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Bray v. Rivard

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

April 22, 2015

HOWARD MCKENNA BRAY, Petitioner,
v.
STEVE RIVARD, Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER SUMMARILY DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

DAVID M. LAWSON United States District Judge

Petitioner Howard McKenna Bray, presently confined at the St. Louis Correctional Facility in St. Louis, Michigan, has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging his conviction for second-degree home invasion and attempted second-degree home invasion. He alleges in his petition that the state court incorrectly scored or calculated his sentencing guidelines range under the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines and his sentence violated the Due Process Clause because it was based upon factors not submitted to a jury and proven beyond a reasonable doubt or admitted to by the petitioner. The Court will dismiss the petition because the petitioner’s papers plainly demonstrate that he is not entitled to relief. See Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases.

I.

The petitioner pleaded guilty to second-degree home invasion and attempted second-degree home invasion in the Genesee County, Michigan circuit court and was sentenced to concurrent sentences of 125 months to 22 ½ years in prison on the second-degree home invasion conviction and 47 months to 7 ½ years on the attempted second-degree home invasion conviction. The petitioner’s conviction and sentence was affirmed on direct appeal. People v. Bray, No. 318206 (Mich. Ct. App. December 5, 2013), lv. den. 495 Mich. 996, 845 N.W.2d 504 (2014).

On April 7, 2015, the petitioner filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petitioner raises two claims for relief:

A. Points under OV 14 were scored incorrectly under Michigan statutory and case law and U.S. Const. Ams. V and IV.

B. Defendant’s score on OV 16 was incorrectly scored because the amount of property stolen was not established by law or the constitution.

II.

After a petition for habeas corpus is filed, the Court must undertake a preliminary review of the petition to determine whether “it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see also 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If, after preliminary consideration, the Court determines that the petitioner is not entitled to relief, the Court must summarily dismiss the petition. McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1999); Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see also Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that lack merit on their face). No response to a habeas petition is necessary if the petition is frivolous, obviously lacks merit, or if the necessary facts can be determined from the petition itself without considering a response from the State. See Allen, 424 F.2d at 141; Robinson v. Jackson, 366 F.Supp.2d 524, 525 (E.D. Mich. 2005).

To qualify for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the petitioner must show that the state court decision on a federal issue “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, ” or amounted to “an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2); Franklin v. Francis, 144 F.3d 429, 433 (6th Cir. 1998). The analysis of a petitioner’s claim is limited to consideration of “the law as it was ‘clearly established’ by [Supreme Court] precedents at the time of the state court’s decision, ” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003). Under that review standard, mere error by the state court does not justify issuance of the writ; rather, the state court must have applied federal law in a way that is “objectively unreasonable.” Wiggins, 539 U.S. at 520-21 (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 409 (2000)).

A.

The petitioner contends that the state court incorrectly calculated his sentencing guideline range under the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. The petitioner is not entitled to relief on this ground. State courts are the final arbiters of state law. See Bradshaw v. Richey, 546 U.S. 74, 76 (2005); Sanford v. Yukins, 288 F.3d 855, 860 (6th Cir. 2002). Therefore, claims that challenge a state court’s sentencing decision under state law are normally not cognizable on federal habeas review, unless the habeas petitioner can show that the sentence imposed exceeded the statutory limits or is wholly unauthorized by law. See Vliet v. Renico, 193 F.Supp.2d 1010, 1014 (E.D. Mich. 2002). A sentence imposed within the statutory limits is generally not subject to habeas review. Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 741 (1948); Cook v. Stegall, 56 F.Supp.2d 788, 797 (E.D. Mich. 1999).

The petitioner does not contend that the sentence imposed exceeded the statutory limits or is wholly unauthorized by law. Instead, the petitioner contends that the state trial court incorrectly scored or calculated his sentencing guidelines range under the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. The petitioner’s claims that the state trial court improperly departed above the correct sentencing guidelines range does not entitle the petitioner to habeas relief because such a departure does not violate any of the petitioner’s federal due process rights. Austin v. Jackson, 213 F.3d 298, 301 (6th Cir. 2000); see also Doyle v. Scutt, 347 F.Supp.2d 474, 485 (E.D. Mich. 2004) (‚Äúpetitioner had no ...


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