United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
MARVIN B. BRADLEY, Petitioner,
JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITIONS FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL
Stephen J. Murphy, III United States District Judge
Petitioner Marvin B. Bradley filed a habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The habeas petition challenges Bradley’s state convictions for second-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.317, assault with intent to commit murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.83, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (“felony firearm”), Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. Bradley raises claims regarding the sufficiency of the evidence, the trial court’s jury instruction on flight, and his trial and appellate attorneys. He also purports to have new evidence that the prosecution’s main witness committed perjury, and, on that basis, he claims to be actually innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted. The Court has reviewed the record and will deny the petition.
I. The Trial, Verdict, And Sentence
Bradley was charged in Wayne County, Michigan with first-degree (premeditated) murder, assault with intent to commit murder, and felony firearm. The charges arose from an incident during which Martel Solomon and Nigel Hawkins, Jr., were shot. Hawkins died from a single gunshot to his head. Solomon survived and testified against Bradley at trial in Wayne County Circuit Court. The state court summarized the evidence at trial as follows:
On the afternoon of June 12, 2005, Martel Solomon and the decedent were walking in the street and passed defendant’s house on the corner of Mansfield and Elmira Streets in Detroit. Solomon testified that defendant, whom he recognized from school and the neighborhood, was on the porch with others. Solomon testified that someone yelled, “What the f* *k yall doing here.” Solomon and the decedent continued walking, as Solomon urged the decedent not to respond. Solomon testified that defendant ultimately moved off the porch into the street and “started shooting” a pistol. Solomon and the decedent ran and attempted to jump a fence to escape, and defendant “shot at [the decedent] while he was jumping the fence.” The decedent fell over the fence into a neighbor’s backyard. Solomon was shot in the arm, and continued running. The decedent died from a gunshot wound to the head.
Solomon identified defendant as the shooter to the police. According to police testimony, when they arrived at the crime scene, they spoke with John Kealing, a/k/a Leonard Jackson, Cordero Jones, Lamar Jones, and Veno Tuff, who had been outside with defendant. The police tested each of the men for gunshot residue. Defendant was not there and could not be located. Defendant was subsequently arrested on August 17, 2005, in Atlanta, Georgia.
At trial, defendant, Cordero, and Tuff all testified that they were standing together when the decedent and Solomon drove by, taunting them by “burning rubber” and playing loud music. When Solomon and the decedent were told to leave, the decedent brandished a gun. Defendant, Cordero, and Tuff fled. Minutes later, defendant, Cordero, and Tuff heard gunshots. Cordero and Tuff testified that they saw a man dressed in black armed with a weapon fleeing the area. Neither Cordero nor Tuff saw defendant in possession of a weapon.
Defendant denied possessing or shooting a firearm on the day of the incident. Defendant denied knowing the decedent or having any disagreement with him, although he admitted that he knew Solomon from his neighborhood. Defendant denied knowing that anyone had been shot, that the police were searching for him, or that there was a warrant for his arrest. Rather, defendant claimed that he did not return to speak with the police on the day of the shooting because he was on probation, and that he did not leave Michigan until two or three weeks after the incident. Defendant claimed that he left Michigan because he “just wanted to go have some fun.” Defendant admitted that he gave the Atlanta police an alias and an incorrect date of birth when he was arrested, but claimed that he did so only because he had violated his probation by leaving Michigan.
In rebuttal, a Detroit fugitive apprehension team officer testified that on June 12 and 13, 2005, the police looked for defendant at the homes of his mother and sister, and also spoke to defendant’s brother. At that time, defendant’s family members were advised that the police needed to locate defendant in connection with a murder. The officer had contact with defendant’s family at least three times.
People v. Bradley, No. 269568, 2007 WL 1490468, at *1–2 (Mich. Ct. App. May 22, 2007) (footnotes in original as notes 2 and 3).
The jury found Bradley guilty of second-degree murder (as a lesser-included offense of first-degree murder), assault with intent to commit murder, and felony firearm. The trial court then sentenced Bradley to two years in prison for the felony firearm conviction, followed by concurrent terms of twenty to thirty years in prison for the murder and assault convictions.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
“The statutory authority of federal courts to issue habeas corpus relief for persons in state custody is provided by 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA).” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 97 (2011). Under Section 2254, the Court may not grant a state prisoner’s application for the writ of habeas corpus unless the state court’s adjudication of the prisoner’s claims on the merits:
(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).
“[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. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 411 (2000). “AEDPA thus 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) (internal quotations 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, 562 U.S. at 101 (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). To obtain a writ of habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court’s ruling on his claims “was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Id. at 103.
I. Sufficiency Of The Evidence
Bradley alleges that the prosecution failed to present legally sufficient evidence that he committed the offenses. The only eyewitness to identify Bradley as the shooter was Martel Solomon, and Bradley claims that Solomon was not a credible witness. Bradley points out that Solomon was not tested for gunshot residue and he lied about his identity after the shooting. Bradley contends that Solomon could not have seen the shooter because he was running away at the time and that Solomon’s testimony about his identification of Bradley as the shooter and Bradley’s alleged hostility toward Nigel Hawkins was contradicted by defense witnesses at trial. The Michigan Court of Appeals reviewed Bradley’s claim on direct appeal and concluded that the evidence was sufficient to sustain Bradley’s convictions.
A. Clearly Established Federal Law
“A defendant challenging the sufficiency of the evidence bears a very heavy burden.” United States v. Prince, 214 F.3d 740, 746 (6th Cir. 2000) (quotations marks and citation omitted). The critical inquiry on review of challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence is:
Whether the record evidence could reasonably support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But this inquiry does not require a court to “ask itself whether it believes that the evidence at the trial established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, the relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318–19 (1979) (internal citation and footnote omitted) (emphases in original).
This standard ordinarily “must be applied with explicit reference to the substantive elements of the criminal offense as defined by state law.” Id. at 324 n.16. Bradley, however, is not contesting the elements of second-degree murder, assault with intent to commit murder, or felony firearm. Instead, he claims there was insufficient evidence that he perpetrated the crimes. Stated differently, he claims that there was insufficient evidence linking him to the crime and showing that he killed Hawkins, assaulted Solomon, and used a firearm during those offenses.
“The identity of a defendant as the perpetrator of the crimes charged is an element of the offense and must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” Byrd v. Tessmer, 82 F. App’x 147, 150 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing People v. Turrell, 25 Mich.App. 646 (1970)). This is a demanding standard, but “[i]f the evidence at trial was sufficient to permit jurors to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the man seated at the defense table was the same person referred to in the account of the offense, then there is no reason to overturn the jury’s conviction based on the government’s alleged failure to prove identity.” United States v. Thomas, 763 F.3d 689, 694 (7th Cir. 2014).
Martel Solomon was the only witness at trial to testify that Bradley shot him and Nigel Hawkins. Nevertheless, even one witness testifying against the defendant is legally sufficient evidence to convict the defendant. Jones v. Butler, 778 F.3d 575, 582 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Hayes v. Battaglia, 403 F.3d 935, 938 (7th Cir. 2005)); accord Foxworth v. St. Amand, 570 F.3d 414, 426 (1st Cir. 2009) (stating that “a criminal conviction can rest on the testimony of a single eyewitness”); United States v. Smith, 563 F.2d 1361, 1363 (9th Cir. 1977) (stating that “the testimony of one witness, if solidly believed, is sufficient to prove the identity of a perpetrator of crime”); United States v. Sanders, 547 F.2d 1037, 1040 (8th Cir. 1976) (stating that “the uncorroborated testimony of a single eyewitness, if believed, may be sufficient to sustain an identification upon which a conviction depends”). And even though Bradley claims that Solomon was not credible, the Michigan Court of Appeals correctly noted on review of Bradley’s claim that,
Solomon was unwavering in his identification of defendant as the shooter. Solomon testified that, at that time of the shooting, no one was near defendant and defendant was the only person with a gun. Solomon indicated that he could easily recognize defendant, explaining that he has “known of” defendant for several years from school and the neighborhood. Immediately after the incident, Solomon told the police that defendant was the shooter while he was being treated at the hospital. Solomon provided a detailed description of defendant that included defendant’s nickname, age, height, weight, complexion, hairstyle, and the fact that defendant had teardrop tattoos underneath one of his eyes. The next day, Solomon identified defendant from a photograph. Solomon also identified defendant as the shooter at the preliminary ...