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Miller v. MacLaren

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

June 25, 2015

BOBBY MILLER, Petitioner,
v.
DUNCAN MACLAREN, Respondent,

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING (1) THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, (2) A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND (3) LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

PAUL D. BORMAN, District Judge.

Bobby Miller, ("petitioner"), incarcerated at the Kinross Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, Michigan, seeks the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his pro se application, petitioner challenges his conviction for first-degree felony murder, M.CL.A. § 750.316(1)(b); armed robbery, M.CL.A. § 750.529; felon in possession of a firearm, § 750.224f; and being a fourth felony habitual offender, M.CL.A. § 769.12. For the reasons stated below, the application for a writ of habeas corpus is DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.

I. BACKGROUND

Petitioner was convicted following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court.

This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which are presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009).

Defendant's convictions stem from an armed robbery that occurred on April 30, 2010. The armed robbery resulted in the death of Raymond Webster, who died of a single gunshot wound to his stomach. No bullet or casing was ever recovered. It was determined that $5, 000 in cash and marijuana were stolen from Webster's person, and a laptop computer was taken from his home. Police had no leads in regard to the robbery and murder of Webster until May 17, 2010, when Webster's laptop was recovered after the execution of a search warrant at a home located at 19918 Rowe Street in an unrelated investigation. Andre Cottingham was named as a target in the search warrant, and later it was discovered that Tawana Taylor and defendant lived at the home where the search warrant was executed. Eventually, Cottingham, Taylor, and defendant were all arrested and charged in connection with the robbery and murder at issue in this case.
Cottingham originally entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors to testify against defendant and Taylor, who were to be tried together before separate juries. However, at trial, Cottingham asserted his constitutional right to remain silent. Thereafter, Cottingham was declared unavailable, and his testimony from defendant's preliminary examination was read into the record. At the preliminary examination, Cottingham testified that on April 30, 2010, either Taylor or defendant called him to discuss a plan for a robbery. Cottingham went to Taylor's house, and after some discussion he and defendant went to 19186 Fairport Street. Defendant drove, and parked a block away from the address. Eventually, defendant and Cottingham were standing in front of a home located at 19186 Fairport Street, and Webster was sitting on the porch. When Webster noticed defendant and Cottingham, he threw up his hands and defendant immediately pulled a gun from his waistband and shot Webster in the stomach. Cottingham testified that defendant took money and marijuana from Webster's pockets, and that he went inside the residence and took a laptop. The men returned to Taylor's home and split the money and marijuana; defendant and Cottingham kept $1, 000 each, and Taylor received $3, 000 and the marijuana.
During trial, the prosecution also introduced a telephone conversation recorded on May 19, 2010, initiated by a male individual from the Macomb County Jail to a female at the telephone number (313) 633-4810. The prosecution argued that this telephone conversation was initiated by defendant and that the call was to Taylor. At the trial, defense counsel objected to the introduction of the recorded telephone conversation on foundation grounds. The trial court overruled the objection, and the recording was played unredacted for the jury. The prosecution argued that the telephone conversation corroborated much of Cottingham's preliminary examination testimony implicating defendant in the robbery. The jury found defendant guilty of the charges as previously indicated, and he now appeals his convictions as of right.

People v. Miller, No. 307190, 2013 WL 951181, p. 1 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 26, 2013).

Petitioner's conviction was affirmed. Id., lv. den. 495 Mich. 852, 836 N.W.2d 171 (2013). Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:

I. Petitioner Miller's Sixth Amendment right to a public trial was violated by the closing of the courtroom and the exclusion of members of his family from jury selection.
II. Was Petitioner Miller denied his due process right to a fair trial where the trial court allowed the introduction, without notice, of irrelevant and prejudicial other bad acts evidence, including Petitioner's prior record; reversal is required since the evidence had no bearing on credibility and simply suggested a propensity to commit crime? U.S. Const Am, XIV.
III. Petitioner was denied his right to remain silent and his right to a fair trial by the introduction of testimony that he refused to speak to police while in custody, U.S. Const Ams V; XIV.
IV. Petitioner was denied his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel under the United States Constitution where counsel failed to investigate and produce witnesses, thus denying Petitioner a viable defense.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 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, 405-06 (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 410-11. "[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)(citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). The Supreme Court emphasized "that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable." Id. at 102 (citing Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)). Furthermore, pursuant to § 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 theories are ...


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