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Huntington v. Romanowski

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

February 27, 2015

DARIUS HUNTINGTON, #702638, Petitioner,


MARK A. GOLDSMITH, District Judge.


Petitioner Darius Huntington, currently confined at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Dkt. 1), in which he challenges his conviction for first-degree felony murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316; possession of a firearm by a felon, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224f; and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. Pursuant to Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.10, Petitioner was sentenced as a second felony habitual offender to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for his first-degree murder conviction; to two years to seven years and six months imprisonment for his felon in possession of a firearm conviction; and to two years imprisonment for his felony firearm conviction. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the petition for writ of habeas corpus and declines to issue a certificate of appealability. However, the Court grants Petitioner leave to appeal in forma pauperis.


Petitioner was convicted following a jury trial in the Muskegon 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 evidence showed that on June 19, 2009, the victim, Willie Rice, was cooking dinner for his brother and three friends. The victim was standing up in the kitchen, and the rest of the men were sitting. Defendant and another man walked into the home. Defendant was wearing a bandana-type mask covering his face from the nose down, and dark clothing. Defendant immediately indicated that "this is a stickup, " and as the victim turned around to face defendant, defendant shot the victim in the torso. The other men ran into a bedroom. Defendant and his accomplice followed the men and demanded money. The men emptied their pockets and defendant and co-defendant then left. Emergency personnel were immediately contacted but the victim died later that night from the gunshot wound.
Officers arrested defendant based in part on interviews with defendant's ex-girlfriend, Cynoda Sparkling, and Sparkling's friend, Jasmine Flowers. Sparkling initially lied to police and provided an alibi for defendant, but later went back to the police and provided a different version of events. She told officers that she was not with defendant the day or night of the murder. Sparkling testified that late at night on the day after the murder she picked defendant up and he confessed to the robbery and shooting. Flowers testified that she was in the car when Sparkling picked defendant up, and that defendant said he was wrestling with the victim and the gun accidentally fired. During cross examination, Sparkling admitted defendant told her that he accidentally shot the victim. However, all four eyewitnesses testified that there was no struggle over the gun, and that defendant shot the victim almost immediately upon entry into the home.

People v. Huntington, No. 295474, 2011 WL 1600502, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Apr. 28, 2011). Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal, Id. at *5, and the Michigan Supreme Court denied Petitioner's application for leave to appeal that judgment. People v. Huntington, 804 N.W.2d 330 (Mich. 2011).

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

i. "The trial court reversibly erred by (1) refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offenses of second degree murder and manslaughter and by (2) giving the jury an instruction on malice that lessened the prosecution's burden of proof."
ii. "Defendant must be permitted [] the right to a fair jury trial under the Six[th] Amendment, because these proceeding took place at the time when Defendant was denied a lesser offense of murder voluntary manslaughter CJI2d 16.9, his counsel was constitutionally ineffective when he failed to demand a direct[ed] verdict."

Pet. at 5, 7 (cm/ecf pages).


Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 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 ...

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