In this 2003 case, “Ninja” is a gang nickname (in 1988) for someone who was going to sell or give guns (“artillery” or “jammies”) to the convicted criminal conspirators. The crime is the execution-style murder of a police officer.

PHILIP COPELAND, Petitioner, – against – HANS G. WALKER, Superintendent, Auburn Correctional Facility, Respondent.
97-CV-2082 (ERK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
258 F. Supp. 2d 105;

Decided – April 15, 2003

Opinion by Judge Edward R. Korman explains:

In the early morning hours of February 26, 1988, a young, newly appointed New York City Police Officer, Edward Byrne, sitting in his patrol car outside the home of a witness he was assigned to protect, was shot five times in the head from a distance of two feet. Officer Byrne died instantly. The killing was apparently meant to send a message to law enforcement authorities from Howard “Pappy” Mason, one of two Queens drug lords who were incarcerated at the time. Petitioner, Philip Copeland, was convicted by a jury sitting in New York State Supreme Court of carrying out this crime along with his co-defendants Todd Scott, David McClary, and Scott Cobb. Howard “Pappy” Mason was convicted his for his role in the offense.

And:

Petitioner’s role in the planning of this execution-style murder was firmly established through the testimony of Darrell Newby and Martin Howell, who were both members of the drug gang known as the “Beebos,” to which petitioner also belonged (T. 362-63, 527-28, 746, 754). Howell and Newby testified that on February 25, 1988, the night before Officer Byrne was killed, they attended a meeting in an apartment along with petitioner, Todd Scott, and Scott Cobb (T. 369, 370-71, 379). Prior to petitioner’s arrival, Howell heard Scott announce that “the boss had put out an order to hit a cop” (T. 532, 589-90, 591, 593). Scott assured that anyone who participated would receive $ 8,000 in return and would not get caught because “the guy sleeps on the job and it would be easy” (T. 532, 593). Upon petitioner’s arrival at the apartment, Newby (petitioner’s cousin), overheard Todd Scott tell petitioner and Cobb “that we have to kill a police officer regarding a witness” (T. 372, 481-82). Newby then observed both petitioner and Cobb nod their heads “up and down” in response to Scott’s remark (T. 374, 460, 464). Howell also overheard petitioner ask Scott if he had the “jammies,” or guns (T. 602, 664, 717, 727). Scott replied that he was going to get the “artillery” from “Ninja” (T. 603). Howell then heard petitioner say to Cobb, “We’re going to use your car” (T. 537, 603).

Petitioner’s complicity in the conspiracy to murder Officer Byrne is further evidenced by statements made both before the planning session and after the killing. Howell testified that earlier on February 25, petitioner declared to him that “the [*120] Boss [Pappy Mason] was very pissed off and he wanted to see it on TV while he was on Riker’s Island that a cop got iced” (T. 763-64, 770). In addition, the morning following the shooting Scott Cobb confessed to Newby that “We killed the cop” (T. 508, 521). That same day, Cobb told Howell, in petitioner’s presence, how two cars had been used in the “hit” — one car was “dumped” while the other was used to take the participants to a party in Manhattan after the killing (T. 576, 740-41). Howell also heard petitioner tell Cobb that he did not want to hear anymore about “the situation” (T. 577, 665, 743). On the Monday following the crime, Newby also overheard Scott Cobb confess to a third person that he had pulled up behind the police officer’s car and shot him (T. 508-09). Finally, on the Saturday following the shooting when some money was missing from the profits of drug sales, petitioner warned Howell and others that “if you all want to end up like that MF-ing cop, then that money better turn up” (T. 764-65).

In addition to this testimonial evidence, the prosecution also presented physical evidence linking petitioner to the crime. Specifically, petitioner’s fingerprint was found on an Econo-Lodge scratch pad, which was recovered from the yellow car used by the perpetrators (T. 942, 1490, 1732). Based on this evidence, a rational juror could certainly conclude that petitioner was guilty of intentional murder.

The Court here denies the petition for habeas corpus and denies certificate of appealability.

Recall also, this is the second time we’ve seen Ninja as a gang member’s nickname in Federal Court.

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