United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S APPLICATION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
BERNARD A. FRIEDMAN, Senior District Judge.
Petitioner has filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He challenges his conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520b(1)(a), on the grounds that a juror failed to inform the court of two prior felony convictions, the trial court improperly failed to allow his attorney to withdraw, and he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Finding no basis for habeas relief, the Court shall deny the petition and decline to issue a certificate of appealability.
Petitioner was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct following a jury trial in Ottawa County Circuit Court for forcing his then-girlfriend's seven-year-old daughter to perform fellatio on him. Prior to sentencing, petitioner learned that one of the jurors had failed to reveal his two prior felony convictions (1991 and 1999) for criminal sexual conduct. Petitioner moved for a new trial. The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing at which the juror stated that he did not reveal his prior convictions on the juror questionnaire because they were old and he did not believe they were still on his record. He also explained that, because he had pleaded guilty in both of those cases, he had not been through a jury selection process. The juror testified that he did not intentionally answer untruthfully and did not want to sit on the jury. The trial court denied petitioner's motion for a new trial. The trial court held that there was no evidence that petitioner suffered any actual prejudice and reasoned that if the parties had known about the juror's previous convictions, the prosecutor, not the defense, would have most likely been the party seeking to excuse him. The trial court further found that the juror had not answered any questions during voir dire falsely. For example, during voir dire the prosecutor asked the jurors whether any had any "personal dealings with criminal sexual conduct in [their] immediate, close family to where - to the point where they think they can't be fair in this kind of trial." People v. Miller, 482 Mich. 540, 543 n.2 (Mich. 2008). The trial court also concluded that the juror was not attempting to be deceitful.
On August 11, 2006, Petitioner was sentenced to 14 years, 3 months to 30 years in prison. He filed an appeal of right in the Michigan Court of Appeals raising these claims: (i) the trial court erred in denying counsel's motion to withdraw; (ii) the trial court erred in denying the motion for new trial based on juror misconduct; (iii) OV-13 were incorrectly scored; (iv) ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and (iv) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing petitioner to 171-360 months' imprisonment. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed petitioner's conviction on the basis of juror misconduct. See People v. Miller, No. 273488, 2008 WL 161998 (Mich. Ct. App. Jan. 17, 2008).
The State filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court. The Michigan Supreme Court granted leave to appeal. See People v. Miller, 481 Mich. 851 (Mich. 2008). The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the Michigan Court of Appeals, holding that petitioner was not actually prejudiced by a convicted felon serving as a juror and the presence of a convicted felon was not a structural error requiring automatic reversal. See People v. Miller, 482 Mich. 540 (2008). The Michigan Supreme Court remanded the case to the Michigan Court of Appeals with instructions to address petitioner's remaining claims. See id. at 561. On remand, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that none of petitioner's remaining claims required reversal. See People v. Miller, No. 273488, 2009 WL 323485 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 10, 2009). The Michigan Supreme Court denied petitioner's application for leave to appeal. See People v. Miller, 483 Mich. 1114 (Mich. June 23, 2009).
Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He raised these claims: (i) juror misconduct; (ii) the trial court improperly denied attorney's motion to withdraw; (iii) ineffective assistance of counsel; (iv) newly-discovered evidence shows that a prosecution witness committed perjury; (v) the trial court relied on inaccurate information when sentencing petitioner. Petitioner simultaneously filed a motion to stay, asking that the Court stay the petition because it contained unexhausted claims. The Court granted the stay. Petitioner subsequently returned to this Court, requesting that the Court lift the stay and address only the three exhausted issues raised in the petition: jury misconduct; deprivation of petitioner's right to due process and equal protection; and ineffective assistance of counsel. In a subsequent letter to the Court, petitioner explained that he failed to exhaust his unexhausted claims because his application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court was not timely filed. He therefore sought to proceed only on his three exhausted claims. The Court granted the motion to reopen and allowed the petition to proceed on the three exhausted claims.
II. Legal Standards
This habeas petition is reviewed under the exacting standards set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (Apr. 24, 1996). Under AEDPA, a federal court cannot grant habeas relief with respect to any claim adjudicated on the merits in a state-court proceeding unless the state adjudication of the claim either:
(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).
"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 [this] precedent.'" Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003), quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). "[T]he unreasonable application' prong of the statute permits a federal habeas court to grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts' of petitioner's case." Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003) quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. "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), quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004). "Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.... As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court 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 786-87 (internal quotation omitted).
To obtain relief under § 2254(d)(2), a petitioner must show an unreasonable determination of fact and that the resulting state court decision was "based on" that unreasonable determination. Rice v. White, 660 F.3d 242, 250 (6th Cir. 2012). Further, a federal habeas court must presume the correctness of state court factual determinations. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). A petitioner may rebut this presumption only with clear and convincing evidence. See Warren v. Smith, 161 F.3d 358, 360-61 (6th Cir. 1998)
A. Juror ...