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Bradshaw-Love v. Warren

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

October 28, 2016



          Arthur J. Tarnow Senior United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Nancy Bradshaw-Love filed this application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner was convicted after a jury trial in the Ogemaw County Circuit Court of conspiracy to commit assault with intent to do great bodily harm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.84, and attempted escape while awaiting trial for a felony. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.197(2)). The trial court imposed a controlling sentence of 12 to 30 years' imprisonment for the assault conviction.

         The Court interprets the amended petition to be raising the following claims: (1) insufficient evidence was presented at trial to sustain Petitioner's conviction for attempted escape, (2) Petitioner was charged with attempted escape, but the jury was erroneously instructed on the offense of conspiracy to commit escape, (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to raise an insanity defense, (4) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move to suppress letters written by Petitioner from jail on the grounds that they were a product of her mental illness, (5) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present mitigating evidence at sentencing, (6) recasts the claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failure to pursue an insanity defense, (7) Petitioner's counsel had a conflict of interest, (8) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move to change the venue of the trial, (9) another restatement of claim that trial counsel was ineffective, and (10) Petitioner's appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise these claims on direct appeal or properly support them.

         The Court will deny the petition because the claims are without merit. The Court will, however, grant Petitioner a certificate of appealability with respect to her third and fifth claims, and grant Petitioner permission to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. Background

         The charges against Petitioner arose from allegations that she and her co-defendant, Harold Priddy, attempted to free Petitioner while she was being transported in the courthouse for a preliminary examination on different charges.

         The prosecution introduced evidence that Petitioner and Priddy planned the escape through letters and telephone conversations while Petitioner was in jail awaiting trial on a resisting and obstructing arrest charge. The prosecution also introduced the testimony of court personnel, specifically the officer who had custody of Petitioner, that upon entering the stairwell of the courthouse, Priddy attacked the officer by pouring gasoline on him and trying to bind his hands. The officer broke free and tried to run up the staircase, but Priddy pulled him back. The incident was then broken up by other court personnel, and Priddy was arrested while Petitioner remained in custody. Further facts surrounding the trial court proceedings will be described as necessary below.

         Following her conviction and sentence, Petitioner filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals. Her appointed appellate attorney filed a brief on appeal, raising the following claims:

I. Whether Ms. Bradshaw-Love was denied her constitutional right to the effective assistance of trial counsel where her attorney failed to pursue an insanity defense or a psychological evaluation despite Ms. Bradshaw-Love's extensive history of mental illness.
II. Whether Ms. Bradshaw-Love was denied her due process right to a properly instructed jury where the trial court, as part of a long and confusing list of crimes, some applicable only to Ms. Bradshaw-Love and some applicable only to her co-defendant, neglected entirely to define the conspiracy crime for which Ms. Bradshaw-Love was convicted.
III. Whether Ms. Bradshaw-Love was denied the effective assistance of her attorney by her trial attorney's failure to object to the error in the jury instructions discussed in the previous section.
IV. Whether Ms. Bradshaw-Love was denied the effective assistance of her attorney where her trial attorney failed to move for a change of venue where the alleged crime happened in the very courthouse in which her trial occurred.
V. Whether Ms. Bradshaw-Love was denied her Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights where the trial court sentenced her based on facts not found by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
VI. Whether Ms. Bradshaw-Love was denied the effective assistance of her attorney where her trial attorney failed to object to the sentencing issue in this appeal.
VII. The trial court erred in ordering Bradshaw-Love to pay $500 in attorney fees, especially considering a failure of the trial court to determine her ability to pay.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions in an unpublished opinion. People v. Priddy, No. 276399, 2008 WL 2812118 (Mich. Ct. App. July 22, 2008). Petitioner subsequently filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, raising the same claims. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the application because it was not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by the Court. People v. Bradshaw-Love, 759 N.W.2d 383 (Mich. 2009) (table).

         Petitioner then initiated the present action and subsequently successfully moved this Court to stay her petition and hold her case in abeyance so she could return to state court to exhaust additional claims.

         Petitioner returned to the state trial court and filed a motion for relief from judgment, raising what now form her habeas claims. The trial court denied the motion for relief from judgment in an opinion dated March 7, 2012. The short order stated that it reviewed Petitioner's motion and all of the attached exhibits and found that the claims lacked meritt and had previously been rejected by the court of appeals.

         Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied the application for failure to establish entitlement to relief under Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D). People v. Bradshaw-Love, No. 312315 (Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 24, 2013). Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal that decision in the Michigan Supreme Court, but it was also denied with citation to Rule 6.508(D). People v. Bradshaw-Love, 846 N.W.2d 552 (Mich. 2014) (table).

         Petitioner then successfully moved to reopen this case, which is now ready for decision.

         II. Standard of Review

         This habeas petition is reviewed under the 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) (per curiam) (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 (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).

         III. Discussion

         A. Procedural Default

         Respondent contends that several of Petitioner's claims are procedurally defaulted because the errors were not preserved in the trial court or on direct appeal. Under the procedural default doctrine, a federal habeas court will not review a question of federal law if a state court's decision rests on a substantive or procedural state law ground that is independent of the federal question and is adequate to support the judgment. See Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 729 (1991). However, procedural default is not a jurisdictional bar to review of a habeas petition on the merits. See Trest v. Cain, 522 U.S. 87, 89 (1997). Additionally, “federal courts are not required to address a procedural-default issue before deciding against the petitioner on the merits.” Hudson v. Jones, 351 F.3d 212, 215 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U.S. 518, 525 (1997)). It may be more economical for the habeas court to simply review the merits of the petitioner's claims, “for example, if it were easily resolvable against the habeas petitioner, whereas the procedural-bar issue involved complicated issues of state law.” Lambrix, 520 U.S. at 525. In the present case, the Court deems it more efficient to proceed directly to the merits, especially because Petitioner alleges that her attorneys were ineffective for failing to preserve the defaulted claims.

         B. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         Petitioner first claims that insufficient evidence was offered at trial to support her conviction for attempted escape. Specifically, she argues that the evidence presented at trial showed that while Priddy assaulted the courtroom officer, she remained still and did not attempt to escape despite the opportunity to do so. She indicates that she communicated with Priddy before the incident that she did not want him to carry out the escape attempt.

         “[T]he Due Process Clause protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.” In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970). On direct review, review of a sufficiency of the evidence challenge must focus on 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, 319 (1979) (emphasis in original). In the habeas context, “[t]he Jackson standard must be applied ‘with explicit ...

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