Hill v. West

Decision Date25 February 2009
Docket NumberNo. 04-CV-6601-CJS.,04-CV-6601-CJS.
Citation599 F.Supp.2d 371
PartiesMichael J. HILL, Petitioner, v. Calvin E. WEST, Superintendent, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of New York

Michael J. Hill, Pine City, NY, pro se.

Thomas H. Brandt, Niagara County District Attorney's Office, Lockport, NY, for Respondent.

DECISION and ORDER ADOPTING REPORT and RECOMMENDATION

CHARLES J. SIRAGUSA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Michael J. Hill ("Petitioner") filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his March 7, 1990, conviction and sentence in Niagara County Court, State of New York. The Court referred the case to the Honorable Victor E. Bianchini, United States Magistrate Judge, for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(B)(1). On July 24, 2008, Judge Bianchini filed his Report and Recommendation (Docket No. 39), recommending that the petition be denied on its merits.

On July 30, 2008, Petitioner filed objections (Docket No. 40) to the Report and Recommendation. On August 6, 2008, Petitioner filed supplemental objections. For the reasons that follow, the objections are denied, the Report and Recommendation is adopted in its entirety, and this action is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

The underlying facts of Petitioner's case were set forth in the "Background" section of the Report and Recommendation, and are not disputed. Accordingly, the Court will only repeat those facts that are relevant to the instant Decision and Order. On August 25, 1989, in the City of Niagara Falls, Petitioner and his cousin, Shawn Person ("Person"), went to the Holloway Bar to confront Shawn Thompson ("Thompson"). Person was carrying a loaded shotgun belonging to Petitioner, which Petitioner had handed to him. Person shot Thompson with the shotgun, and Thompson died a few days later. Immediately after the shooting, Person and/or Petitioner hid the shotgun. The next day, Person and Petitioner were arrested. As part of the police investigation into the shooting, officers contacted Person's brother, Myron Johns ("Johns"), and asked him to talk to Person and find out the location of the weapon. Johns spoke to Person, and then told officers the location of the shotgun. A police report prepared on September 14, 1989, states, in relevant part: "On 9/12/89 Myron Johns brother of Person called and stated that his brother had told him where the gun was and that he may be able to get it back. Information be [sic] that Person had said the shooting was accidental and that Myron was told where the gun was at." (Niagara County Supplementary Report dated September 14, 1989). Officers later recovered the shotgun in the location described by Person.

On September 25, 1989, the Niagara County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner and Person for Murder in the Second Degree in violation of New York Penal Law ("Penal Law") sections 125.25(1) and 20.00, Murder in the Second Degree in violation of Penal Law sections 125.25(3) and 20.00, Attempted Robbery in the First Degree in violation of Penal Law sections 160.15, 110.00 and 20.00, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree in violation of Penal Law sections 265.03 and 20.00, and Criminal Use of a Firearm in the First Degree in violation of Penal Law sections 265.09 and 20.00.

On February 5, 1990, Person accepted a plea bargain and pled guilty to one count of Manslaughter in the First Degree, in full satisfaction of the charges against him. Notably, during his plea allocution before the Honorable Charles J. Hannigan, County Court Judge, Person stated that he intentionally shot Thompson. More specifically, Person stated that he and Petitioner went to the Holloway Bar to confront Thompson, because Thompson owed Petitioner payment for drugs. Person stated that Petitioner brought along a shotgun, concealed in a jacket, which he handed to Person when they reached the location where Thompson was standing. Person's plea continued as follows:

THE COURT: What happens next?

THE DEFENDANT: Mike [Petitioner] hands me the shotgun, Thompson comes from around the car, he has other people with him coming around the car, I blast him.

THE COURT: Where did you shoot him?

THE DEFENDANT: I can't remember, somewhere in the chest.

THE COURT: How many times did you shoot him?

THE DEFENDANT: Once.

THE COURT: Why did you shoot him?

THE DEFENDANT: Why did I shoot him? Because he was a drug dealer.

THE COURT: He's a drug dealer?

THE DEFENDANT: Owed money.

THE COURT: Because he owed money to a drug dealer?

THE DEFENDANT: What's that?

THE COURT: Because he owed money to a drug dealer?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

THE COURT: That's why you shot him?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

THE COURT: And the drug dealer's your friend, right?

THE DEFENDANT: He's my cousin.

THE COURT: Why didn't you let him shoot him? I mean, it's his drug deal, it wasn't yours, was it?

THE DEFENDANT: No.

THE COURT: Well, why didn't you say, hey, Michael, if anybody's going to shoot this guy, you shoot him?

THE DEFENDANT: Because he gave me the gun.

THE COURT: Well, I guess then you got to shoot him, somebody hands you a gun, right?

THE DEFENDANT: I guess if that's the circumstances.

(Person Plea Transcript at pp. 9-10).

On February 8, 1990, Petitioner also accepted a plea offer, and pled guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree, in full satisfaction of the charges against him. Prior to the plea, Judge Hannigan advised Plaintiff that pursuant to the plea, he could "be sentenced to a state prison for a minimum of eight and a third and a maximum of 25 years[,]" and Plaintiff stated that he understood the sentence range. (Hill Plea Transcript at 3). During the plea allocution, Petitioner initially stated that he had given the gun to Person earlier in the day, because Person "had a problem with some kids and he wanted to buy my gun." Petitioner stated that he was at the Holloway Bar when Person arrived with the gun and shot Thompson. Petitioner claimed that he was "just there" when the shooting occurred, and Judge Hannigan explained that "just being there" was not a crime. Judge Hannigan then explained that, during Person's plea, he had stated that he had killed Thompson for Petitioner:

THE COURT: He [Persons] says he killed him for you?

THE DEFENDANT: He killed him for me?

THE COURT: He says he killed him because the guy owed you money and he wasn't going to pay you and you asked him for the money and he said no, I'm not going to give it to you.

(Petitioner's Plea Transcript at p. 7). Petitioner then admitted his involvement in the crime.

In that regard, although Petitioner initially stated that Person shot Thompson because Thompson had threatened Petitioner's life, he ultimately admitted that the shooting had been over a drug debt owed to him:

THE DEFENDANT: He killed him for me, this is true, but he didn't kill the guy because he owed me money. He killed the kid because the kid, he was threatening my life. He was telling me that if I wasn't going to work for him or something like that. [sic] I wasn't going to work for no black at all. [sic] Hit me with a car once. I got hit by a car by them once because I wouldn't sell drugs for him.

* * *

THE COURT: Your cousin says he [Thompson] owed you $450.00 for you supplying him drugs?

THE DEFENDANT: No, the kid didn't owe me the money. He wanted me to sell for him, wanted to give me stuff and I wouldn't take it. He said if I wouldn't take it, I wouldn't work on that block period.

THE COURT: Tell me, I've been told that you want to ple[a]d guilty to manslaughter in the first degree. Tell me how you committed manslaughter in the first degree?

THE DEFENDANT: I did it. I knew Shawn was going to do it. Shawn told me he was going to put a bullet in his head and he did it and I was there. THE COURT: You knew he was going to kill him?

THE DEFENDANT: That's right.

THE COURT: Knowing that you gave him the weapon to do it with?

THE DEFENDANT: I didn't think he was going to go through with it but he did.

THE COURT: Why did you give him the weapon if you didn't think he was going to do it?

THE DEFENDANT: Just to see if he was going to be a man of his word.

THE COURT: Because he said he was going to kill him? Thompson? That his name, Thompson?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, yes.

THE COURT: He said he was going to kill him?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, he did.

* * *

THE COURT: And you say that Thompson was the drug dealer and wanted you to sell for him and your cousin telling, you, that you're the drug dealer and Thompson sold for you and owed you $450.00, the only connection between you and Thompson is dealing crack, right? [sic]

THE DEFENDANT: That's right.

THE COURT: Your cousin doesn't deal crack, is that right?

THE DEFENDANT: No, he's like my bodyguard.

THE COURT: He's your bodyguard?

THE DEFENDANT: That's right.

THE COURT: That's why you give him the gun?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

* * *

THE COURT: Did you tell him he was your bodyguard?

THE DEFENDANT: It was established before I got out of jail the first time, that was established.

THE COURT: You established this with your cousin that he was your bodyguard?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, we did.

THE COURT: Why would he be your bodyguard? You're bigger than he is. Why do you have him as your bodyguard?

THE DEFENDANT: Because he was ruthless, that's why.

* * *

THE COURT: You're bigger than he is?

THE DEFENDANT: But that doesn't—that's right. I'm getting all the money, though.

THE COURT: What?

THE DEFENDANT: That was the reason, getting all the money now.

THE COURT: You were getting the money?

THE DEFENDANT: Anybody that owed him and didn't pay he was going to get the rest of it.

THE COURT: You were getting all the money and he was what, collecting it? THE DEFENDANT: Yeah, he was collecting it.

THE COURT: Going to collect from Thompson?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, he was.

THE COURT: $450.00?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, he was.

(Plea Transcript at pp. 7-11).

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