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Miles v. Rivard

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

April 29, 2015

MUQARIBU MILES, Petitioner,
v.
STEVEN RIVARD, Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS [1], DENYING RESPONDENT’S MOTION TO DISMISS [8], AND GRANTING PETITIONER A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

LAURIE J. MICHELSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

In October 2009, Petitioner Muqaribu Miles had an altercation with Marcel Conner at Rebecca Robinson’s home; as a result, Miles was charged with four offenses: home invasion, felonious assault, felon in possession of a firearm, and felony firearm. At Miles’ state-court trial on these charges, Conner testified that when he was exiting Robinson’s front door onto her porch, Miles jumped him, brandished a gun, said that he did not like snitches, and threatened to kill him. Miles testified differently. Miles said that he simply wanted to talk with Conner and that he did not have a gun with him. The jury convicted Miles of home-invasion but it hung on the three weapons charges.

After the trial, the prosecutor learned that a copy of Miles’ criminal-history report had been inadvertently provided to the jury despite the trial judge’s ruling that Miles’ prior convictions (save one) would not be admissible at trial. Based on this alleged error, and two others, Miles petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Miles says that the jury’s exposure to his criminal history deprived him of his constitutional right to a fair trial. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny Miles’ Petition.

I.

Miles does not claim that the Michigan Court of Appeals’ summary of the evidence presented at his trial is inaccurate.[1] In fact, a comparison of his factual summary (Dkt. 2, Br. in Supp. of Pet. at Pg ID 17–27) to that of the state appellate court, People v. Miles, No. 302497, 2012 WL 3238834, at *1–6 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. 9, 2012), reveals that they are largely in accord. So the Court presents the facts as found by the Michigan Court of Appeals with limited supplementation from Miles’ brief in support of his Petition.

A.

The Michigan Court of Appeals summarized the events leading up to the incident at Robinson’s house this way:

Sometime in late September 2009, police stopped a vehicle in Canton Township that was driven by a man named Marcel Conner. According to Conner, [Miles] and Justin Robinson were passengers in the vehicle and when police stopped the vehicle [Miles] fled on foot. Police discovered stolen catalytic converters in the vehicle. During the traffic stop, Conner implicated [Miles] in the crime.
A few days later when Conner was released from jail, [Miles] met Conner at a party store in Jackson where, according to Conner, [Miles] and another man “jumped” Conner and physically beat, kicked, and “stomped” him. [Miles] agreed at trial that he beat Conner “pretty bad” that evening. Conner testified that [Miles] was upset that Conner implicated him in the theft; Conner did not report the assault to police.

Miles, 2012 WL 3238834, at *1.

The altercation between Miles and Conner that led to Miles’ conviction for home invasion occurred on October 3, 2009. The Michigan Court of Appeals summarized the events of that night as follows:

[O]n October 3, 2009, Conner was at the home of Rebecca Robinson visiting his girlfriend Jennifer Snyder, the mother of two of [Conner’s] young children. . . . Later that evening after dark, Conner exited Robinson’s home through a door onto a screened-in porch when he was immediately accosted by [Miles]. Specifically, Conner testified that when he exited the home onto the porch, [Miles] “jumped” him while . . . “brandishing” a silver handgun. Conner testified that [Miles] stated that he did not like “snitches” and said “I’m here to get you, ” and threatened to kill Conner. According to Conner, [Miles] grabbed him and said “come with me” and started pulling him away from the door. [Miles] threatened to kill Conner, and Conner resisted and yelled for help.
Snyder [, Conner’s girlfriend, ] testified that when Conner exited the home she heard a loud “bang” and immediately heard a child scream and then heard Conner yelling for her. Snyder rushed to the door and saw that [Miles] had a hold of Conner and was pulling him away from the door. A struggle ensued where Snyder grabbed hold of both [Miles] and Conner and tried to pull them apart. According to Snyder, the struggle took place on the enclosed porch and the entryway of the home and both she and Conner testified that [Miles] stepped over the doorstep into the home. Snyder testified that [Miles] pulled a gun out of his pocket and told her to “let go.” Snyder testified that she released her hold of [Miles] at that point. According to Snyder, a police car effectuated a traffic stop nearby and [Miles] walked away.
Eva Harrell, a friend of Rebecca [Robinson], testified that she was in another room of the Robinson home that evening when she heard a loud commotion near the door. Harrell testified that she heard someone say the word “gun” and heard a child exclaim “don’t shoot my daddy!” [Harrell testified that she also heard Miles say, “If I wanted to hurt him[, ] I would have already done it.” (Trial Tr. Vol. I at 253–54.)] Harrell stayed in a separate room with her children and did not approach the door.
After [Miles] left the scene, one of Rebecca’s children alerted her to the commotion. Rebecca testified that when she came downstairs to investigate, Conner, Snyder, and one of her sons exclaimed that [Miles] had a gun. Rebecca called 911 and the telephone call was played for the jury at trial.
Rebecca [Robinson] testified that a couple weeks before the incident, [in mid-August 2009, ] she told defendant not to come over to her home. [Miles testified that he had gone to Rebecca’s home to obtain Justin Robinson’s number; Miles recalled that during that August 2009 visit he spoke with Justin on Rebecca’s phone with Justin saying to Miles, “I told on you.” (Trial Tr. Vol. II at 111– 12.)] . . . [Miles] denied that Rebecca told him not to return to the home. . . .
[Miles] testified and agreed that he appeared uninvited at Robinson’s home after dark on October 3, 2009. [Miles] agreed that he did not give anyone advance notice that he was going to appear at the home that night and he agreed that no one invited him over or gave him permission to approach the home. [Miles] agreed that his presence at the home surprised Conner and he stated that Conner probably screamed because he thought he was going to “get beat up again.” However, [Miles] testified that he went to [Rebecca Robinson’s] home because he wanted to talk to Justin [Robinson] and he knew that Justin frequented the home. [Miles] testified that he wanted to explain that the converter theft was only a misdemeanor. [Miles implied that because the catalytic converter charge was, in his view, only a misdemeanor, he was not angry at Conner. (Trial Tr. Vol. II 114– 15, 142.) According to Miles, he had met Conner between the time of their fight and the October 3, 2009 incident and told Conner that they were still friends, “it was just a fight yo, and it’s over with.” (Trial Tr. Vol. II 114–15.)] [In contrast to Conner’s testimony that Miles caught Conner as he exited the home to the porch, Miles] stated that as he approached the home, Conner happened to be exiting the porch. [Miles] testified that he grabbed Conner’s arm and asked him to talk, and he stated that when Conner responded that he did not want to talk, [he] pulled a cellular telephone out of his pocket and handed it to Conner and asked him to call Justin. According to [Miles], Conner screamed and he ended up on the porch struggling with Conner, Snyder and their children. Specifically, [Miles] stated that while he was holding Conner’s arm, when Snyder and the children pulled Conner back toward the entrance to the house, this propelled him onto the enclosed porch. [Miles] also testified that Snyder grabbed hold of him. [Miles] testified that he wanted to leave[-“Jennifer, tell your kids to let me go and you let me go so I can get out of here” (Trial Tr. Vol. II at 119)-]but Snyder would not release him so he took his cellular telephone out of his pocket and told her to call [the] police. [Miles] denied that he had a gun.
During his direct testimony, [Miles] stated that he had three prior misdemeanor convictions, an “R & O, ” and a “couple other thing[s].” On cross-examination, [Miles] agreed that he was a convicted felon and that a felony charge was not a new experience for him.
At trial, the prosecutor introduced a recorded telephone conversation that [Miles] placed to his fiancé Sherry Heard while he was incarcerated [and six days after] . . . his arrest. During the telephone conversation, [Miles] informed Heard that it would be “horrible” for him if Conner testified at trial and that he would “never, ever see the daylight.” [Miles] encouraged Heard to talk to Conner’s brother because he could make Conner “change his mind.” [Miles] testified that during the conversation he [did not want Conner to lie for him (Trial Tr. Vol. II at 121–22), ] but wanted Heard to try and convince Conner to tell the truth.

Miles, 2012 WL 3238834, at *1–3 (some paragraphing altered).

B.

After deliberating for a day-and-half, on June 24, 2010, the jury convicted Miles of first-degree home invasion but could not reach a verdict on the charges of felonious assault, felon in possession of a firearm, and felony firearm. Miles, 2012 WL 3238834, at *3. “The trial court accepted the jury’s verdict and declared a hung jury with respect to the other three counts.” Id.

C.

“On the day after trial, the prosecutor went into the jury room to retrieve the exhibits. The exhibits were in a stack on a table and the prosecutor noticed that defendant’s criminal record was on the top of the stack of exhibits.” Miles, 2012 WL 3238834, at *3. Miles’ record should not have been among the exhibits: prior to trial, the judge had decided that, save for a prior conviction involving false pretenses, none of Miles’ other eight felony convictions-(1) malicious destruction of property over $100; (2) carrying a concealed weapon; (3) fleeing and eluding-third degree; (4) resisting and obstructing a police officer; (5) felon in possession of a firearm; (6) malicious destruction of police property; (7) fleeing and eluding-third degree; and (8) felony firearm (Br. in Supp. of Pet. at Pg ID 27)-would be admissible. (See Trial. Tr. Vol. I at 6–7.)

So “[t]he prosecutor immediately notified the trial court and defense counsel[, ] and defense counsel appeared at court that day”:

The prosecutor informed the court that the criminal record must have inadvertently been included with all of the other exhibits. She stated that she was surprised to find the criminal record because she and defense counsel and the trial court spoke with the jurors immediately after the trial and none of the jurors indicated that they were aware of defendant’s criminal record. The prosecutor stated that the jurors expressed surprise when she mentioned defendant had a criminal record.

Miles, 2012 WL 3238834, at *3. “The trial court indicated that it would address the issue at another hearing[.] . . .” Id.

On June 30, 2010, six days after the verdict, “the court reconvened with the prosecutor, defense ...


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