United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Samuel Ryan, New Jersey State Prison, Trenton, NJ, Petitioner pro se.
Carol Marie Henderson, Esq., Office of the New Jersey Attorney General, Division of Criminal Justice, Appellate Section, TGrenton, NJ, Counsel for Respondents.
ROBERT B. KUGLER, District Judge.
Petitioner Samuel Ryan ("Petitioner"), a prisoner currently confined at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, New Jersey, has submitted a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The respondents are Administrator Roy L. Hendricks, the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey, and the Cumberland County Prosecutor.
For the reasons stated herein, the Petition shall be denied.
A. Factual Background
The relevant facts are set forth in the opinion of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.
A Texaco gasoline station in Bridgeton, New Jersey was robbed at gunpoint at approximately 2:00 a.m. on February 21, 1996. Two employees, Gene Munyon and Dustin Poeppel, were in the office. The robber, who was wearing a cap and ski mask and was holding a "shiny" gun, entered the office and fired one shot. The bullet struck Munyon. It traveled through his right forearm, into his neck and then into his jaw. He was left bleeding and with a fractured jaw. The perpetrator took about $100 cash and left.
The gas station employees described the robber as a tall, skinny, light skinned, black man with "beady" eyes. They did not identify any suspects either before or at trial.
At the scene of the crime, the police found a "spent projectile, " i.e., the part of the bullet which had been fired from the gun, a shell casing, and a live bullet which had apparently fallen to the floor without having been fired. From this evidence, the police determined that the handgun used in the robbery had fired 10 millimeter Hornady brand ammunition.
Stores selling guns or ammunition are permitted to sell them only to customers who display firearms identification cards. The sellers are required to keep a record of the identities of persons buying guns or ammunition. Law enforcement officers generally use handguns which take 9 millimeter ammunition. Handguns using 8 millimeter ammunition are also relatively common. The police knew that guns using 10 millimeter ammunition are relatively rare. Within a day or two after the robbery, they therefore canvassed the local gun shops to learn whether anyone had recently bought 10 millimeter ammunition or a handgun that used that size bullets.
The initial canvass produced no useful leads. But on March 14, 1996, one of the gun store owners reported to the police that someone identifying himself as Jimmy Rhett had purchased 10 millimeter ammunition. The police arrested Jimmy Rhett on a warrant that was outstanding for some other matter. That evening, Jimmy called his brother, Diondray Rhett, at Diondray's apartment while defendant was there watching a Mike Tyson fight. Jimmy Rhett spoke to his brother and then to defendant. A short time after speaking to Jimmy Rhett, defendant left the apartment. Diondray followed him out of the apartment and offered to take him to the police station. The implication of Diondray's testimony is that he wanted defendant to talk to the police to absolve Jimmy from suspicion of complicity in the Texaco robbery. He was a suspect because his name had been used to buy the 10 millimeter ammunition. Defendant refused. As Diondray and defendant were talking outside the building in which Diondray's apartment was located, the police arrived and defendant ran into another building in the apartment complex. The police found him in an apartment in that building, hiding in the crawl space above a closet.
Diondray testified that he had known defendant for a long time and would socialize with him. According to Diondray, he had gone out drinking with defendant both shortly before and shortly after the Texaco robbery. Before the robbery, Diondray had paid for the drinks because defendant had no money. After the robbery, defendant paid for the drinks. Apparently surprised that defendant had money to buy their drinks, Diondray asked him, perhaps jokingly, whether he had robbed the Texaco station. Defendant answered, "I had to do what I had to do."
Diondray also testified that on February 28, 1996, after the robbery, he hosted a party that defendant attended. Before leaving the party to fight with another guest, defendant gave a gun to Diondray's nephew, Darnell Holbrook, to hold. Holbrook left with the gun before defendant returned. The police questioned Holbrook about the gun. He still had it in his possession and he delivered it to the police. A State Police ballistics expert identified the gun which was ...