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Hernandez v. Woods

United States District Court, Western District of Michigan, Northern Division

May 27, 2015

Jose Osvaldo Hernandez, Petitioner,
v.
Jeffrey Woods, Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER

R. ALLAN EDGAR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Petitioner filed this § 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging the validity of his state court conviction based on there being an insufficient factual basis to support his plea, and an incorrect application of the sentencing guidelines to his case. Petitioner pleaded guilty and was convicted of arson of a dwelling house (M.C.L. § 750.72), and was sentenced to seven to twenty years imprisonment on August 9, 2010. Respondent has filed a Motion to Dismiss Petitioner’s claim, and Petitioner has responded. The case is now ready for decision.

On August 9, 2010, Petitioner pleaded guilty to arson of a dwelling after acknowledging that he supplied the gasoline used to commit the crime upon request of co-defendant Philip Smithwick. Smithwick and another accomplice entered the home with the gasoline provided by Petitioner, and subsequently burned the home down. The home was located in a residential neighborhood. At the time the house was burned down, it was in the process of being rehabilitated for use and was boarded up.

Petitioner was convicted of arson of a dwelling in 2010 and sentenced, per the plea agreement, to seven to twenty years. After being convicted, Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, raising the same claims brought before this Court. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner’s conviction on September 20, 2011, by way of summary order for lack of merit in the grounds presented. Petitioner then filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied on March 26, 2012, because that court was not persuaded that the questions, as presented, should be reviewed by it. Petitioner did not appeal to the United States Supreme Court, and instead filed a habeas petition in this Court on August 16, 2012.

Petitioner maintains that his conviction was obtained in violation of his state and federal rights. This petition sets forth two claims for relief: (1) to withdraw Petitioner’s guilty plea due to there being an insufficient factual basis upon which to take the plea, and (2) to be re-sentenced due to an incorrect application of the sentencing guidelines to his case. Respondent has filed a motion to dismiss Petitioner’s application for habeas corpus relief (Docket # 8). Petitioner has chosen not to respond after being served with Respondent’s answer (Docket # 16). The matter is now ready for decision.

I. Petitioner filed this petition after the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (AEDPA); Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693-94 (2002) (noting that AEDPA prevents federal habeas “retrials” and ensures state convictions are made under state law). 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) provides that any habeas application by a person in state custody shall not be granted in regards to any claim that has previously been adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudication:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on 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).

This Court may only consider “clearly established holdings” of the Supreme Court, not lower federal courts, in analyzing a petitioner’s claim under § 2254. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000); Bailey v. Mitchell, 271 F.3d 652, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). A decision of the state court may only be overturned if: (1) it applies a rule contradicting Supreme Court governing law, (2) it contradicts a set of facts materially indistinguishable from a Supreme Court decision, (3) it unreasonably applies correct Supreme Court precedent to the facts of the case, (4) it unreasonably extends Supreme Court legal principles where it should not apply, or (5) it unreasonably refuses to extend Supreme Court legal principle where it should apply. Bailey, 271 F.3d at 655; see also Lancaster v. Adams, 324 F.3d 423, 429 (6th Cir. 2003).

A federal habeas court may not find a state adjudication to be “unreasonable” simply because that court decides, in its own judgment, that the relevant state decision applied federal law incorrectly. Williams, 529 U.S. at 410-11 (noting that it must instead determine if the state court’s application of clearly established federal law was “objectively unreasonable”). This Court defers to state court decisions when the state court addressed the merits of petitioner’s claim. Harris v. Stovall, 212 F.3d 940, 943 (6th Cir. 2000); see Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 534 (2003) (allowing review of habeas application de novo when state court clearly did not reach the question). When applying AEDPA to state factual findings, factual issues by state courts are presumed correct unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Lancaster, 324 F.3d at 429.

After applying the standards under AEDPA to Petitioner’s case, this Court concludes that Petitioner has not provided clear and convincing evidence that the state court improperly applied clearly established federal law to the facts of Petitioner’s case.

II.

Petitioner argues that this Court should grant him relief because: (1) there was an insufficient factual basis upon which to accept his guilty plea, and (2) his sentence score was incorrect. ...


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