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Copeland v. Brewer

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

April 15, 2015

CURTIS DIONTE COPELAND, # 600227, Petitioner,
SHAWN BREWER, Respondent

Curtis Copeland, Petitioner, Pro se, JACKSON, MI.

For Carmen Palmer, Warden, Respondent: John S. Pallas, Laura Moody, Michigan Department of Attorney General, Appellate Division, Lansing, MI.

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HONORABLE Denise Page Hood, United States District Judge.

Curtis Dionte Copeland, (" Petitioner" ), presently confined at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan, seeks the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[1] In his pro se application, petitioner

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challenges his conviction for receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle, M.C.L.A. 750.535(7) and being an habitual offender, M.C.L.A. 769.12. For the reasons stated below, the application for writ of habeas corpus is GRANTED.

I. Background

Petitioner was charged with receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle, concealing or misrepresenting identity with intent to mislead, felon in possession of a firearm, and felony-firearm. Following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court, petitioner was found guilty of the receiving and concealing charge and was acquitted of the three remaining charges.[2] Petitioner was sentenced to three years, four months to ten years in prison.

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):

At trial, the evidence established that a tip received by police regarding the location of several stolen vehicles resulted in the discovery of a stolen black Chevrolet Impala parked in front of a residence at 3950 Joseph Campau in Detroit. Police determined that the black Impala was stolen because the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the black Impala was assigned to a white Impala. A subsequent search of the 3950 Joseph Campau residence revealed the presence of men's clothing and an unusual amount of automobile parts. Tierra Hinton, who had tattoos bearing defendant's name and indicating a romantic relationship, and a small child identified as her son were present during the search. Further, a woman who lived next door to the residence at issue testified that she observed defendant coming and going from the home at least two or three times a week since late 2009, and that she always assumed he lived there. She also testified that she did not start observing Hinton until about a year after she first noticed defendant, and she assumed Hinton was there to visit defendant.
In addition, the prosecution presented the testimony of Rodney Lea, owner of Lea's Auto Body, that he recognized the white Impala, whose VIN was taken and attached to the stolen black Impala, as a vehicle that he bought from a salvage auction in August 2011. In addition, he testified that defendant and Hinton came to his body shop and purchased the white Impala he obtained from the salvage auction. Specifically, he recalled that defendant was the one who actually did all of the talking about the sale of the white Impala and paid him in cash for the Impala, but that the receipt was made out to Hinton. Also, two other employees of the auto body shop from which the white Impala was purchased confirmed that defendant examined the vehicle, negotiated the sale, paid cash for the vehicle, and arranged for the vehicle's transportation.

People v. Copeland, No. 311129, 2013 WL 6182646, at *1-2 (Mich. Ct.App. Nov. 26, 2013)(footnote omitted).

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Two judges on the Michigan Court of Appeals voted to uphold the conviction, finding that the evidence was sufficient to sustain petitioner's conviction:

Viewing this evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, we conclude that there was sufficient evidence for a rational trier of fact to conclude that the elements of the charged crime were proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In particular, it is reasonable to infer from the evidence presented at trial that defendant possessed the black Impala and knew that it was stolen.

Id., at * 2 (majority opinion)(footnote omitted).

Judge Wendy Jansen dissented from the majority opinion, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to sustain petitioner's conviction:

I respectfully dissent. I conclude that the prosecution presented insufficient evidence to prove that defendant received, concealed, or had actual or constructive possession of the stolen car in this case. See MCL 750.535(7); People v. Pratt, 254 Mich.App. ...

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