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Williams v. Campbell

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

October 28, 2016



          Arthur J. Tarnow Senior United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Michael Lee Williams filed this application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On April 25, 2013, Petitioner was convicted after a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court of three counts of armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529, two counts of possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b, and carrying a concealed weapon. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227. These convictions resulted in a controlling sentence of 15 to 30 years for one of the armed robbery convictions, and an additional consecutive 2 year term for the felony-firearm convictions.

         The petition raises two claims: (1) the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument, and (2) there was insufficient evidence presented to sustain Petitioner's armed robbery conviction against one of the victims. The Court will deny the petition because the claims are without merit. The Court will also deny Petitioner a certificate of appealability, but it will grant Petitioner permission to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. Background

         This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which are presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

On September 1, 2012, Joshua Johnson and several men-including defendant-drove around Detroit, Michigan, for the purpose of seeking out people to rob. Between 6:30 and 6:45 p.m., the men spotted Albert Andrews exiting a liquor store. When Andrews attempted to enter his car, defendant and another man pointed handguns at him. Andrews attempted to reach his own pistol inside the car, but he was overpowered by the group.
During the struggle, defendant took a gold chain that Andrews was wearing, and another male grabbed the pistol from inside the vehicle. The attackers ran away, but Andrews saw them enter a green jeep. In a photograph lineup conducted approximately a month later, Andrews identified defendant as one of the attackers. At trial, Johnson admitted to driving the jeep, and Jonathan Colvin testified that he and defendant participated in the robbery.
On September 8, 2012, defendant, Johnson, and Colvin met again for the purpose of committing a robbery. At approximately 8:30 p.m., Johnson drove defendant and Colvin to Dearborn, Michigan. He dropped them off in a residential area and they proceeded on foot. Salwa Bazzi, Mirvat Hammoud, and two other women were sitting on the front porch of Hammoud's house when they saw defendant and Colvin approaching. Defendant and Colvin went onto the porch, drew their handguns, and demanded that Bazzi hand over her cellular phone. Defendant grabbed Hammoud by the head and dragged her across the porch. Hammoud was loudly screaming throughout the encounter, and the neighbors started to come out of their homes. Then defendant and Colvin ran away after taking Bazzi's cell phone.
The police were able to track Bazzi's cellular phone to a liquor store in Detroit, where they apprehended defendant, Colvin, and Johnson. At the time of the arrest, the police found defendant in possession of a handgun and Bazzi's cell phone. After he was arrested, defendant confessed to the Dearborn robbery.

People v. Williams, No. 316429, 316762, 2014 WL 5066396, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 9, 2014).

         Following his conviction and sentence, Petitioner filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals. His appellate brief raised the following claims:

I. Williams is entitled to a new trial where the closing arguments of the prosecutor were improper.
II. Williams is entitled to a new trial or entry of a conviction for the lesser offense of either attempted armed robbery or assault with the intent to commit armed robbery where there was insufficient evidence to find for the conviction of armed robbery as to Ms. Hammoud.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction in an unpublished opinion. People v. Williams, No. 316429 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 9, 2014). Petitioner subsequently filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court which raised the same claims as he raised in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the application because it was not ...

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