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Meriweather v. United States District Court Dewayne Burton

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

January 12, 2015



MARIANNE O. BATTANI, District Judge.

Atiba Meriweather, ("Petitioner"), confined at the Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in which he challenges his convictions for four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, M.C.L.A. 750.520b(1)(a); and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, M.C.L.A. 750.520c(1)(a). For the reasons stated below, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

I. Background

Petitioner was charged with sexually assaulting his biological daughter several times when she was six or seven years old. Petitioner was convicted following a jury trial in the Wayne 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):

The victim testified that defendant inserted his penis and finger into her vagina more than three times. The victim also testified that defendant licked her genital area with his tongue. The testimony of a victim alone is sufficient evidence to establish defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the victim's testimony was corroborated by her foster mother and the doctor who examined her, both of whom testified that the victim told them defendant was the person who sexually abused her. On the other hand, the victim's mother testified that she was not aware of defendant sexually abusing the victim and the victim denied she was sexually abused when the victim's mother questioned her. Defendant testified that he did not sexually abuse the victim at his house or his barber shop, and that he felt the victim was being coerced by the police, the prosecution, and child protective services. The jury heard the evidence presented by each side and determined that the victim's testimony was credible.

People v. Meriweather, No. 292133, * 2 (Mich.Ct.App. March 17, 2011)(internal citations omitted).

Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id .; lv. den. 489 Mich. 994, 800 N.W.2d 90 (2011).

Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, which was dismissed without prejudice because petitioner had failed to exhaust his claims with the state courts. Meriweather v. Berghuis, No. 11-14367, 2011 WL 5975286 (E.D.Mich. November 29, 2011).

Petitioner filed a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment with the state court, which was denied. People v. Meriweather, No. 08-016191-01 (Wayne County Circuit Court, October 2, 2012). The Michigan appellate courts denied petitioner leave to appeal. People v. Meriweather, No. 315042 (Mich.Ct.App. October 8, 2013); lv. den. 495 Mich. 977, 843 N.W.2d 760 (2014).

Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:

I. Trial judge abused his discretion in failing to consider petitioner was deprived a meaningful direct appeal where petitioner was deprived access to the records/transcripts, trial judge abused his discretion where he failed to rule on petitioner's several motions (sic) filed.
II. Petitioner was denied due process where he was not given adequate notice of the charges in order to enable him to present a defense and was denied the ability to protect himself from double jeopardy.
III. Petitioner was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel, where counsel, with no strategic purpose, made numerous outcome determinative errors, depriving him of his right to a fair trial.
IV. A hearing must be ordered to allow petitioner the opportunity to show that the prosecutor's numerous acts of misconduct ultimately denied him a fair trial.

V. Petitioner was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial where

Dr. Nazer testified outside the scope of her allowed testimony by stating that the victim's allegations are truthful.
VI. Petitioner was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial where the jury was allowed to hear and consider inadmissible hearsay evidence in violation of M.R.E. 803A.
VII. Petitioner was constructively denied the right to counsel, where counsel failed to subject the prosecutor's case to any meaningful adversarial testing.
VIII. Petitioner is constructively being denied the right to effective assistance of appellate counsels where counsels failed to investigate and or obtain witness statements, transcripts, and other exculpatory evidence prior to filing his supplemental brief on appeal.
IX. Petitioner's conviction must be reversed where his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the failure to establish probable cause prior to issuing the complaint and arrest warrant.
X. Petitioner was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel at a critical stage rendering the entire process unreliable, requiring an automatic reversal.
XI. Petitioner was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial where the errors committed, individually and collectively rendered the trial fundamentally unfair, thereby negating a harmless error decision.

II. Standard of Review

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), imposes the following standard of review 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.

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 concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Id. at 410-11.

"[A] state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision." Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786 (2011)(citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). The Supreme Court emphasized "that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable." Id . (citing Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)). Furthermore, pursuant to § 2254(d), "a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or...could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision" of the Supreme Court. Id . To obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state prisoner is required to show that the state court's rejection of his or her claim "was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement." Harrington, 131 S.Ct. at 786-87.

Finally, the Court notes that petitioner raises eleven claims in his habeas petition. The Sixth Circuit recently observed: "When a party comes to us with nine grounds for reversing the district court, that usually means there are none." Fifth Third Mortgage v. Chicago Title Ins., 692 F.3d 507, 509 (6th Cir. 2012).

III. Discussion

A. Claim # 1. The denial of transcripts/motions claim.

In his first claim, petitioner contends that he was denied a meaningful direct appeal because he was not provided with copies of the transcripts to prepare his own pro per supplemental Standard 4 brief on appeal that petitioner filed in addition to the appellate brief filed by his appellate counsel. Petitioner also claims that the trial judge abused his discretion by failing to adjudicate several motions that petitioner filed with his post-conviction motion.

Petitioner's appellate counsel filed an appellate brief with the Michigan Court of Appeals, raising two claims for relief. Petitioner filed his own pro se brief on appeal, in which he raised four additional claims. Petitioner claims that he was never provided with copies of the trial ...

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