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Thomas v. Tribley

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

June 11, 2015

DAMON ALLEN THOMAS, #779551, Petitioner,
KEN TRIBLEY, Respondent.



I. Introduction

Michigan prisoner Damon Allen Thomas ("petitioner") has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 asserting that he is being held in violation of his constitutional rights. The petitioner was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.316, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony ("felony firearm"), MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.227b, following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court. He was sentenced to consecutive terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and two years imprisonment on those convictions in 2010.

In his pleadings, the petitioner raises claims concerning the sufficiency of the evidence, the conduct of the prosecutor, the jury instructions, and the effectiveness of trial counsel. For the reasons set forth herein, the court finds that the petitioner is not entitled to relief 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 convictions arise from his decision to shoot another man over an unpaid debt at the man's home in Detroit, Michigan on April 30, 2010. The Michigan Court of Appeals described the relevant facts as follows:

Defendant's convictions arise from the April 30, 2010, shooting death of Marcelius Mitchell in Detroit. Evidence indicated that defendant knew Mitchell, who owed defendant money. On the night of the shooting, defendant went to Mitchell's apartment with a loaded handgun. As the two socialized, defendant requested his money and became impatient when Mitchell persisted in refusing to repay the debt. Defendant admitted in a statement to the police that he ultimately shot Mitchell five times, including once in the center chest area, before fleeing the scene and disposing of his gun and clothing.FN1
FN1. A video recording of defendant's statement was played for the jury. Defendant also signed a written statement that was admitted at trial.

People v. Thomas, No. 300525, 2012 WL 933602, *1 (Mich. Ct. App. March 20, 2012) (unpublished).

Following his convictions and sentencing, the petitioner filed an appeal of right with the Michigan Court of Appeals raising the same claims presented on habeas review. The court denied relief and affirmed the petitioner's convictions. Id. The petitioner then filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order. People v. Thomas, 492 Mich. 869, 819 N.W.2d 909 (2012).

The petitioner thereafter filed his federal habeas petition raising the following claims:

I. There was insufficient evidence as a matter of law to establish his conviction for premeditated murder in the first-degree as required by the due process clause.
II. He was denied a fair trial by the prosecutor's misconduct at trial which violated his right to due process.
III. He was denied his right to a properly instructed jury and fair trial where the jury was not given the opportunity to return a general verdict of not guilty or not guilty of murder in the second-degree.
IV. He was denied his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel at trial.

The respondent has filed an answer to the petition contending that it should be denied because the claims lack merit and/or are barred by procedural default.

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 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 proceedings.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

"A state court's decision is contrary to'... clearly established law if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court cases]' or if it confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [that] precedent.'" Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam) ...

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