Jones v. West

Decision Date16 February 2007
Docket NumberNo. 03-CV-6107(VEB).,03-CV-6107(VEB).
Citation473 F.Supp.2d 390
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of New York
PartiesWendyll JONES, Petitioner, v. Calvin WEST, Respondent.

Wendyll Jones, Attica, NY, pro se.

Loretta S. Courtney, Monroe County District Attorney's Office, Rochester, NY, for Respondent.


BIANCHINI, United States Magistrate Judge.


Petitioner, Wendyll Jones ("Jones"), filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his conviction following a jury trial on April 23, 1998, in New York State Supreme Court (Monroe County) on four counts of robbery in the second degree. Jones was sentenced to a determinate term of fifteen years in prison and is currently in custody. The parties have consented to disposition of this matter by the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).


The conviction at issue here stems from Jones' alleged involvement in the robbery of Constance Horton ("Horton") and Corban Rodman ("Rodman") on June 25, 1996. At about 11:15 p.m., Horton and Rodman were robbed at gun-point as they were getting into Horton's car after purchasing dinner at Subway restaurant on Monroe Avenue in the City of Rochester. Prior to arriving at Subway, Horton had picked up Rodman from his job at the Delta Sonic Car Wash. Horton and Rodman paid for their food with a twenty-dollar bill, and received seven dollars in change (a five-dollar bill and two one-dollar bills). After they purchased their food, Horton and Rodman returned to Horton's vehicle which was parked in the parking lot behind subway. T.29-32, 59-60, 89-92.1

As Horton was unlocking the driver's-side door, she noticed a man and a woman approaching them from Monroe Avenue, but she thought nothing of it. Horton opened the door and got in the car. Rodman was about to get into the car on the passenger's side when a man put a gun to Rodman's head and demanded money. T.32, 92, 169. The woman also approached them but stayed somewhat behind the man who was demanding money from Rodman. T.169. Horton identified Jones in court as the who had approached them, and said that he was about 5'10" or 5'11"-tall; wearing a brown flannel shirt, a zipped-up sweatshirt with a hood, and dark pants; and having a goatee and mustache. T.33. According to Horton and Rodman, the gun used by the robber was unique and had an "old-fashioned" look to it.

Horton passed the change she had just received at Subway over to Rodman; Jones grabbed it out of Rodman's hand. Jones then said, "That is not all, give me the rest of the money." T.37. Rodman handed the submarine sandwiches to Jones along with his own wallet. Jones tossed the sandwiches and the wallet to the female companion who was still standing behind them. T.37-38, 170. Jones and the woman left the Subway parking lot and entered a car parked a short distance away. T.40, 172-73.

After Jones and his companion entered their car, Rodman got out of Horton's car and attempted to get the license plate number. T.174. Horton followed the perpetrators in her car until she was able to write down the license plate number, at which point she returned to Subway and called 911. T.42-45.

Within minutes of hearing a 911-broadcast regarding the robbery, Officer Carpinelli of the Rochester Police Department spotted the suspect's vehicle on East Main Street in the City of Rochester. After confirming the license plate number, Officer Carpinelli activated his emergency lights in an attempt to stop the vehicle. The vehicle did not stop immediately, and Officer Carpinelli saw papers being thrown out the passenger's-side window. The car eventually came to a stop near the corner of Railroad and Fourth Streets. T.96-99.

Officer Carpinelli approached the driver's side of the vehicle while Officer Colucci, who had just arrived on the scene, approached the passenger's side. As Officer Colucci neared the car, he saw a revolver-type gun drop from the car onto the roadway. T.125-26. Officer Carpinelli asked Jones, the driver of the vehicle, where he was coming from. Jones replied, "Subway." T.104. Jones was then taken into custody and placed into Officer Carpinelli's patrol vehicle. T.104-07. The two other occupants of the vehicle, a black man and a black woman, were also taken into custody. T.127.

On the rear floor of the suspect vehicle, the officers observed two Subway sandwiches. Rodman's wallet was found underneath the sandwiches. T.110, 130. Also located at the scene were personal papers which had been in Rodman's wallet at the time it was stolen. T.16-21. About five minutes after placing Jones in the patrol car, Officer Carpinelli returned to the car to check on him. After opening the door, Officer Carpinelli observed seven dollars (one five-dollar bill and two one-dollar bills) on the floor by Jones' feet. According to Officer Carpinelli, Jones was the only person in the rear of the car that evening. T.107.

Within an hour of the incident, Jones was transported back to Subway for a show-up identification procedure. Horton and Rodman identified him as the person who had robbed them earlier that night. T.46, 176-77. Horton and .Rodman also identified the gun dropped from the passenger's-side door of the suspect vehicle as the weapon used by Jones during the robbery. T.34, 177-78.

The jury returned a verdict convicting Jones as charged in the indictment. Jones was sentenced on July 2, 1998, as a second felony offender to a determinate term of fifteen years in prison. Notice of appeal was filed on July 20, 1998. On October 7, 1998, Jones filed a pro se motion to vacate the judgment pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law ("C.P.L.") § 440. 10, which was denied by the trial court on September 12, 2001. Leave to appeal the denial of the C.P.L. § 440.10 motion to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, of New York State Supreme Court, was denied. On December 21, 2001, the Appellate Division unanimously affirmed Jones's conviction on direct appeal. People v. Jones, 289 A.D.2d 962, 738 N.Y.S.2d 260 (4th Dept.2001). Leave to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals was denied on May 14, 2002.

This timely habeas petition followed. Respondent does not raise the defense of non-exhaustion and it, appears that all of Jones' habeas claims have been fully exhausted and are properly before this Court for review.

Standard of Review

To prevail under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") in 1996, a petitioner seeking federal review of his conviction must demonstrate that the state court's adjudication of his federal constitutional claim resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Supreme Court precedent, or resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable factual determination in light of the evidence presented in state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), (2); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375-76, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000).

An "adjudication on the merits" is a "substantive, rather than a procedural, resolution of a federal claim." Sellan v. Kuhlman, 261 F.3d 303, 313 (2d Cir.2001) (quotation omitted). Under the "contrary to" clause, "a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than this Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. at 412-13, 120 S.Ct. 1495 (O'Connor, J., concurring and writing for the majority in this part). The "unreasonable application" clause is applicable when "the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from this Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413, 120 S.Ct. 1495. Under this standard, "a federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply . because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." Id. at 411, 120 S.Ct. 1495. In order to grant the writ there must be "some increment of incorrectness beyond error," although "the increment need not be great; otherwise, habeas relief would be limited to state court decisions so far off the mark as to suggest judicial incompetence." Francis S. v. Stone, 221 F.3d 100, 111 (2d Cir.2000) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Merits of the Petition
1. Erroneous sentencing of petitioner as a second felony offender

Jones contends that the trial court erred when it sentenced him as a "predicate felon (second felony offender)." Petition, ¶ 22(A) (Docket No. 1). Jones explains that with respect to a prior 1993 conviction for robbery, he was a "prime candidate for youthful offender [status], and was told by trial counsel that he would indeed receive a youthful offender adjudication." Id. On the 1993 conviction, however, he was not granted youthful offender status. When he appealed his conviction on the robbery charges at issue here, Jones contended that the 1993 conviction was unconstitutional because he had been denied the effective assistance of counsel, in that defense counsel allegedly had misled him into believing that he was going to receive a youthful offender adjudication.

The Appellate Division rejected the claim as follows:

Defendant contends that Supreme Court erred in sentencing him as a second felony offender because his underlying felony conviction was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights. We disagree. We reject the contention of defendant that he was denied effective assistance of counsel during the plea proceeding and at sentencing with respect to that...

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