United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division
ISAIAH Z. SMITH, Petitioner,
JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER
ROBERT HOLMES BELL JUDGE.
a habeas corpus petition brought by a state prisoner under 28
U.S.C. § 2254. The matter was referred to Magistrate
Judge Timothy Greeley, who issued a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) on July 25, 2016, recommending that
this Court deny the petition. (ECF No. 14.) The matter is
before the Court on Petitioner's objections to the
R&R. (ECF No. 15.)
Court is required to make a de novo review upon the record of
those portions of the R&R to which specific objections
have been made, and may accept, reject, or modify any or all
of the magistrate judge's findings or recommendations. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see also
Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995)
(“[A] general objection to a magistrate's report,
which fails to specify the issues of contention, does not
satisfy the requirement that an objection be filed. The
objections must be clear enough to enable the district court
to discern those issues that are dispositive and
objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that
Petitioner's plea was knowing and voluntary, and that
trial counsel was effective during the plea phase. Petitioner
raised the same claims in a delayed application for leave to
appeal, and the Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to
appeal for “lack of merit in the grounds
presented.” (ECF No.1-2, PageID.16.) When a
petitioner's claim has been adjudicated on the merits in
state court, § 2254(d) provides that a habeas petition
shall not be granted unless the adjudication:
(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;
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of facts in light of the evidence presented in
the state-court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 2554(d)(1)-(2).
Court may only consider the clearly established holdings of
the Supreme Court when analyzing Petitioner's claim under
§ 2254(d). Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362,
412 (2000). A state-court decision may only be overturned if:
(1) it applies a rule contradicting Supreme Court governing
law; (2) it contradicts a set of facts materially
indistinguishable from a Supreme Court decision; (3) it
unreasonably applies correct Supreme Court precedent to the
facts of the case; (4) it unreasonably extends Supreme Court
legal principles where it should not apply; or (5) it
unreasonably refuses to extend Supreme Court legal precedent
where it should apply. Bailey v. Mitchell, 271 F.3d
652, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). This Court defers to state-court
decisions when the state court addressed the merits of
Petitioner's claim. Harris v. Stovall, 212 F.3d
940, 943 (6th Cir. 2000). The state court's factual
findings are presumed to be correct but may be rebutted by
clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
argues that he did not “receive proper advice or [know
of] the consequences of a guilty plea.” (ECF No. 15,
PageID.709.) A guilty plea must be knowing and voluntary in
order to withstand scrutiny under the Due Process Clause.
Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969). A criminal
defendant knowingly pleads guilty when he understands the
nature of the charge and the likely consequences. Brady
v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 748 (1970). This
includes whether the defendant is aware of the maximum and
minimum sentences that may be imposed. See Brown v.
Perini, 718 F.2d 784 (1983). A guilty plea entered by a
defendant who is “ fully aware of the direct
consequences . . ., must stand unless induced by threats (or
promises to discontinue improper harassment),
misrepresentation (including unfulfilled or unfulfillable
promises), or perhaps by promises that are by their nature
improper as having no proper relationship to the
prosecutor's business (e.g. bribes).” Talbert
v. Stovall, No.06-CV-12254, 2007 WL 1599702 (E.D. Mich.
May 31, 2007). When a defendant brings a federal habeas
petition challenging his guilty plea, the state generally
satisfies its burden to show that the plea was voluntary and
intelligent by producing a transcript of the state-court
proceeding. Garcia v. Johnson, 991 F.2d 324, 326
(6th Cir. 1993).
the prosecutor gave a written plea agreement to Petitioner,
his attorney, and the trial judge. (ECF No. 10-4,
PageID.254.) At the plea hearing, the prosecutor also read
the agreement onto the record. (Id. at
PageID.257-58.) Then, the court conducted the plea colloquy.
After the colloquy, the court found that petitioner's
guilty plea was knowing and voluntary, and that there was no
undue influence, compulsion, duress, or promises made, except
for those stated on the record or contained in the written
plea agreement. (Id. at PageID.293-95.) During
Petitioner's plea colloquy, he admitted that he knew the
consequences of his plea. (Id. at PageID.264.)
Petitioner has not presented clear and convincing evidence to
overturn the state-court finding that Petitioner's plea
was knowing and voluntary.
also argues that his plea is illusory because double jeopardy
precludes a defendant from being convicted of both
first-degree murder and felony murder. An illusory plea
bargain is one that offers no real benefit to the defendant.
Johnson v. Michigan Parole Bd., No. 2:11-CV-11674,
2012 WL 6853535, at *12 (E.D. Mich. Dec. 6, 2012) (citing
United States v. Randolph, 230 F.3d 243, 250-51 (6th
Cir. 2000)). If a prosecutor's promise is illusory, then
a plea is not voluntary and knowing. Wolfe v. McKee,
No. 1:12-CV-600, 2015 WL 1275416, at *12 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 19,
2015) (citing Randolph, 230 F.3d at 250-51). For
example, a defendant's plea is not knowing and voluntary
if there is a legal bar to conviction on the charge that is
dismissed under a plea bargain, and a defendant's plea is
induced by a promise to forgo that charge. See People v.
Graves, 523 N.W.2d 876, 878 (Mich. Ct. App. 1994)
(holding that defendant was entitled to withdraw his guilty
plea when he was induced by a promise to forgo a charge that
was legally barred).
is correct that convictions for both first-degree murder and
felony murder, arising from the death of a single victim,
would violate double jeopardy. See People v.
Bigelow, 581 N.W.2d 744, 745-45 (Mich. Ct. App. 1998)
(overruling People v. Passeno, 489 N.W.2d 152
(1992), and holding that dual convictions for premeditated
murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(a), and felony
murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(b), arising from
the death of a single victim, violated double jeopardy).
Petitioner was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree
felony murder, first-degree home invasion, firearm
possession, and possession of a firearm when committing a
felony. (ECF No.10-1, PageID.173.) The prosecutor dismissed
the charges of first-degree murder and felony murder in
exchange for Petitioner's plea of guilty to second-degree
murder. (ECF No. 10-4, PageID.254.) Petitioner was not
induced to plead guilty by a promise to forgo a charge that
was legally barred. Petitioner could have been convicted of
first-degree murder or felony murder. By pleading guilty,
Petitioner avoided a life sentence without parole.
See Mich. Comp. Laws §750.316 (first-degree
murder carries a sentence of life imprisonment without
parole); Mich. Comp. Laws §750.317 (second-degree murder
carries a sentence of any term of years or life with the
possibility of parole). Petitioner received real benefits in
exchange for his guilty plea. Therefore, the plea was not
illusory, and the Michigan Court of Appeals decision that
this claim lacked merit was not based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
in the state-court proceeding.
also argues that trial counsel was ineffective because
counsel did not challenge the prosecution's case or
assess all of the discovery materials before finalizing plea
negotiations. Petitioner claims that counsel failed to
investigate and determine whether the prosecutor had legally
sufficient evidence for a first-degree murder conviction.
is a two-prong test to evaluate claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel. Strickland v. Washington, 466
U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984). Petitioner must prove: (1) that
counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of
reasonableness; and (2) that counsel's deficient
performance prejudiced the defendant resulting in an
unreliable or fundamentally unfair outcome. Id. A
court considering a claim of ineffective assistance must
“indulge a strong presumption that counsel's
conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable
professional assistance.” Id. at 689.
Petitioner bears the burden of overcoming this presumption.
Id. To satisfy the prejudice prong, Petitioner must
show that there is a ...