Duren v. Lamanna

Decision Date30 January 2020
Docket Number18-CV-7218(JS)
PartiesRONNIE DUREN, Petitioner, v. JAMIE LAMANNA, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York


For Petitioner:

Ronnie Duren, prose


Great Haven Correctional Facility

P.O. Box 4000

Stormville, New York 12582

For Respondent:

Sarah S. Rabinowitz, Esq.

Nassau County District Attorney's Office

262 Old Country Road

Mineola, New York 11501

SEYBERT, District Judge:

Pending before the Court is pro se petitioner Ronnie Duren's ("Petitioner" or "Duren") petition for a writ of habeas corpus ("Petition") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Pet., D.E. 1.) Following a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of New York Penal Law § 125.25, Murder in the Second Degree; two counts of New York Penal Law § 110/125.25, Attempted Murder in the Second Degree; New York Penal Law § 265.03(3), Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree; New York Penal Law § 265.09(1)(a), Criminal Use of a Firearm in the First Degree; two counts of New York Penal Law § 120.10(1), Assault in the First Degree; and New York Penal Law § 110/120.10(1), Attempted Assault in the First Degree. Petitioner raises nine issues: (1) he was subjected to unlawful search and seizure; (2) his statements made to detectives were involuntary and should have been suppressed as the fruit of an illegal arrest; (3) the trial court's Sandoval ruling denied him the right to a fair trial; (4) he was denied a fair trial by virtue of the admission of certain cell phone records; (5) the trial court's circumstantial evidence charge was improper; (6) the prosecutor committed misconduct; (7) the evidence was legally insufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; (8) trial counsel was ineffective; and (9) appellate counsel was ineffective. (Pet., at ECF pp. 5-19.) For the following reasons, the Petition is DENIED in its entirety.

I. The Offense Conduct

At approximately 11:00 p.m. on April 16, 2011, a rainy night, Hayden Forrest ("Forrest") (a/k/a Pete or Hayden Pierre), accompanied by Henry Fowler ("Fowler"), and Aggnon McLeod ("McLeod") (a/k/a AG), drove Fowler's royal blue Nissan Versa ("Versa") into the McDonald's parking lot on Peninsula Boulevard in Nassau County, New York. (Tr. 247.22-251:24.)1 Fowler wasseated in the front passenger seat of the Versa, McLeod was in the backseat, and Forrest was driving. (Tr. 277:10-15.) Upon entering the parking lot, Forrest parked the Versa parallel to a blue Ford Econoline van ("van"), owned by Michael Prophet ("Prophet"). (Tr. 160:10-22; 251:19-24; 516:4.) Forrest exited the Versa and entered the front passenger seat of Prophet's van, and observed Prophet seated in the driver's seat. (Tr. 251:25.)

Forrest then observed Prophet engage in a series of phone calls. (Tr. 277:25.) Almost immediately thereafter, Prophet received a call but did not answer, and then a black Mercedes Benz sedan entered the McDonald's parking lot. (Tr. 410:13-16; 252:7.) Petitioner2 exited the Mercedes Benz and opened the front passenger door to the van, where he came face to face with Forrest, who told him to get in the back. (Tr. 279:3-8.) Petitioner then sat in the rear driver's side seat of Prophet's van, where he engaged in brief dialogue with Prophet and Forrest, then fired one bullet through the driver's seat, striking Prophet in his lower-back. (Tr. 280:6-281:1.)

After the first shot, Forrest opened the passenger door of the van and crawled underneath it. (Tr. 281:8-9.) While under the van, Forrest heard more gunshots. (Tr. 281:7-8.) Upon hearing the first gunshot, McLeod quickly exited the Versa and sprinted towards Peninsula Boulevard. (Tr. 254:5-7.) While attempting to exit his Versa, Fowler was shot. (Tr. 255:8-13.) Fowler proceeded to run across the street to a nearby utility truck for assistance. (Tr. 255:22-25.) Forrest, still under the van, observed Petitioner exit the van and enter a green SUV with two bags in his hands. (Tr. 281:13-17.) After Petitioner drove off, Forrest crawled out from underneath the van and drove himself to the hospital in Fowler's Versa. (Tr. 281:19-20.)

Following multiple 911 calls, Village of Hempstead Police Officer Peter Rees responded to the scene and found Prophet's body on the ground approximately fifteen to twenty feet away from the van. (Tr. 143:21-22.) Shortly thereafter, paramedic Richard Gresser ("Gresser") arrived at the scene, and lifted Prophet's shirt where he observed a bullet wound in the chest area. (Tr. 149:25-150:2.) Gresser then conducted an unsuccessful vital signs assessment of Prophet. (Tr. 149:11-14.)

The Nassau County Medical Examiner's Office performed an autopsy and determined that Prophet's cause of death was a gunshot wound that pierced his lower-back near the fourth lumbar vertebrae, perforated his right common iliac artery and small intestines, andexited next to his umbilicus. (Tr. 312:18-313:2; 319:22-24; 318:11-13.)

Evidence collected at the scene included three shell casings, one bullet, and two cell phones. (Tr. 177:3-4; 174:16-17; 174:21-24; 175:17-19.) Two of the three shell casings were found behind the driver's seat (Tr. 177:6-7), and the third casing was found on the passenger side floor board. (Tr. 177:4.) After the van was processed, one additional casing and one additional projectile were recovered. (Tr. 177:3-12.) The additional casing was located on the rear seat behind the front passenger, where the bottom of the seat meets the seat back. (Tr. 178:18-20.) The additional bullet was found behind the front passenger kick plate. (Tr. 178:23-24.) Notably, a cell phone connected to a charger was recovered from the floor in front of the driver's seat (Tr. 179:11-12), and Sprint Nextel Subscriber records indicated the number was 516-841-7677 and belonged to Prophet (Tr. 388:1-389:3; 516:25-517:8; see also Supp. Hr'g Tr., D.E. 9-1, 7:5-22). The subscriber records also showed that at 11:10 p.m., mere minutes before the shooting, Prophet engaged in a nineteen second phone call with phone number (618) 309-0096 ("(618)"). (Tr. 399:3-7.) Almost immediately thereafter, at 11:11 p.m., that same number attempted to call Prophet back. (Tr. 410:13-16.) Further, during those calls, (618) was pinging cell phone towers within the range of the McDonald's on Peninsula Boulevard in Hempstead, New York. (Tr.484:14-17; 485:15-486:2.) Not only had (618) been the last number in contact with Prophet's phone before his death, but (618) had been in contact with Prophet's phone twelve times that day and had never been in contact with Prophet's phone prior April 16, 2011 when he was killed. (Tr. 518:4-9.) The subscriber records for the (618) phone number indicated that the account holder was "Boost Mobie," indicating it was a pre-paid account. (Tr. 402:21-403:1; 403:8-11.) No subscriber records exist for (618) after April 21, 2011. (Tr. 464:23-465:9.)

During the investigation, the phone number (347) 805-8856 ("(347)") became of interest to law enforcement. No subscriber records for (347) exist before April 27, 2011. (Tr. 419:11-12.) Examination of subscriber records for that number indicated that (347) had been in contact with thirteen of the same numbers as (618). (Tr. 476:19-21.) Notably, one of the phone numbers in common between (618) and (347) belonged to Lillian Duren, Petitioner's mother. (Tr. 443:9.) Further, the (618) and (347) numbers were both in contact with the 9-10 car service on Jamaica Avenue in Brooklyn. (Tr. 524:5-7.) Detective Jeffrey Raymond of the Nassau County Police Department ("NCPD") (Tr. 512:8-13), learned from 9-10 car service that the person using the (347) number was being picked up and dropped off in the same locations as the person who used the (618) number (Tr. 525:2-5).

Another phone number in contact with both (618) and (347) belonged to an individual named Jeffrey Green ("Green"). (Tr. 527:16-19.) Additionally, the person using the (618) number exchanged numerous calls with Green on the date of the murder, including the first call made after the murder. (Tr. 527:20-25.) Detective Raymond interviewed Green and determined that Green and Petitioner were friends. (Tr. 528:14-18.) Green gave a description of Petitioner, and described him as a male black, medium-skinned, muscular build, with several tattoos, including a cross with writing on his right arm. (Supp. Hr'g Tr., 42:2-8.)

Det. Frederick Black of the NCPD Electronics Squad (Tr. 477:10-13), continued to investigate the (347) number and found that it consistently pinged the same cell towers in Brooklyn as the (618) number. (Tr. 491:17-492:5.) Thereafter, via GPS coordinates, police tracked the (347) phone to a residential address in Brooklyn. (Tr. 529:13-22.) After monitoring the Brooklyn address, police observed Petitioner, who matched the description given by Green, entering and exiting said address. (Tr. 493:8-15.)

On June 28, 2011, Petitioner was arrested in his Brooklyn home, at the address where police had tracked the (347) number and transported Petitioner to the NCPD's Homicide Squad. (Tr. 549:15-550:12.) Prior to being given his Miranda warnings, police asked him for pedigree information including name, date of birth, phonenumber, and address. (Tr. 551:15-21.) Petitioner stated that his phone number was (347) 805-8856. (Tr. 552:2-3.) Police then issued Petitioner Miranda warnings and continued questioning him, eliciting, (Supp. Hr'g Tr. 12:12-14:3), in particular, that Petitioner was the owner of the (347) number, and that he had lost the (618) phone.3 (Tr. 563:6-22; Supp. Hr'g Tr. 17:16-19:6.)

II. The Suppression Hearing and Trial

On March 12, 2012, a suppression hearing was held in New York Supreme Court, Nassau County before the Hon. John L. Kase. (See Supp. Hr'g Tr.)

During the suppression hearing, Detective Raymond testified that he interviewed Green on June 9 and 15, 2011. (Supp. Hr'g Tr. 38:22-24; 43:16-19.) During the second interview, Detective Raymond showed Green still photographs taken of Petitioner...

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