United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
CHRISTOPHER M. JONES, Petitioner,
THOMAS WINN, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY,
AND (3) DENYING PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA
TERRENCE G. BERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a habeas case brought by a Michigan prisoner under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Petitioner Christopher M. Jones was convicted
after a jury trial in the Wayne Circuit Court of first-degree
murder, Mich. Comp. Laws §750.316, and arson of a
dwelling house. Mich. Comp. Laws §750.72. He was
sentenced as a third-time habitual felony offender to
concurrent terms of life for the murder conviction and 162
months to forty years for the arson conviction.
petition raises four claims: (1) the police failed to
exercise due diligence in securing the attendance of a key
witness which resulted in the erroneous admission of the
witness's prior testimony, (2) insufficient evidence was
presented at trial to sustain Petitioner's convictions,
(3) Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of counsel
for failing to object to the admission of the prior
testimony, and (4) trial counsel was ineffective for failing
to investigate challenges to the credibility of the missing
Court will deny the petition because the state court
adjudication of Petitioner's claims did not involve an
unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court
law. The Court will also deny Petitioner a certificate of
appealability and permission to proceed on appeal in
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):
Defendant's convictions arise out of the August 5, 2011,
stabbing death of Stephen Brinkley and the burning of
Brinkley's home the same day. During the months preceding
the crimes, defendant lived with Brinkley. In the early
morning hours of August 5, 2011, the victim's neighbor,
Troy Dunomes, who resided directly across the street from the
victim, observed a man he identified as defendant exit the
front door of the victim's home and walk away, without
screaming, yelling, or saying anything. Dunomes noticed smoke
coming from the back of the victim's house and grabbed
his cell phone and called “911, ” while defendant
walked to the corner of the street and disappeared.
Firefighters responded immediately and, after containing the
fire, discovered the victim's body inside the home. The
victim had sustained multiple stab wounds, including wounds
to his chest, abdomen, and eyeball, and had numerous incised
wounds on his face and extremities. The medical examiner
opined that the victim died from the stab wounds and found no
evidence that he was alive at the time of the fire.
Investigators did not find any evidence of a forced entry
into the home and concluded that the fire was intentionally
set. Testing by a forensic biologist revealed that blood
collected from the interior of the front door of the
victim's home and from a pair of boy's underwear
found on the floor near the door matched defendant's DNA.
Three days after the fire, defendant appeared at the home of
Yolette Bass. Bass testified that defendant did not look good
and had wounds on his hands. The medical examiner reviewed
photographs of defendant's hands taken at the time of his
arrest and testified that the wounds were “relatively
fresh” or “days old.” Defendant told Bass
that he was in a fight and that there was a fire at his home.
Police arrested defendant at Bass' home. Dunomes
identified defendant in a live lineup as the man he observed
leaving the victim's home on the morning of the fire.
People v. Jones, No. 312113, 2014 WL 2040009, at *1
(Mich. Ct. App. May 15, 2014).
his conviction and sentence, Petitioner's appellate
counsel filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan Court of
Appeals. Counsel filed an appellate brief which raised the
I. Did the Trial Court abused [sic] its discretion
in finding that due diligence had been exercised to secure
the missing, key prosecution witness, where, as a result of
the Court's erroneous conclusion the jury was ultimately
denied the missing-witness instruction, and, in turn, Mr.
Jones was denied his state and federal constitutional rights
to a fair trial by a properly instructed jury, Sixth
Amendment right of confrontation, and Fourteenth Amendment
due process right to defend against the charges?
also filed a supplemental pro se brief, raising the following
I. Did the trial court violate Defendant's due process
rights where insufficient evidence was presented at trial to
sustain his conviction?
II. Was defense counsel constitutionally ineffective by
failing to object or conducting a proper investigation?
Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Jones's conviction in
an unpublished opinion. Jones, 2014 WL 2040009, at
subsequently filed an application for leave to appeal in the
Michigan Supreme Court, which raised the same claims as in
the Michigan Court of Appeals, and an additional claim not
presented to the court of appeals:
I. The statement and testimony against Defendant which was
testimonial and admitted by the court was not evident of any
reliable and admissible evidence supporting the credibility
of the declarant and was not challenged by defense counsel
which effectively denied Defendant the right to present a
Michigan Supreme Court denied the application because it was
not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed
by the Court. People v. Jones, 853 N.W.2d 362 (Mich.
2014) (unpublished table decision).
Standard of Review
U.S.C. § 2254(d) curtails a federal court's review
of constitutional claims raised by a state prisoner in a
habeas corpus action if the claims were rejected on the
merits by the state courts. Relief is barred under this
section unless the state court adjudication was
“contrary to” or resulted in an
“unreasonable application of” clearly established
Supreme Court law.
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 ...