Young v. Conway

Citation761 F.Supp.2d 59
Decision Date27 January 2011
Docket NumberNo. 07–CV–6047(VEB).,07–CV–6047(VEB).
PartiesRudolph YOUNG, Petitioner,v.James CONWAY, Respondent.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York


Rudolph Young, Attica, NY, pro se.

Kelly Christine Wolford, Rochester, NY, for Respondent.


VICTOR E. BIANCHINI, United States Magistrate Judge.I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner Rudolph Young (“Young” or Petitioner) seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the constitutionality of his conviction, following a jury trial, on two counts of first degree robbery and one count of first degree burglary.

The parties have consented to disposition of this matter by a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1).

II. Factual Background and Procedural HistoryA. The First Trial

The incident giving rise to Young's convictions was the home-invasion robbery of William Sykes (“Mr. Sykes”) and Lisa Sykes (“Mrs. Sykes”) on the night of March 29, 1991, in the Town of Brighton, just outside the City of Rochester. That night, an intruder entered the Sykes home, wearing a blanket wrapped around his body as well as a scarf covering his entire face except for the eyes and forehead. Brandishing an axe over Mr. Sykes' head, the intruder demanded money, which the Sykes gave to him, along with several watches, a pair of binoculars, and other items of personal property.

The description given by the victims was an African–American male, in his twenties, with a medium build, and about 5'10?-tall. The victims could not assist in the creation of a composite sketch of the intruder because he was covered with the blanket and the scarf was hiding his face.

About a month after the incident, on April 25, 1991, Mrs. Sykes viewed a photographic array containing Young's picture but did not make an identification. Mr. Sykes also viewed the array but did not identify anyone from it.

Young was arrested on April 27, 1991. That day, a lineup identification procedure was held. Mr. Sykes was unable to identify Young as the perpetrator; he indicated that the person in the # 1 position sounded like the intruder and that # 6 looked like the intruder. However, Young was # 4. Although Mrs. Sykes had been unable to identify Young during the photo array, she did identify Young in the April 27th lineup. She testified at trial in 1993 that she made the line—up identification on the basis of a “combination” of factors—“from seeing him and also the voice.”

Following a jury trial, Young was convicted as charged in the indictment and sentenced as a persistent felony offender. On direct appeal, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, of New York State Supreme Court, determined that the police lacked probable cause to arrest Young and that the testimony regarding the lineup identification by Mrs. Sykes was improper: “Because the police obtained defendant's consent to the lineup by means affected by the primary taint, it must be concluded that the lineup identification flowed directly from the illegal arrest and was not attenuated therefrom [.] People v. Young, 255 A.D.2d 905, 906, 683 N.Y.S.2d 677 (App.Div. 4th Dept.1998). The Fourth Department went on to hold that [b]ecause proof of the line-up identification and other evidence obtained by police at the time of the arrest contributed to defendant's conviction,” the conviction should be reversed and the motion to suppress the line-up identification granted. In remanding the case for a retrial, the Fourth Department indicated that the prosecution should be given the opportunity “to demonstrate that the ability of the victim to make an in-court identification stemmed from her observation of defendant at the time of the crime and therefore ha[d] a basis independent of the unlawful arrest and tainted identification procedure.” Id.

B. The Remand

1. The Independent Source Hearing

At the subsequent state court proceeding entitled an “Independent Source Hearing,” defense counsel objected that, as a matter of law, there could be no “independent source” for Mrs. Sykes' identification, given the eight-year passage of time and the considerable news coverage of the incident and first trial. The new trial court (Ark, J.) disagreed, noting that the Appellate Division had directed such a hearing be held.

Mrs. Sykes was the only witness called at the independent source hearing. She described in some detail the actual incident and testified as to why she remembered the intruder from her observations of him during the crime, and not from the suppressed line-up procedure. Mrs. Sykes testified that when she first saw the intruder, he was standing “a couple of feet” away from her in the area of her dining room which was well lit. ISH.25–27 (Citations to “ISH.–––” refer to pages from the transcript of the Independent Source Hearing). The intruder was wearing a blanket with a slit cut in it over his body and had a scarf draped around his face, covering up to his nose. Mrs. Sykes testified that the burglar was only a couple of inches taller than her, so she was able to look at him face-to-face. Id.

After initially screaming, Mrs. Sykes looked carefully at the intruder; she was in disbelief thinking that it was some kind of prank, that the incident could not be random. ISH.27–28. Mrs. Sykes stared at the intruder's eyes and realized that she did not know the person. ISH.27. At that point, the burglar walked directly behind Mr. Sykes and held the axe over his head. The burglar looked directly at Mrs. Sykes and stated, “I will kill him. Give me your wallets.” Id. Still not believing that the break-in could be random, Mrs. Sykes “kept staring” at the intruder, trying to determine if it was someone she knew. ISH.28.

Mrs. Sykes again came face-to-face with the burglar when the three of them were walking down the hallway to the master bedroom to retrieve Mr. Sykes' wallet. Mrs. Sykes turned on the hall light and the intruder turned and looked right at her. Mrs. Sykes continued to watch the intruder as he relieved Mr. Sykes of his money and watches. ISH.28–29.

Next, the intruder demanded Mrs. Sykes give him her money, and he proceeded to rip two telephones out of the walls. During this time, Mrs. Sykes kept looking at the burglar “trying to figure out who this person was.” ISH.30–32. The man then told her, “Don't look at my face.” At that point, Mrs. Sykes averted her eyes; however, up until then, she had continuously looked at his face trying to determine who he was. ISH.32. The burglar left the house shortly after that.

Mrs. Sykes estimated that the intruder had been in her sight for about five to seven minute. Mrs. Sykes explained that she “really stared” at the burglar's eyes while he was inside the house. She did not believe she could assist with a composite sketch because she had not seen his whole face.

Mrs. Sykes testified that she woke up during many nights after the crime seeing the intruder's eyes in her nightmares. ISH.35.

With regard to her inability to made a positive identification from the photo array, Mrs. Sykes testified that the pictures in the array did not “look real” to her. ISH.64.

Mrs. Sykes insisted that she could identify Petitioner based solely on the appearance of his eyes. ISH.78. When questioned, she assured the trial court that her recollection of Petitioner's eyes was from her observations on the night of the crime and was not based upon her viewing him during the line-up procedure. ISH.85–86. Based on the results of this hearing, Petitioner was retried on the home-invasion robbery charges.

2. The Second Trial

What follows is a summary of the prosecution's proof presented at Young's re-trial on the Sykes home-invasion.

At about 10 p.m. on March 29, 1991, Mr. and Mrs. Sykes were in their living room watching television when their dog began barking, leading them to notice that the door in the kitchen that led to the attached garage was ajar. Mr. Sykes, who was wheelchair-bound as the result of a disability, went into the kitchen, shut the door, and engaged the deadbolt lock. See T.31–34, 91–93 (Citations to “T.—” refer to pages in transcript of the re-trial). The couple continued to watch television.

About twenty minutes later, they heard loud noises coming from the kitchen area. Mrs. Sykes began to walk toward the kitchen to investigate. As she neared the dining room, Mrs. Sykes encountered an intruder carrying an ax and a sledgehammer. The man was wearing a blanket with a hole cut into it over his body, and he had a scarf covering his face up to the tip of his nose. T.34–36, 93–94. Mrs. Sykes recognized the blanket as one that had been in her car which was parked in the driveway; she also realized that the ax and sledgehammer had come from their garage. T.36–37.

The intruder yelled at Mr. and Mrs. Sykes to give him their money. Id. Mrs. Sykes testified that she was in “total disbelief” that a robber had entered their home. She stated that she concentrated on observing the intruder's partially covered face, thinking that perhaps it was someone she knew playing a bad joke on her and her husband. T.43. As events progressed, however, it became clear that this was not some kind of prank.

The robber walked behind Mr. Sykes, placed the axe above Mr. Sykes' head, and threatened, “I'll kill him!” Mrs. Sykes responded, “I believe you,” and grabbed the dog in an attempt to keep her quiet. Mrs. Sykes testified that she was standing but three to four feet away from the intruder as he brandished the axe over her husband's head. Mrs. Sykes explained that the area in which they were all located was well lit, and that the intruder was looking directly at hear as he menaced Mr. Sykes. T.33, 37.

Mr. Sykes informed the intruder that his money was in his wallet, located in the master bedroom. The three proceeded down the hallway; Mr. Sykes went first, followed by the intruder, and then Mrs. Sykes, who turned on a light in the darkened hallway. The intruder turned around and stared at her from about a foot away....

To continue reading

Request your trial
8 cases
  • Young v. Conway
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • October 16, 2012
    ...court's “grave doubts whether th[e] circumstantial evidence was ... legally sufficient to convict Young” without it, Young v. Conway, 761 F.Supp.2d 59, 76 (W.D.N.Y.2011), such doubts must be resolved if at all by the state court, not ours. Accordingly, we vacate that portion of the district......
  • Young v. Conway
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • April 23, 2013
  • Young v. Conway
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • April 23, 2013
    .... . . relied on the suppressed, illegal pre-trial identification where Mrs. Sykes saw Petitioner and heard his voice." Young v. Conway, 761 F. Supp. 2d 59, 76 (W.D.N.Y. 2011). The district court concluded that in "[r]eviewing the Wade factors, all of them are on Petitioner's side of the sca......
  • Young v. Conway
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • April 23, 2013
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT