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Adams v. Cappoza

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 19, 2015

SILAS JOSEPH ADAMS, GG-7399, Petitioner,
v.
SUPT. MARK CAPPOZA, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

ROBERT C. MITCHELL, Magistrate Judge.

Silas Joseph Adams, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh has presented a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. For the reasons set forth below, the petition will be dismissed and because reasonable jurists could not conclude that a basis for appeal exists, a certificate of appealability will be denied.

Adams is present serving a life plus a combined consecutive 12 ½ to 25 year sentence imposed following his conviction of first degree murder, criminal attempt-homicide, aggravated assault-serious bodily injury, aggravated assault-serious bodily injury, burglary, recklessly endangering another person and person not to possess firearms at Nos. CC200401066 and CC200400739 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. This sentence was imposed on July 20, 2003.

An appeal was taken to the Superior Court in which the issues presented were:

I. Was the verdict against the weight of the evidence insofar as the testimony offered by the Commonwealth to support a finding that Silas Adams fired the shot that killed Ivan Pegues or acted as an accomplice, and shot at a police vehicle, was unreliable and uncorroborated by the physical evidence, such that the finding of guilt was based on mere surmise and conjecture?
II. Did the trial court err in denying the motion for a mistrial after Commonwealth witness Yvonne Luckey testified that the defendant, Silas Adams, sold crack cocaine, insofar as this evidence was not relevant for any reason and it was highly prejudicial insofar as it blackened Mr. Adams' character, stripped him of the presumption of innocence and predisposed the jury to find him guilty.[1] On October 16, 2008, the judgment of sentence was affirmed.[2] Allowance of appeal was denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on May 28, 2009.[3]

On June 11, 2008, Adams filed a post-conviction petition. The petition was dismissed on July 27, 2012 and a notice of appeal was filed on July 31, 2012. In his appeal, Adams raised the following issues:

I. Whether trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the prosecutor's improper closing arguments in which he unfairly expressed his personal opinions, vouched for his eyewitnesses referred to matters outside the record and appealed to the jury's passions and whether cumulative trial ineffectiveness requires a new trial.
II. Whether trial and appellate counsel were ineffective in failing to raise and preserve challenges to the excessiveness and legality of the additional lengthy sentences which were imposed consecutive to the life sentence.
III. Whether trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to an improper and insufficient jury instruction which failed to require careful and cautionary scrutiny for cooperative witnesses and whether cumulative trial ineffectiveness requires a new trial.
IV. Whether prior counsel were ineffective for abandoning and failing to pursue a meritorious claim for severance of the homicide from the non-homicide charges and whether cumulative trial ineffectiveness requires a new trial.[4]

On May 31, 2013, the denial of post-conviction relief was affirmed.[5] Allowance of appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was denied on October 31, 2013.[6]

In the instant petition executed on October 27, 2014 and received in this Court on October 29, 2014, Adams contends he is entitled to relief on the following grounds:

1. The Commonwealth failed to introduce evidence that any of the shell casings and bullet fragments which were recovered from the scene of the Ivan Pagues shooting were fired from the weapon that was recovered from the apartment in which appellant was arrested. The Commonwealth failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant shot the gun that killed the victim in the instant case, or that appellant acted as an accomplice with those who actually did the killing. Commonwealths star witness Yvonne Luckey testified that she was under the influence of crack cocaine at the time she observed the shooting and that she is near-sighted and wears prescription glasses, but that she was not wearing her glasses on the night of the incident. She only saw the back of the person that was shooting and not ...

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