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Guajardo v. Rapelje

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

March 31, 2015

JUAN M. GUAJARDO, JR., Petitioner,
v.
LLOYD RAPELJE, Respondent.

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

Victoria A. Roberts, United States District Judge

Juan M. Guajardo, Jr., (“Petitioner”), confined at the Saginaw Correctional Facility in Freeland, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges his conviction for second-degree murder, M.C.L.A. § 750.317, possession of a firearm by a felon, M.C.L.A. § 750.224f, and two counts of use of a firearm during the commission of a felony (felony firearm), M.C.L.A. § 750.227b.

For the reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

I. Background

A jury convicted Petitioner in the Saginaw 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 out of the shooting death of Kevin Powell that occurred about December 17, 2010. The shooting occurred at a boarding house in Saginaw that defendant had signed a contract to purchase a few days earlier. Powell, who was a large, heavyset man, was a tenant at the boarding house. Several days before the shooting, the police refused a request from a man named “Juan” for assistance in evicting Powell because “Juan” could not produce a valid eviction notice. A police officer testified that he told “Juan” to call the police if the subject, i.e., Powell, became “assaultive.” The officer testified that “Juan” responded by stating that no call would be necessary because “he takes care of his own.” Defendant testified that his friend had made the call and impersonated defendant.
Before the shooting, defendant, Delano Williams, and John O’Valle moved some of defendant’s belongings, including a rifle, into the boarding house. According to defendant, early in the day Powell shouted at him. Defendant refused to have a conversation with Powell until Powell stopped shouting. Powell retreated to his room. Later that day, defendant and Powell had a calm discussion; Powell offered to talk and have an alcoholic drink with defendant in his room provided that defendant purchase the alcohol. Defendant agreed, and left the boarding house to purchase alcohol. There was conflicting testimony regarding the events that followed.
[A]ccording to Williams, sometime thereafter, while he and O’Valle sat at a table, defendant got the rifle from underneath the mattress, walked to Powell’s room, knocked on the door, asked Powell if he wanted some soup, and then fired the gun. Specifically, Williams explained, “I heard the door go, you know, like somebody touched the knob and gonna pull it open and then just heard a bang.”
[W]illiams did not clarify why defendant confronted Powell with a rifle other than stating that Powell “went too far when he decided he wanted to touch me” and that Powell was “too big.” He agreed that defendant “got up from the table” unannounced, got the rifle, and went to Powell’s room with it.
According to defendant, sometime after he and Powell conversed, while he was eating with O’Valle, he heard a “ruckus in the kitchen” and then saw Powell choking Williams. Defendant explained that he instructed Powell to release Williams and Powell complied. However, defendant testified that Powell stated, “that’s it ... I’m getting my gun. I’m killin’ all of yous.... He said he was gonna kill us.” Powell left the area and returned to his room. Defendant testified that, as Powell was going to his room, “I went under the mattress and retrieved the gun and flashes of my dead sister was in the kitchen, and I’m seeing flashes of [Williams] dead in the kitchen, and I’m figuring he’s gonna come kill us all.” Defendant testified that he retrieved the rifle about three minutes after Powell went into his room. Defendant then proceeded to Powell’s room with the rifle. Defendant stated that he asked Powell if he wanted some food and proceeded through the door into Powell’s room.
Defendant testified that he was scared of “gettin’ killed.” He explained that Powell was holding a “long black thing” that looked like the barrel of a gun when he went in Powell’s room. However, defendant testified that Powell was “bluffing” and must have been holding a hammer that the police later found on his bed. Defendant testified that his rifle fired only once and he stated that he was “shocked that it went off. I actually thought that it was empty.” He explained that he brought what he thought was an unloaded rifle to Powell’s room to try and intimidate Powell and prevent him from “get[ting] his gun and kill[ing] all three of us like he said he was gonna do.” Defendant agreed with the prosecution that his “sworn testimony to this jury was that this was an accident taking place at a time that you were in fear for your life.”

People v. Guajardo, 300 Mich.App. 26, 832 N.W.2d 409, 410-412 (2013).

Petitioner’s conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id. Petitioner did not file an application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.[1]

Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following ground: the trial court denied Petitioner his right to a fair trial when it refused to instruct the ...


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