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Smith v. MacLaren

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan

October 11, 2016

TAHRI SMITH, Petitioner,
v.
DUNCAN MACLAREN, [1] Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION TO STAY PROCEEDINGS AND HOLD HABEAS PETITION IN ABEYANCE (DKT. 10)

          TERRENCE G. BERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a habeas case brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner asks this Court to hold in abeyance his habeas petition so that he may return to state court to assert new claims. Because the current habeas petition contains only exhausted claims and because there is no pressing concern that the statute of limitations will run before Petitioner can exhaust his new claims in state court and return to federal court, Petitioner's motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court Michigan, prisoner Tahri Smith (“Petitioner”) was convicted of four crimes:

▪ First-degree murder under Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(a);
▪ Assault with intent to commit murder under Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.83;
▪ First-degree home invasion under Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.110a; and
▪ Possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony under Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b.

         The convictions arise from an armed robbery in which Petitioner and three other men went to the apartment of Maria Zavala, demanded money, killed Zavala by shooting her in the head, held Zavala's neighbor Angela Lampkin at gunpoint because she could identify Petitioner, and then shot her, too (she survived). See People v. Smith, No. 318283, 2015 WL 728461, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 19, 2015). Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole on the murder conviction, to 25 to 50 years' imprisonment on the assault conviction, to 10 to 20 years' imprisonment on the home invasion conviction, and to two years' imprisonment on the felony firearm conviction. Id.

         Petitioner appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals, arguing ineffective assistance of counsel for a number of reasons and violation of double jeopardy for a jury verdict finding him guilty of both premeditated murder and felony murder, and asking for an independent investigator to help him uncover exonerating evidence. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Smith's conviction in an unpublished opinion. See Id. Petitioner then sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court on only the ineffective assistance of counsel claim, which was denied on September 29, 2015. People v. Smith, 869 N.W.2d 588 (Mich. 2015). Petitioner neither appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States nor sought collateral review in the state courts. Instead, he filed a petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in this Court, dated November 23, 2015, asserting the same grounds for ineffective assistance of counsel as he did in the Michigan appellate courts. (Dkt. 1, p. 6).

         Petitioner now seeks to return to the state courts to raise new claims for relief including his right to confront a Facebook representative who produced social media evidence, ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to investigate a res gestae witness and for failing to investigate cellphone records of the deceased, and ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to raise these issues on direct appeal.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A federal district court may not adjudicate a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, based on a state-court judgment that contains both exhausted and unexhausted claims (“mixed petitions”) because the interests of comity and federalism dictate that the state courts must have the first opportunity to decide the petitioner's claims. Rose v. Lundy,455 U.S. 509, 518-519 (1982). Instead, a prisoner filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 must first exhaust all state remedies. See O'Sullivan v. Boerckel,526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999). For a Michigan prisoner to satisfy the exhaustion requirement, he must present each issue he seeks to raise in a federal habeas proceeding both to ...


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