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Phillips v. Warren

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

May 1, 2015

JOYCE RENEE PHILLIPS, #252326, Petitioner,
v.
MILLICENT WARREN, Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL

GEORGE CARAM STEEH, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Michigan prisoner Joyce Renee Phillips ("petitioner") has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 asserting that she is being held in violation of her constitutional rights. The petitioner pleaded guilty to manslaughter, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.321, in the Kent County Circuit Court and was sentenced to 9 to 15 years imprisonment in 2013. In her pleadings, the petitioner asserts that defense counsel was ineffective at sentencing. For the reasons set forth herein, the court finds that the claim lacks merit and denies the habeas petition. The court also denies a certificate of appealability and denies leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.

II. Facts and Procedural History

The petitioner's conviction arises from the shooting death of her boyfriend, Michael Richardson, on February 12, 2004. The record reveals that the petitioner and Richardson were involved in a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship. After a night of crack cocaine use, they got into an argument because Richardson wanted to use her car to commit a robbery and she objected. The petitioner left, got a gun, returned, and then shot and killed Richardson. The crime was unsolved for several years until the petitioner came forward and admitted her guilt.

At a hearing on December 6, 2012, the petitioner pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for an agreement that she not be charged with a higher offense or as a habitual offender, dismissal of a perjury charge, and an agreement not to pursue charges against her children.

A sentencing hearing was conducted on January 22, 2013. At that hearing, defense counsel expressed condolences to Richardson's family and spoke of the petitioner's love for Richardson, her lack of premeditation and intention, and her remorse. He discussed Richardson's and the petitioner's domestic relationship, which involved violence and substance abuse. Counsel indicated that the situation was a product of their relationship and that the petitioner was not a menace to others. The petitioner also spoke on her own behalf at sentencing, expressing remorse and asking for forgiveness for her actions. The trial court acknowledged that the minimum guideline range was 58 to 114 months and imposed a sentence of 9 to 15 years imprisonment.

The petitioner subsequently moved for re-sentencing asserting that defense counsel was ineffective at sentencing for arguing that "something like this was bound to happen" and for failing to request a sentence at the low end of the guidelines. The trial court conducted a hearing on September 13, 2013, found that counsel made appropriate arguments for leniency, and denied the motion. The petitioner filed a delayed application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals raising the same claim, which was denied "for lack of merit in the grounds presented." People v. Phillips, No. 318283 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 12, 2013) (unpublished). The petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order. People v. Phillips, 495 Mich. 996, 845 N.W.2d 509 (2014).

The petitioner thereafter filed her federal habeas petition raising the following claim as grounds for relief:

[She] is entitled to re-sentencing due to ineffective assistance of counsel and violation of the state and federal due process right to sentencing based upon accurate information.

The respondent has filed an answer to the petition contending that it should be denied for lack of merit.

III. Standard of Review

Federal law 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 ...

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