. (T. at 496).

Sergeant Strassner stopped his vehicle, got out, and instructed Brumfield to stop so that he could speak with him. (T. at 498). Brumfield kept walking and said "leave me alone." (T. at 499, 501). Sergeant Strassner pursued Brumfield and observed a plastic bag with dye on it under Brumfield's coat. (T. at 501). As the bag matched the description of the bag taken from the bank, Sergeant Strassner grabbed Brumfield by his biceps and a struggle ensued. (T. at 501-02). During the course of the struggle, Sergeant Strassner was shot in the abdomen. (T. at 503). Sergeant Strassner fired two shots at Brumfield as Brumfield fled the scene. (T. at 505). Brumfield left his coat and the plastic bag of money behind and was soon apprehended. (T. at 763, 805, 839-40). Other officers came to Sergeant Strassner's aid a few minutes later, (T. at 522, 761-62, 772, 784-85), and drove Sergeant Strassner to the Rochester Hospital where he spent approximately twenty-five days recovering from his gunshot wound, including two weeks in the intensive care unit. (T. at 524).

Following these events, Brumfield provided statements to the police in which he admitted that he was involved in the bank robbery. (T. at 1062, 1071). Brumfield stated that when Sergeant Strassner approached him, he resisted because he "didn't want to go back to jail because [he] had just got out." (T. at 1063-65). Brumfield's statements were found to be admissible by the trial court following a Wade/Huntley3 hearing. (Wade/Huntley Hearing at 1-413; T. at 1065).

On December 23, 1994, Brumfield was indicted by a Monroe County Grand Jury on one count of Attempted Murder in the First Degree, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law, § 110.00 and § 125.27(1)(a)(i) (McKinney 1998)4; one count of Aggravated Assault upon a Police Officer, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law, § 120.11; one count of Robbery in the First Degree, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law, § 160.15(4); and one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law, § 155.35.

Brumfield pled not guilty to the charges in the Indictment and a jury trial was conducted between August 21 and August 31, 1995 before Monroe County Court Judge John Connell. At trial, Brumfield's defense to the charges of Aggravated Assault and Attempted Murder was that he lacked the requisite intent to commit those crimes. Brumfield offered no defense to the bank robbery charges.

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On August 31, 1995, the jury found Brumfield guilty of the Aggravated Assault, Robbery in the First Degree, and Grand Larceny in the Third Degree charges, and not guilty of Attempted Murder in the First Degree. (T. at 1430-31). On October 5, 1995, Brumfield was sentenced to 12½ to 25 years on the Aggravated Assault count to run consecutively to a sentence of 12½ to 25 years on Brumfield's Robbery in the First Degree conviction. (S. at 22-23).5 Those sentences would run concurrently with a sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years for Grand Larceny in the Third Degree. (S. at 23).

Following a timely appeal to the Appellate Division, New York Supreme Court, Fourth Department, Brumfield's conviction was unanimously affirmed. People v. Brumfield, 236 A.D.2d 839, 654 N.Y.S.2d 74 (4th Dep't 1997)(Memorandum Decision).6 The Appellate Division found that Brumfield's argument that his conviction was against the weight of the evidence was without merit. Brumfield, 654 N.Y.S.2d at 74. Further, the court rejected Brumfield's argument that a portion of his statement should have been redacted. Id. The court held that the "statement was admissible to show defendant's motive and intent, and its probative value outweighed its prejudicial effect." Id. The court also concluded that the trial court's Sandoval ruling permitting the prosecutor to cross examine Brumfield about a prior robbery conviction "was not an abuse of discretion." Id. Lastly, the court held that Brumfield's remaining contentions were also without merit. Id.

Brumfield sought leave to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals. Leave was denied on April 7, 1997. People v. Brumfield, 89 N.Y.2d 1032, 659 N.Y.S.2d 863, 681 N.E.2d 1310 (1997).


As noted, the Petition was filed on April 7, 1998. Review of federal habeas corpus petitions filed by state prisoners on or after April 24, 1996 is governed by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") of 1996. 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

I. Timeliness of the Petition

AEDPA provides a one-year statute of limitations for the filing of habeas petitions. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). The limitations period, where petitioner is in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court, runs from the latest of four dates. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A-D). In this case, the latest of the four dates is "the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review." 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). The one-year period of limitations is tolled for periods of time during which a properly filed application for state post-conviction relief is pending. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2); Bennett v. Artuz, 199 F.3d 116, 118-19 (2d Cir.1999).

The court finds the Petition timely. Brumfield's conviction became final on July 6, 1997, i.e., 90 days after the New York Court of Appeals denied Brumfield's request for leave to appeal during which Brumfield could seek direct review by filing a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. The Clerk's office Docket Sheet notes that the Petition was filed on April 7, 1998, within AEDPA's one-year filing period.

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II. Exhaustion/Procedural Bar

In reviewing habeas petitions, federal courts do not function as appellate courts to review matters within the jurisdiction of the state, or to review rulings and decisions of state trial and appellate courts; rather, the court determines whether the proceedings in the state court amounted to a violation of federal constitutional rights. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 729, 111 S.Ct. 2546, 115 L.Ed.2d 640 (1991). Federal review of a state court conviction is limited to errors of federal constitutional magnitude that denied a criminal defendant the right to a fundamentally fair trial. Cupp v. Naughten, 414 U.S. 141, 146, 94 S.Ct. 396, 38 L.Ed.2d 368 (1973). A state prisoner applying for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing by the federal court, but the granting of a hearing is within the discretion of the federal district court. Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes, 504 U.S. 1, 4-5, 112 S.Ct. 1715, 118 L.Ed.2d 318 (1992), citing Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 83 S.Ct. 745, 9 L.Ed.2d 770 (1963); Pagan v. Keane, 984 F.2d 61, 63 (2d Cir. 1993). The state court's determination as to evidentiary matters is presumed to be correct unless one of the specified conditions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e), formerly 2254(d), is found to exist or unless the federal habeas...

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