United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
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
LINDA V. PARKER, District Judge.
Petitioner Thomas Johnson ("Petitioner"), confined at the Carson City Correctional Facility in Carson City, Michigan, seeks the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his pro se application, Petitioner challenges his convictions in November 2009 for assault with intent to commit murder in violation of Michigan Compiled Laws Section 750.83, unarmed robbery in violation of Michigan Compiled Laws Section 750.530, and unlawful imprisonment in violation of Michigan Compiled Laws Section 750.349b. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Petitioner's request for the writ of habeas corpus and declines to issue a certificate of appealability or leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
Petitioner was convicted of the above offenses following a jury trial in the Circuit Court for St. Clair County, Michigan.
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 prosecution presented evidence that defendant and others, including defendant's then-girlfriend, Colleen Sturdevant, schemed to rob someone, identified the victim, and then drove him to various locations, where they beat him repeatedly and took his clothes and other possessions. At trial, Sturdevant testified that at the last location where the victim was assaulted, defendant stomped on the victim's neck, applying the full weight of his body. Defendant denied standing on the victim's neck. Sturdevant additionally testified that defendant commanded her to retrieve a bottle, which Sturdevant broke and used to cut the victim's neck. Defendant denied ordering Sturdevant to get the bottle. In the days after the assault, defendant sent text messages to his friends that he had killed someone.
People v. Johnson, No. 296459, 2011 WL 1816461, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. May 12, 2011).
Petitioner's convictions were affirmed on appeal. Id., lv. den. 490 Mich. 892, 804 N.W.2d 329 (2011). On September 11, 2012, he filed the pending application for the writ of habeas corpus asserting the following grounds for relief:
I. The trial judge barred Petitioner from fully pursuing the racial prejudice of [the] alleged victim through cross examination, denying Petitioner of his right to confrontation and violating his due process rights under the United States Constitution.
II. Petitioner was deprived of effective assistance of counsel when defense counsel failed to present testimonial evidence from Mariah Bell's testimony, given at co-defendant Colleen Sturdevant's trial. This evidence would have shown Sturdevant admitted being the one who cut/sliced the victim's throat, Petitioner never threatened, coerced or forced her to cut/slice the victim's throat, and would have supported Petitioner's defense that he was never the one intending to cause the death of the victim.
III. Petitioner's guilty verdict of assault with intent to murder was against the great weight of the evidence and violates Petitioner's right to due process and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
IV. The admission of gruesome photographs of the victim, allowed over the objections of [the] defense was an abuse of discretion by the trial judge, causing a miscarriage of justice depriving Petitioner of his rights to a fair trial, and fundamental due process in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
V. Petitioner was deprived of his Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States when his sentence guideline range was scored incorrectly, resulting in his sentence being increased.
Respondent filed an answer to the petition on March 18, 2013. Petitioner filed a reply brief on May 2, 2013.
II. Standard of Review
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") imposes the following standard of review on federal courts reviewing applications for a writ of habeas corpus:
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 proceedings.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Therefore, federal courts are bound by a state court's adjudication of a petitioner's claims unless the state court's decision was contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. Franklin v. Francis, 144 F.3d 429 (6th Cir. 1998).
The United States Supreme Court has explained the proper application of the "contrary to" clause of § 2254(d)(1) as follows:
A state-court decision will certainly be contrary to [the Supreme Court's] clearly established precedent if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in our cases....
A state-court decision will also be contrary to this Court's clearly established precedent if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of this Court and nevertheless ...