Mazyck v. Lee
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS. I deny a Certificate of Appealability. Ordered by Judge Edward R. Korman on 3/31/2017. (copies mailed) (Kolodin, Zachary)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
– against –
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
William Lee, Superintendent, Eastern New York
Billy Mazyck, currently incarcerated after convictions for first-degree manslaughter and
assault in the second-degree, petitions for a writ of habeas corpus. Mazyck’s convictions were
based on his participation in a June 2002 shooting that resulted in the death of Audrey Townsel,
and during which Audrey’s son, Bakeem Townsel, was shot in the leg. After a jury trial, Mazyck
was convicted of first-degree manslaughter, see N.Y. PENAL LAW § 125.20, and second-degree
assault, see N.Y. PENAL LAW § 120.05, and sentenced to concurrent terms of twenty years
imprisonment plus five years post-release supervision on the manslaughter count, and seven years
imprisonment plus five years post-release supervision on the assault count. Mazyck’s petition
asserts four grounds for relief, but each lacks merit.
Because two of petitioner’s claims are based on the sufficiency of the trial evidence, some
summary of the facts will be useful. In short, an argument between Audrey Townsel and Wayne
Davidson led to multiple rounds of fisticuffs between Audrey’s son Bakeem and Davidson over
the course of an afternoon in Coney Island—with Bakeem besting Davidson each time. Davidson
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was furious, and rounded up his friends to retaliate. Among those friends were the petitioner, Billy
Mazyck, and Mazyck’s friend Arthur Alston, who would later become the prosecution’s chief
witness against Mazyck. Mazyck, Alston, and two others took a cab from Bushwick to Coney
Island. Alston testified that Mazyck and another of Davidson’s friends, Dave Hardman, were
carrying loaded guns (the jury later acquitted Mazyck of the gun charge). After this group met up
with Davidson and his girlfriend, Francine Gannett, they all went up to Audrey Townsel’s
apartment, where Bakeem was staying. Gannett, who was friendly with Audrey, knocked on her
door, and was let in by her boyfriend. Shortly thereafter, a scuffle ensued between Gannett and
Audrey, and Davidson’s friends rushed the door and began firing their guns into the apartment.
Alston testified that it was Hardman and petitioner Mazyck who were firing their weapons. During
the onslaught, Audrey Townsel was shot and killed, and Bakeem was shot in the leg.
Mazyck’s first ground for relief is that the trial evidence was insufficient to convict him of
second-degree assault. In order to prevail under a sufficiency of the evidence argument in a habeas
proceeding, the petitioner “bears a very heavy burden.” Einaugler v. Supreme Court, 109 F.3d
836, 840 (2d Cir. 1997). In assessing such cases, the reviewing court must decide whether, “after
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could
have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.” Jackson v. Virginia,
443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979) (emphasis in original). “What is more, a federal court may not overturn
a state court decision rejecting a sufficiency of the evidence challenge simply because the federal
court disagrees with the state court. The federal court instead may do so only if the state court
decision was ‘objectively unreasonable.’” Cavazos v. Smith, 565 U.S. 1, 2 (2011).
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For the purposes relevant here, “[a] person is guilty of assault in the second degree when:
. . . [w]ith intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person
or to a third person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.” N.Y. PENAL LAW
§ 120.05. Mazyck argued that the prosecution failed to prove that Bakeem Townsel suffered
“physical injury.” Pet’r’s Post Hr’g Mem. at 1. The Appellate Division, passing over the fact that
this issue was not preserved for appellate review, held that Mazyck’s argument lacked merit.
“‘Physical injury’ means impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.” N.Y. PENAL LAW
§ 10.00. Here, the trial evidence showed that (1) Bakeem Townsel was shot in the left leg at
relatively close range, (2) “the bullet entered the front of the knee and exited the back,” Resp. to
Order to Show Cause at 11, (3) Bakeem’s pants were soaked with blood, and (4) Bakeem had to
be transported to the ambulance in a wheelchair. Such evidence is sufficient to prove “physical
injury.” See People v. Snyder, 741 N.Y.S.2d 892 (N.Y. App. Div. 2002); cf. People v. Tejada, 578
N.E.2d 431 (N.Y. 1991) (finding that proof of profuse bleeding and visible scarring was sufficient
to establish “physical injury”). Under these circumstances, the Appellate Division’s decision to
affirm the conviction did not constitute an objectively unreasonable application of federal law.
Mazyck’s second claim for relief is that there was insufficient evidence to convict him for
first-degree manslaughter. The prosecution’s theory of the case was that Mazyck, at a minimum,
was acting in concert with his friends, knew that some of his friends were carrying firearms, and
that some of his friends intended to seriously harm Bakeem Townsel. To that end, Arthur Alston
testified that Mazyck himself was carrying one of the firearms, and indeed, was one of the shooters.
Because the jury acquitted Mazyck of the gun charge, it evidently was not persuaded by that part
of Alston’s testimony. But that does not mean that the jury was bound to reject Alston’s testimony
regarding the plan to harm Bakeem. Moreover, Mazyck’s own statements to police corroborated
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some of Alston’s testimony, such as the fact that Mazyck was a part of Davidson’s entourage,
whose objective was to retaliate against Bakeem. Ex. B (Pet’r’s § 440 Mot.) at 7. Viewed in the
light most favorable to the prosecution, this evidence was sufficient to support a conviction for
first-degree manslaughter. Under these circumstances, the Appellate Division’s decision to affirm
the conviction did not constitute an objectively unreasonable application of federal law.
Next, Mazyck argues that his motion to vacate should have been granted after he came
forward with evidence that a key prosecution witness had recanted. Mazyck submitted an affidavit
from inmate Richard Pellicia stating that Arthur Alston, the state’s key witness against Mazyck,
had told Pellicia that Alston himself was one of the shooters of the Townsels, calling into question
the truthfulness of Alston’s trial testimony. The state court conducted a full evidentiary hearing
where Pellicia and Alston testified. Notably, Alston denied recanting his testimony. Justice Chun
found Alston to be more credible than Pellicia, and therefore denied the motion to vacate the
conviction. Ex. H, at 7–8. Mazyck has not presented “clear and convincing evidence” that this
credibility determination was erroneous. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
Finally, Mazyck alleges that the prosecutor failed to turn over exculpatory evidence.
Specifically, in Mazcyk’s pre-hearing § 440 motion before the trial court, he “raise[d] the troubling
possibility that Alston lied at trial, with the People’s acquiesence [sic], about his cooperation
agreement.” Pet’r’s § 440 Mot. at 5. Nevertheless, in Mazyck’s memorandum following his §
440 hearing, he conceded that “the evidence at the hearing did not support the conclusion that any
misconduct was involved.” Pet’r’s Post Hr’g Mem. at 1. Petitioner cannot now claw back his
concession that this claim lacks merit.
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Brooklyn, New York
March 31, 2017
Edward R. Korman
Edward R. Korman
United States District Judge
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