Snyder v. State of New York
-CLERK TO FOLLOW UP- DECISION AND ORDER denying request for a writ of habeas corpus and dismissing the petition. (Clerk to close case.) Signed by Hon. Michael A. Telesca on 8/25/14. (JMC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
MARVIN J. SNYDER,
DECISION AND ORDER
-vsSTATE OF NEW YORK,
Marvin J. Snyder (“Petitioner”) has petitioned this Court for
a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is
in state custody as a result of a judgment of conviction entered on
December 21 2009, in Seneca County Court of New York State,
following a jury verdict conviction him of Gang Assault in the
First Degree (N.Y. Penal Law (“P.L.”) § 120.07).
Factual Background and Procedural History
photographs, in his apartment complex, of registered sex offenders
who lived in the area. One of the photographs depicted William
Meacham, who also resided in the complex. That evening, William
Meacham, Stephanie Meacham, Brandon Meacham, Angela Wheeler (f/k/a
Angela Meacham), and Petitioner (a friend of the Meacham family)
all confronted Porter. William Meacham said to Porter, “You have a
fucking problem with me, you little bitch. . . . [Y]ou posted
pictures up about me.”
Porter stated something to the effect of,
“I don’t like sex offenders.” Stephanie Meacham and William Meacham
called Porter a “nigger”, and started yelling, “[K]ill him, kill
Porter. Petitioner swung a beer bottle at Porter but did not hit
him. Traminique Porter (“Traminique”), Porter’s daughter, grabbed
Stephanie Meacham’s hair and struck Stephanie’s face with her hand.
Stephanie Meacham, in turn, hit Traminique in the head with her
bat, and Angela Wheeler hit Traminique across her back with her
stick or board. Petitioner then placed his knee on Porter, and
Petitioner, William Meacham, and others hit, kicked, and jumped on
Porter. As a result of the attack, Porter suffered severe head
A Seneca County Grand Jury returned six separate indictments
charging Petitioner, William Meacham, Stephanie Meacham, Brandon
Meacham, Justin Meacham, and Angela Wheeler with first-degree gang
assault. Stephanie Meacham and Angela Wheeler were each charged
with other offenses relating to Porter’s daughter. The indictments
against Brandon Meacham and Justin Meacham were dismissed and their
cases were transferred to Seneca Falls Town Court for a plea to a
non-felony offense. Angela Wheeler pleaded guilty to attempted
second-degree assault and was sentenced to 6 months of weekend
incarceration and 5 years of probation.
Due to the severity of his injuries, Porter, the victim, was
unable to testify at Petitioner’s trial.
Before trial, the trial court granted the prosecution’s motion
to consolidate for trial the first-degree gang assault counts in
the indictments against Petitioner, William Meacham and Stephanie
Judge Dennis F. Bender and a jury, from October 19 to 29, 2009.
On October 29, 2009, the jury returned a verdict finding
Petitioner, William Meacham, and Stephanie Meacham guilty of Gang
Assault in the First Degree as charged in the indictment. On
December 21, 2009, the trial court sentenced Petitioner, as a
second felony offender, to a determinate prison term of 13 years
plus 5 years of post-release supervision. The trial court sentenced
William Meacham, as second felony offender, to a determinate prison
term of 14 years plus 5 years of post-release supervision. William
Meacham’s conviction was affirmed on appeal. Stephanie Meacham was
sentenced to a determinate prison term of 13 years plus five years
of post-release supervision.2
84 A.D.3d 1710 (4th Dep’t 2011). On July 20, 2011, the New York
State Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. People v. Snyder,
17 N.Y.3d 810 (2011).
Respondent’s attorney indicates that he has been informed by
the Seneca County District Attorney’s Office that Stephanie Meacham
has not perfected her appeal.
This timely habeas petition followed in which Petitioner
raises the following grounds for relief: (1) the trial court erred
in consolidating the indictments of Petitioner, William Meacham,
and Stephanie Meacham for trial; (2) the evidence was legally
evidence; (4) the trial court erred when it denied Petitioner’s
motion for a mistrial on the basis that a medical witness’s trial
(5) Petitioner’s actions were justified because he reasonably
believed that Porter was going to use physical force on him; and
(6) Petitioner’s sentence was harsh and excessive.
Respondent answered the petition, interposing the defenses of
non-exhaustion and procedural default as to all claims except the
insufficiency-of-the-evidence claim. Respondent argues that, in any
event, none of Petitioner’s claims warrants habeas relief, and that
Petitioner did not file a reply brief.
For the reasons discussed below, Petitioner’s request for a
writ of habeas corpus is denied, and the petition is dismissed.
General Legal Principles
A petitioner in a habeas corpus proceeding must exhaust all
available state court remedies for each claim prior to federal
review. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), ©; see also, e.g., Lurie v.
Wittner, 228 F.3d 113, 123–24 (2d Cir. 2000). To satisfy the
exhaustion requirement, a petitioner must have “fairly presented,”
Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971), his claim in a manner
“likely to alert the [state] court to the claim’s federal nature.”
Daye v. Attorney Gen’l of the State of N.Y., 696 F.2d 186, 192
(2d Cir. 1982) (in banc). Although the petitioner need not have
cited “book and verse on the federal constitution,” he must have
articulated “the substantial equivalent” of the federal habeas
claim. Id. at 278 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
He can accomplish this by (a) relying on “pertinent federal cases
employing constitutional analysis,” (b) relying on “state cases
(c) asserting “the claim in terms so particular as to call to mind
a specific right protected by the Constitution,” or (d) alleging “a
constitutional litigation.” Daye, 696 F.2d at 194; see also Ramirez
v. Attorney Gen’l of the State of N.Y., 280 F.3d 87, 94 (2d Cir.
When a habeas petitioner fails to adequately present his
federal claim to the state courts and faces a state procedural bar
were he to attempt to return to state court and re-present the
procedurally defaulted. Aparicio v. Artuz, 269 F.3d 78, 90 (2d Cir.
2001). A petitioner may overcome the procedural default that arises
in this situation by demonstrating cause for the default and
prejudice resulting therefrom, or by showing that a fundamental
miscarriage of justice will occur should the federal court decline
to hear his habeas claim on the merits. Id. (citation omitted).
Respondent argues that the following claims are unexhausted
because they were not presented in federal constitutional terms on
direct appeal: (1) the trial court erred in consolidating the
indictments of Petitioner, William Meacham, and Stephanie Meacham
(“the consolidated indictments claim”); (2) Petitioner’s actions
were justified because he reasonably believed the victim was about
to use physical force against him (“the justification claim”);3 and
(3) the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial
(“the mistrial claim”).
With regard to the consolidated indictments claim, although he
argued it in his appellate brief, Petitioner cited only cases
applying New York state law and sections of New York’s Criminal
See Petitioner’s Appellate Brief (“Pet’r App.
Br.”), Point One, pp. 16-18, Respondent’s Exhibit (“Resp’t Ex.”) A.
Likewise, with regard to the justification claim, Petitioner
cited only cases applying New York state law and sections of New
At defense counsel’s request, the trial court instructed the
jury regarding the defense of justification, which required the
prosecution to prove, as an additional element of first degree gang
assault, that Petitioner was not justified in using deadly physical
force against porter. See T.1804-09. One of the defense theories
was that Porter initiated the conflict by hanging posters of
William Meacham and then escalated the conflict by returning to his
apartment to retrieve a machete. See Pet’r App. Br., pp. 25, 27.
York’s Penal Law when he argued this claim in his appellate brief.
See Pet’r App. Br., Point Four, pp. 26-27, Resp’t Ex. A.
Finally, when he argued on direct appeal that the trial court
erroneously denied his motion for a mistrial, Petitioner cited only
New York state law cases and the section of New York’s Criminal
Procedure Law pertaining to mistrials. See App. Br., Point Five,
pp. 29-30, Resp’t Ex. A.
The consolidation claim and the mistrial claim both concern
rulings by the trial court, and thus are record based. Similarly,
the justification claim–whether viewed as an insufficiency-of-theevidence or weight-of-the-evidence claim,4 was apparent on the
trial record. Because all three claims are record-based, they could
have been raised on direct appeal. For this reason, Petitioner is
now barred from raising them in a collateral motion to vacate the
judgment pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law (“C.P.L.”)
§ 440.10 in state court. See N.Y. CRIM. PROC. LAW § 440.10(2)(c)
(mandating that the trial court “must” deny any issue raised in a
C.P.L. § 440.10 motion where the defendant unjustifiably failed to
argue such violation on direct appeal despite a sufficient record
to do so); Aparicio, 269 F.3d at 90 (“New York does not otherwise
permit collateral attacks on a conviction when the defendant
Petitioner, in his appellate brief, did not indicate whether
his justification argument was based on the legal insufficiency of
the evidence or the weight of the evidence. See People’s Appellate
Brief, p. 42 (discussing justification claim).
unjustifiably failed to raise the issue on direct appeal.”) (citing
N.Y. CRIM. PROC. LAW § 440.10(2)(c)).
Petitioner cannot pursue a second direct appeal, for under New
York State law, a criminal defendant is only entitled to one appeal
to the Appellate Division and one request for leave to appeal to
the Court of Appeals. See N.Y. CT. RULES § 500.20(a)(2) (providing
that application for leave to appeal to the New York Court of
Appeals in a criminal case pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure
Law § 460.20 must include statement that “no application for the
same relief has been addressed to a justice of the Appellate
Division, as only one application is available”); N.Y. CRIM. PROC.
LAW § 450.10(1); see also N.Y. CT. RULES § 500.20(d) (“A request for
reargument or reconsideration shall not be based on the assertion
for the first time of new points, except for extraordinary and
Since Petitioner has no further recourse in state court, these
unexhausted claims should be deemed exhausted. E.g., Reyes v.
Keane, 118 F.3d 136, 139 (2d Cir. 1997). However, the foregoing
procedural bars to presentment in state court, which causes the
Court to deem the claims exhausted, also renders them procedurally
defaulted. See id. at 139-40 (“Although Petitioner’s claim of
ineffective assistance is deemed exhausted, we nonetheless find
that, by defaulting on that claim in state court, Reyes forfeits
that claim on federal habeas review, even though the claim is
brought as cause for another procedural default.”) (citing Gray v.
Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 162 (1996)).
To avoid such a procedural default, a habeas petitioner must
demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result
of the alleged violation of federal law, or demonstrate that
miscarriage of justice. Gray, 518 U.S. at 162 (citations omitted).
Petitioner has made no attempt to proffer any explanation for his
failure to fully pursue his state court remedies, and the Court
finds no basis on this record to excuse the procedural defaults.
Discussion of Petitioner’s Remaining Claims
Legal Insufficiency of the Evidence
As he did on direct appeal, Petitioner here asserts that the
prosecution failed to adduce legally sufficient evidence to prove
beyond a reasonable doubt that he caused serious physical injury to
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits
a criminal conviction “except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt
of every fact necessary to constitute the crime. . . .” In re
Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970). A habeas court reviewing a claim
for insufficiency of the evidence must determine “whether, after
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); see
also Maldonado v. Scully, 86 F.3d 32, 35 (2d Cir. 1996). Thus, “a
petitioner bears a very heavy burden in convincing a federal habeas
court to grant a petition on the grounds of insufficiency of the
evidence.” Fama v. Commissioner of Corr. Servs., 235 F.3d 804, 811
(2d Cir. 2000).
A habeas court reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim
first looks to state law to determine the elements of the crime for
the petitioner was convicted. E.g., Ponnapula v. Spitzer, 297 F.3d
172, 179 (2d Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). Under New York law, to
establish that Petitioner was guilty of Gang Assault in the First
Degree (P.L. § 120.07), the prosecution was required to establish
that, with intent to cause serious physical injury to Porter, and
Petitioner caused serious physical injury to Porter. “Serious
physical injury” “means physical injury which creates a substantial
risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted
disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss
or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.” N.Y. PENAL LAW
As the Appellate Division noted, “[t]wo prosecution witnesses
[Roy Stedge and William Rivera] testified that they observed
[Petitioner] beating or kicking the victim as he lay defenseless on
the ground[,]” and “[a]nother witness [Stacy Mateo] testified that
[Petitioner] was among a group of people that surrounded the victim
during the beating, although she admitted that she was uncertain
which individuals took part in the beating.”
People v. Snyder, 84
A.D.3d at 1711. Specifically, Roy Stedge (“Stedge”), who lived at
the apartment complex where the incident occurred, heard screaming
and yelling, looked out his window, and saw Petitioner and William
Meacham chasing Petitioner. T.1032-36. Stedge saw William Meacham’s
hands move back to swing at Petitioner, who fell to the ground, his
head bouncing off the pavement. T.1036. Stedge observed Petitioner
kneel down and place his knee on Porter. He then saw Petitioner,
along with various members of the Meacham family, on top of Porter,
hitting him repeatedly. T.1036-38.
William Rivera (“Rivera”) observed William Meacham confront
Porter and saw that Petitioner, Wheeler, and other members of the
Meacham family also were present. T.1102-03. Rivera witnessed
“punches being thrown and things being waved” by parties on both
sides of the altercation. T.1100, 1104-05. Rivera specifically saw
confrontation moved around the corner of Building B of the complex,
Rivera saw Porter fall to the ground and “the Meacham family
jumping on him,” “kicking him, [and] punching him[.]” T.1106-08.
Finally, Stacy Mateo (“Mateo”) testified that Porter retrieved
a machete from his apartment after the Meacham family showed up
with makeshift weapons and confronted him about the photos. T.130608. Porter then chased William Meacham, Petitioner, and other
Meacham family members towards Building A or B. After Porter threw
the machete down, Porter and Petitioner got into a fist-fight.
T.1310. Porter then fled, and Mateo observed William Meacham,
Justin Meacham, Brandon Meacham, and Petitioner chasing after
Porter. T.1310-11. Mateo saw William Meacham, Justin Meacham,
Brandon Meacham, and Petitioner standing next to Porter when Porter
was lying on the ground being kicked and struck, but she could not
identify who actually did the kicking and striking. T.1311-12.
In light of this evidence, this Court sees no error in the
Appellate Division’s conclusion that viewing the testimony “in the
light most favorable to the People. . . there was a ‘“valid line of
reasoning and permissible inferences [that] could lead a rational
degree[.]” Snyder, 84 A.D.3d at 1711 (internal and other quotations
To the extent Petitioner challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence based upon Stedge’s and Rivera’s lack of credibility, the
weight given to a witness’s testimony is a question of fact to be
determined by the jury, Mason v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98, 116
(1977), and a district court sitting in habeas review must resolve
second-guess the jury’s determinations. See Bossett v. Walker, 41
challenge to sufficiency of evidence based, in part, on contention
that the testifying witnesses were not credible because “‘the jury
credibility’”) (quoting United States v. Strauss, 999 F.2d 692, 696
(2d Cir. 1993) (citations omitted in original)).
Verdict Against the Weight of the Evidence
Petitioner claims, as he did on direct appeal, that the
verdict is against the weight of the evidence because it allegedly
turned on the credibility of two witnesses, Stedge and Rivera, both
of whom testified to having extensive criminal records. Petitioner
narrative of what transpired on September 26, 2008.
A claim that a verdict was against the weight of the evidence
derives from C.P.L. § 470.15(5), which permits an appellate court
in New York to reserve or modify a conviction where it determines
“that a verdict of conviction resulting in a judgment was, in whole
or in part, against the weight of the evidence.” N.Y. CRIM. PROC. LAW
§ 470.15. Since a “weight of the evidence claim” is purely a matter
of state law, it is not cognizable on habeas review. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(a) (permitting federal habeas corpus review only where the
petitioner has alleged that he is in state custody in violation of
“the Constitution or a federal law or treaty”). Indeed, “[f]ederal
courts routinely dismiss claims attacking a verdict as against the
weight of the evidence on the basis that they are not federal
Echevarria-Perez v. Burge, 779 F. Supp.2d 326, 333 (W.D.N.Y. 2011)
(citing Ex parte Craig, 282 F. 138, 148 (2d Cir. 1922) (holding
that “a writ of habeas corpus cannot be used to review the weight
of evidence . . .”), aff’d, 263 U.S. 255 (1923); Garrett v.
Perlman, 438 F. Supp.2d 467, 470 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (same); other
citations omitted). In keeping with this well-settled precedent,
cognizable in this habeas proceeding. Id.
Harsh and Excessive Sentence
On direct appeal, Petitioner contends that the sentence for
his first degree gang assault conviction was harsh and excessive,
and urged the Appellate Division to reduce it pursuant to the
authority conferred by C.P.L. § 470.15(2)(c). It is well settled
that, in the context of a habeas challenge to the length of a
sentence, that “[n]o federal constitutional issue is presented
where . . . the sentence is within the range prescribed by state
(per curiam) (citing Underwood v. Kelly, 692 F. Supp. 146 (E.D.N.Y.
1988) (habeas petitioner’s claim that his sentence was “unduly
harsh and excessive” in light of his youth, his prior criminal
record, and the absence of physical injury inflicted upon the
victim, did not present a constitutional issue since it was within
the range prescribed by law), aff’d mem., 875 F.2d 857 (2d Cir. 1989)).
Petitioner was convicted of a Class B violent felony, see N.Y.
Penal Law § 70.02(1)(a), and was found to be a second felony
offender, see id., § 70.06(1)(a). Accordingly, the Penal Law
required imposition of a determinate sentence of between 8 and
25 years, see N.Y. PENAL LAW § 70.06(6)(a), plus a period of
post-release supervision of 5 years, see id., § 70.45(2). Here, the
trial court imposed a determinate sentence of 13 years imprisonment
with 5 years of post-release supervision. Therefore, Petitioner’s
13-year sentence is within the range of years prescribed by law,
and in fact is 12 years less than the maximum permitted under the
statute. Because Petitioner’s sentence is within the applicable
For the foregoing reasons, Marvin J. Snyder’s request for a
writ of habeas corpus is denied, and the petition is dismissed. As
constitutional right, the Court declines to issue a certificate of
appealability. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
S/Michael A. Telesca
HON. MICHAEL A. TELESCA
United States District Judge
August 25, 2014
Rochester, New York.
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