I wished I had covered this earlier, but there was another habeas grant in WDNY on the same day as the big Jackson v. Conway opinion (actually, there has been another habeas grant out of the WDNY, but I'll cover that in another post). In fact, it was the same judge who granted habeas in both cases (actually, it's the same judge in all three cases).
Here are the details of the other habeas grant from January 10, 2011:
Valentin v. Mazzuca, 05-CV-0298, 2011 WL 65759 (WDNY Jan. 10, 2011) (VEB)
- Habeas Granted
- Issue: Brady violation based on the prosecution's failure to disclose criminal record of one of a prosecution witness
- Notes: consented to proceed before MJ; pro se habeas grant
ANALYSIS: This case is a robbery where the prosecution called a single eyewitness to the robbery, John Kemp. The prosecutor did not disclose that the eyewitness had a criminal background. In fact, the prosecutor made a point at trial to inform the judge that he steadfastly refused to look into whether his witness had a criminal history. Odd, in this day and age, for a prosecutor to make such a public display of refusing to follow his ethical obligations.
Not surprisingly, the Appellate Division concluded that there was a Brady violation, but that it was not material, namely that there was no reasonable probability of a different result had the criminal background been disclosed. The MJ concluded that the Appellate Division's decision on materiality was unreasonable.
There was a wacky aspect to this case: the conflicting stories from the eyewitnesses. There were two eyewitnesses, Kemp and another man named McLaren. Kemp said that petitioner was the gun man, while McLaren stated in the GJ that another man, Arroyo, was the gun man. The indictment against Arroyo was dismissed because the identification evidence was unreliable. At Valentin's trial, the prosecutor announced that McLaren was out of the jurisdiction and not available. So only Kemp testified.
The MJ concluded that it was unreasonable to conclude that there was no reasonable probability that the impeachment material would not have had an effect on the outcome. According to the MJ, the criminal history was not "insubstantial." And while Kemp had other credibility issues, the prosecutor relied heavily on his testimony and used many tactics to bolster his credibility. The MJ concluded that the impeachment material would clearly have had an impact.
Here's what the MJ stated:
Where, as here, the prosecution's case was more akin to a house of cards than a foundationally sound structure, it is more than reasonably possible that Kemp's criminal record could have been the card that toppled the house. It bears emphasizing that Kemp's testimony about Valentin having the gun and being the “lead robber” was not corroborated by any independent evidence. This Court finds, after reviewing the entirety of the record, that had the prosecution complied with its Brady obligations by disclosing Kemp's criminal record, his credibility would have been significantly more compromised. Non-disclosure of this non-cumulative impeachment evidence has seriously undermined my confidence in the outcome of Kemp's trial. Thus, I conclude that the information was “material,” and that Valentin has demonstrated a true Brady violation.
One final interesting thing to this decision: the relief. Petitioner had already been released from custody and was serving time on parole. The court ordered that "Respondent is accordingly directed to expunge Valentin's convictions for first degree robbery and second degree robbery and release him from parole supervision within sixty days. This judgment is not stayed pending completion of appeal proceedings, if any."
Two notable things: the court did not order a new trial. Instead, the court ordered basically a dismissal of the charges. Even though he had finished serving his time in prison, I don't think that means that the convictions should necessarily get expunged. The typical remedy would be a new trial. Thinking about that remand in Ramchair last year (I am referring to the end of that long post), I wonder if the MJ should have done a more thorough job explaining why that particular relief was warranted.
As for the denial of a stay, that makes sense in the face of the relief that was ordered. If the judge thinks that the convictions should be expunged, petitioner will suffer irreparable harm during the appeal. But it is still notable that a stay was denied. Doesn't always happen that way.