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Hernandez-Guzman v. Curtin

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

June 5, 2015

NESTOR O. HERNANDEZ-GUZMAN, #384339, Petitioner,
CINDI S. CURTIN, Respondent.


MARK A. GOLDSMITH, District Judge.


Petitioner Nestor Hernandez-Guzman, presently confined at the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Dkt. 1), challenging his Livingston County plea convictions for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws 750.530(b)(1)(f), and being a second-habitual offender, Mich. Comp. Laws 769.11. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the petition for writ of habeas corpus, declines to issue a certificate of appealability, and grants leave to appeal in forma pauperis.


Petitioner pled guilty in the Livingston County Circuit Court to raping a woman that he invited into his home. See 5/14/2014 Plea Tr. at 30, 40-50 (Dkt. 9-2). Petitioner also signed an advice-of-rights form. See 5/19/2012 Form (Dkt. 9-3). As a result of his plea conviction of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and being a second-habitual offender, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to a term of 126-to-189 months' imprisonment pursuant to a plea agreement. See 6/28/2012 Sentencing Tr. at 13 (Dkt. 9-5).

Petitioner filed a delayed application for leave to appeal, raising the issues contained within his habeas petition, which the Michigan Court of Appeals denied "for lack of merit in the grounds presented." People v. Hernandez-Guzman, No. 313913, Order at 1 (cm/ecf page) (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 7, 2013) (Dkt. 9-11). Petitioner then filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard form order. 832 N.W.2d 220 (Mich. 2013) (Dkt. 9-12).

Petitioner now seeks a writ of habeas corpus on his claims as follows:

i. "Mr. Guzman should be allowed to withdraw his plea because he was deprived of representation by competent counsel at sentencing due to trial counsel's failure to advocate on behalf of Mr. Guzman, thereby violating his rights under the federal and state constitutions."
1. "Mr. Olsen's [sic] complete failure to advocate on behalf of Mr. Guzman violated his right to effective assistance of counsel according to Cronic, and the resulting prejudice is presumed."
2. "Mr. Guzman was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel due to Mr. Olson's professionally unreasonable decision not to fully analyze inconsistencies in the victim's story, and to advocate for his client's wishes which resulted in prejudice to Mr. Guzman's case and violates the Strickland minimum standard for effective counsel."
ii. "The trial court unlawfully deprived the Defendant of his due process, equal protection, and other protected rights under the United States and Michigan Constitution when it failed to take into account all mitigating evidence in sentencing the Defendant; on plain error and/or ineffective assistance of counsel grounds this Court should review this issue."

See Pet. at 5, 7.


Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 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 court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -
(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.

A decision of a state court is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law, or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000). An "unreasonable application" occurs when "a state-court decision unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner's case." Id. at 409. A federal habeas court may not "issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Id. at 411.

The Supreme Court has explained that a "federal court's collateral review of a state-court decision must be consistent with the respect due state courts in our federal system." Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003). Thus, the AEDPA "imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, and demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (quotation marks and citations omitted). A "state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as fairminded jurists could disagree on the correctness of the state court's decision." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (quotation marks). The Supreme Court has emphasized "that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable." Id. at 102 (citation omitted). Furthermore, pursuant to section 2254(d), "a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or... could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or ...

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