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Scott v. Woods

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

October 7, 2016

JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.



         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a preliminary review of the petition to determine whether “it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that lack merit on their face). A dismissal under Rule 4 includes those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well as those containing factual allegations that are palpably incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1999). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court concludes that the petition must be dismissed because it fails to raise a meritorious federal claim.

         Factual Allegations

         In accordance with a plea agreement, on May 29, 2014, Petitioner Lawrence Shannon Scott pleaded guilty in the Kent County Circuit Court to second-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.317, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, second offense, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. Petitioner has attached to his petition the prosecutor's description of the plea agreement under which he pleaded guilty:

MS. KONCKI: . . . Upon a successful plea and sentence as charged to count one in the murder file, which is murder, second degree, and to count two, the felony firearm, second offense, which is a five-year, consecutive offense, the People have agreed to dismiss all other counts in that case and the supplemental information and notices.[1] And we've also agreed to nolle pros, or dismiss, the perjury file. And there is a sentence recommendation of twenty years on the murder, second degree, plus five years consecutive on the felony firearm, second.
Those are the major points about the offer, your Honor. I have previously sent a letter dated May 22nd, 2014 to the defense entitled Proposed Plea Offer that outlines all the details completely of the plea offer, and I've made a copy for the Court, and asked it be marked as an Exhibit to be made part of the record.

(Plea Tr., 4, ECF No. 2-1, PageID.31.)

         On June 23, 2014, two weeks before he was scheduled to be sentenced, Petitioner filed a pro per motion to substitute counsel and a motion to withdraw the plea (ECF Nos. 2-2, 2-3, PageID.32-37). Petitioner argued that there had been a complete breakdown in his relationship with his attorney caused by the attorney's ineffective assistance of counsel in not providing Petitioner with the discovery he had repeatedly requested. The court heard Petitioner on his motions at the beginning of the sentencing hearing held on July 7, 2014. Petitioner represented at the hearing that he had told his attorney that he was actually innocent and that he wanted to receive all discovery from the prosecutor. He asserted that the trial counsel had not visited him and had never produced the information for Petitioner or his family, at their requests. The court inquired of defense counsel and of the prosecutor about the truth of Petitioner's representations. Defense counsel responded as follows:

         MR. MILLER: Thank you, your Honor.

I would disagree with - with the representations made. I did meet with M. Scott at the jail, spoken with him on a number of occasions. I've reviewed the discovery that we had with him; I reviewed everything that we had. All the discovery that I was provided by the prosecution was given to [Petitioner].
I also mentioned in chambers that I had discussed the plea with him. In fact, there was a plea offer made by Ms. Koncki; and there was another plea offer that Mr. Forsyth - Mr. Forsyth insisted. I talked with Ms. Koncki, we had further negotiations; and we were able to secure the better bargain, the original bargain, which was a better plea offer for him.
Prior to his coming in and - making a plea, we brought him over to, I believe it was the court next door, or one of the courtrooms, and we sat down - Detective Boillat was there, Ms. Koncki was there, I was there - reviewed all of the discovery with him, told him everything that the prosecution had, everything, all the videos, all the documentation that they had.
After that I met with [Petitioner], I explained everything to him. We reviewed that again, we talked about that. I asked him what his - what his preference was.
I did review his guidelines, being a supp four, that his guidelines would be 270 to 950 [months] if he lost. I also explained to him and I stressed to him that the statute itself does not require intent; it requires that he engaged in - or the willful disregard, the likelihood, the natural tendency of said act would cause great death or - death or great bodily harm. I stressed that to him. I told him that it would be very difficult to overcome at trial. He knew all of this. He entered into his - his plea freely and voluntarily. He knew what he was doing; he made that plea.

(Sentencing Tr. (S. Tr.), 6-7, ECF No. 2-1, Page ID.26-27.) In response, Petitioner told the court that defense counsel was lying. He admitted meeting with the prosecutor and the officer, but he denied that he had been shown evidence. Petitioner represented that the only thing he had been shown was the police report. (Id., PageID.27-28.)

         Somewhat later, the court inquired of the prosecutor whether defense counsel's descriptions of what had transpired were essentially accurate. The prosecutor responded as follows:

MS. KONCKI: They are, your Honor. There's also a recording of that meeting. I've given a copy to the defense. I have a copy I can mark as an exhibit if the Court would like to do that; it's dated May 27, 2014.

(Id., PageID.29.) The court declined to make the substance of the recording a part of the court record, but agreed to make it available. (Id.) The court then ruled as follows:

THE COURT: The motion to substitute counsel or to, alternatively, to withdraw his plea, if that is an alternative relief that the defendant seeks, is respectfully denied. The Court finds the defendant is an intelligent, articulate young man with a substantial criminal record; that he has had many different opportunities to understand and comprehend the manner in which the criminal justice system operates. He made a knowing, intelligent, voluntary decision to enter a plea resolution of the charges before the Court. He has pled guilty to and will be sentenced today to homicide, murder in the second degree, and felony firearm as a second . . . .

(Id., PageID.29.)[2] The court then sentenced Petitioner in accordance with the plea agreement to a prison term of 20 to 50 years on the murder conviction and a term of 5 years on the felony-firearm conviction, to run consecutively and prior to the murder conviction. Both sentences were imposed consecutively to the sentences for the offenses on which Petitioner was on parole at the time he committed the murder. (Id., PageID.30.)

         Petitioner sought leave to appeal his convictions to both the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme ...

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