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Masalmani v. Smith

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 9, 2015

IHAB MASALMANI, Petitioner,
v.
WILLIE SMITH, Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY OR LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

GERSHWIN A. DRAIN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Ihab Masalmani, ("Petitioner"), confined at the Ionia Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan, has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his pro se application, Mr. Masalmani challenges his conviction out of the Macomb County Circuit Court for eighteen different charges arising out of three separate cases that were consolidated for trial. Mr. Masalmani was convicted in Case # 09-004832-FC of several counts of armed robbery, one count of kidnapping, one count of bank robbery, and four counts of felony-firearm. In Case # 09-005144-FC, Mr. Masalmani was convicted of carjacking, receiving and concealing firearms, and felony-firearm. In Case # 09-005244-FC, Mr. Masalmani was convicted of firstdegree felony murder, carjacking, conspiracy to commit carjacking, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, larceny from a person, and felony firearm. For the reasons stated below, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

II. BACKGROUND

Mr. Masalmani was convicted of the above charges following a jury trial in the Macomb County Circuit Court. This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which are presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

Defendant's convictions arise from three criminal episodes that occurred during a three-day crime spree from August 9, 2009, until defendant's arrest on August 11, 2009. The prosecutor's theory was that on the afternoon of August 9, 2009, defendant, acting in concert with codefendant Robert Taylor, both of whom were juveniles, carjacked and abducted Matt Landry from outside an Eastpointe restaurant, held Landry captive for several hours, stole his money by using his ATM card, and later murdered him by shooting him in the head and leaving his body at an abandoned burnt-out house in a drug-infested neighborhood. The next day, defendant, using Landry's vehicle and now acting alone, robbed a Flagstar Bank, during which he pointed a gun and threatened several people inside the bank, temporarily abducted customer Sarah Maynard, and stole money from both the bank and a customer before fleeing in Landry's vehicle. Defendant continued his crime spree on August 11, 2009, by carjacking David Hassroune at gunpoint in a Walmart parking lot before being arrested. Surveillance videotape from several locations depicted defendant committing many of the offenses. At trial, the defense focused on contesting the charges that defendant shot Landry and kidnapped Maynard.

People v. Masalmani, No. 301376, 2013 WL 1137181, at *2 (Mich. Ct. App. Mar. 19, 2013) appeal denied, 495 Mich. 853, 835 N.W.2d 592 (2013).

Mr. Masalmani's convictions were affirmed on appeal, although the Michigan Court of Appeals vacated petitioner's mandatory nonparolable life sentence and remanded for resentencing due to the fact that he was a juvenile when he committed the murder. See People v. Masalmani, 495 Mich. 853, 835 N.W.2d 592, 593 (2013). Here, Mr. Masalmani seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:

I. Mr. Masalmani's conviction for first-degree murder should be vacated because the prosecution failed to present evidence sufficient to sustain the conviction.
II. The prosecutor engaged in misconduct by vouching for a key witness who happened to be a jailhouse snitch and denigrating Mr. Masalmani, thus depriving him of his constitutional right to a fair trial.
III. Mr. Masalmani was denied a fair trial and effective assistance of counsel by his attorney's failure to object to the prosecutor's misconduct.

See Dkt. No. 1 at 4, 5, 7.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), the following standard of review is imposed for habeas cases:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). A decision of a state court is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). An "unreasonable application" occurs when "a state court decision unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner's case." Id. at 409. A federal habeas court may not "issue the writ simply because that court ...


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