Innocent Black Man Wrongfully Sentenced to life in Rochester NY for second degree murder

Innocent Black Man Wrongfully Sentenced to life in Rochester NY for second degree murder

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Mychael Rodney started this petition to State of newyork county courts of Monroe

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People v. Matthew Townsend
STATE OF NEW YORK COUNTY COURT COUNTY OF MONROE

Feb 5, 2019
2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 32621 (N.Y. Cnty. Ct. 2019)Copy Citation


Ind. No. 2011/0062

02-05-2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK v. MATTHEW TOWNSEND, Defendant.

APPEARANCES: SANDRA DOORLEY, ESQ. Monroe County District Attorney DANIEL GROSS, ESQ., of counsel Assistant District Attorney 47 S. Fitzhugh St. Rochester, NY 14614 for the People PRO SE for the Defendant

 
/2011-1172 APPEARANCES: SANDRA DOORLEY, ESQ.
Monroe County District Attorney
DANIEL GROSS, ESQ., of counsel
Assistant District Attorney
47 S. Fitzhugh St.
Rochester, NY 14614
for the People PRO SE
for the Defendant

DECISION AND ORDER
VINCENT M. DINOLFO, J.

Defendant has moved this Court pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law ("CPL") §440.10 for an order vacating his judgment of conviction alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and newly discovered evidence. Defendant has also moved pursuant to CPL §440.30(1-a) for the performance of forensic DNA testing of specified evidence.

Defendant filed an Affirmation in Support of the Motion to Vacate Judgment dated September 17, 2018. The People filed an Answering Affirmation in opposition, dated November 21, 2018. Defendant sur-replied by letter dated January 28, 2019.

Defendant stands convicted of Murder in the Second Degree for the killing of Toccara Harmon, which took place on or about January 7, 2011. He was convicted on February 22, 2012 and was sentenced to twenty-five years to life on April 5, 2012. An appeal to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department is pending, and oral argument was heard January 15, 2019.

The pertinent facts are as follows. The victim died from strangulation, her corpse was subsequently disposed of in a garbage tote belonging to a nearby restaurant. Defendant was represented at trial by Paul Vacca, Jr., Esq. Trial testimony established that Defendant was with the victim in the hours preceding the murder. He purchased crack cocaine with the assistance of the victim. Defendant the disposed of the victim's body in a garbage bin. Defendant testified at trial that he indeed had spent time with the victim in the hours before her death, but that someone else was responsible.

I. Ineffective Assistance
The right to effective assistance of counsel in criminal proceedings is guaranteed by the Federal and New York State Constitutions. See U.S. Const. 6th Amend; NY Const., Art I, § 6. The state standard for effective assistance of counsel is "the evidence, the law and the circumstances of a particular case, viewed in totality and as of the time of the representation reveal that the attorney provided meaningful representation[.]" People v. Baldi, 54 NY2d 137, 147 (1981).

Successful claims of ineffective assistance of counsel occur if defendants ". . . demonstrate that they were deprived of a fair trial by less than meaningful representation; a simple disagreement with strategies, tactics or the scope of possible cross-examination, weighed long after the trial, does not suffice." People v. Flores, 84 NY2d 184, 187 (1994); People v. Benn, 68 NY2d 941, 942 (1986). This standard is designed to provide the defendant with a fair trial in contrast to a perfect one. See People v. Flores, 84 NY2d 184, 187 (1994). State courts have emphasized the difference between ineffective representation and losing tactics. See People v. Benevento, 91 NY2d 708(1998). The choice of tactics is viewed objectively. See People v. Angelakos, 70 NY2d 670 (1987); People v. Satterfield, 66 NY2d 796 (1985). "A single error may qualify as ineffective assistance, but only when the error is sufficiently egregious and prejudicial as to compromise a defendant's right to a fair trial." People v. Caban, 5 NY3d 143, 152 (2005); citing People v. Hobot, 84 NY2d 1021 (1995); People v. Flores, 84 NY2d 184 (1994). "Further, to establish ineffective assistance, a defendant must 'demonstrate the absence of strategic or other legitimate explanations' for counsel's allegedly deficient conduct." Id; citing People v Rivera, 71 NY2d 705, 709 (1988).

Scrutiny and analysis of trial counsel's effectiveness or lack thereof

 

must be highly deferential. . . . A fair assessment of attorney performance requires that every effort be made to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight, to reconstruct the circumstances of counsel's challenged conduct, and to evaluate the conduct from counsel's perspective at the time. Because of the difficulties inherent in making the evaluation, a court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; that is, the defendant must overcome the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action might be considered sound trial strategy.

Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 689 (1984) (internal citations omitted).  

Defendant alleges three distinct failures of his counsel: to move to dismiss the indictment on alleged deprivation of the opportunity to testify before the grand jury, of pre-trial investigation, and to challenge DNA evidence. The documentary evidence submitted by Defendant with the instant motion undermines each of his claims.

"Failure to move to dismiss the indictment based on the prosecution's failure to afford defendant an opportunity to testify before the grand jury, without more, is insufficient to demonstrate ineffective assistance, particularly where defendant failed to demonstrate an absence of strategic or legitimate reasons for counsel's failure" People v. Wright, 5 A.D.3d 873, 874(3d Dept. 2004). In an exhibit submitted by Defendant, Defendant's counsel, Paul Vacca, Jr., Esq., initially raised the prospect of a motion for alleged deprivation of the opportunity to testify before the grand jury, but conferred

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