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Brooklyn defendant denied habeas petition

Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Roslynn Mauskopf. AP Photo

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

A man’s request to be released from prison, on the grounds that his conviction was invalid due to improper jury instructions and an error in the sentencing charge, was denied by Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Roslynn Mauskopf.

Jamel Albritton was accused of fatally shooting Luther Bryant and, with the use of a fake name and false identification, fleeing to California after the crime. Albritton was arrested upon his return to New York five weeks later.

During his 2005 trial, Albritton asserted a claim of self-defense for the murder, and a Brooklyn Supreme Court jury agreed. Albritton was acquitted of second-degree murder but was found guilty of criminal possession of a weapon and possessing false identification.  

Albritton asserted in his subsequent federal suit that the lower trial jury should have been allowed to apply the self-defense justification to the charges of gun possession and false IDs as well as the murder charges.  Albritton should have raised this issue during the trial phase, Mauskopf said in the opinion of Brooklyn’s federal court.

“At no point during the trial, including the charge conference at which the justification instruction was explicitly limited to the charges of murder…and manslaughter, did [Albritton] request the trial court to give a justification instruction with respect to the weapons charge,” Mauskopf wrote. “Nor did [Albritton] object to the omission this instruction after the final jury charge was given.”

In other words, Albritton did not “preserve” on the record any objection to the supposed faulty jury instruction.

To combat the unpreserved record argument, Albritton cited “ineffective representation … by trial counsel” as an explanation; an explanation that Masukopf found “fell short.”

Albritton was sentenced, as a persistent violent felony offender, to concurrent prison terms of 17 years to life on the weapons charge and three-and-a-half to seven years for each count of false identification. In 1992 and 1995, Albritton pleaded guilty to a violent felony, allowing for the status of persistent violent felony offender to be taken into account in the 2005 trial.

Albritton asserted that his status was invalid because the prior convictions were a result of ineffective counsel in 1992 and in 1995, when his trial counsel did not make a challenge of the 1992 conviction.  “This argument is plainly meritless,” wrote Masukopf.  

Manhattan attorney Bernard Alan Seidler represented Albritton in his appeal to federal court.

August 28, 2013 - 2:00pm


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