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Craig v. Barrett

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

November 1, 2016

LAMAR CLINTON CRAIG, Petitioner,
v.
JOE BARRETT, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE HABEAS CORPUS PETITION, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, BUT GRANTING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          Arthur J. Tarnow Senior United States District Judge.

         This matter has come before the Court on petitioner Lamar Clinton Craig's pro se habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The habeas petition challenges Petitioner's plea-based conviction and sentence of thirteen to forty years for gross indecency between a male and a female as a sexually delinquent person. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.338b; Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.10a. Petitioner alleges as grounds for relief that: (1) his guilty plea was not knowing, voluntary, or intelligent; (2) he was sentenced on the basis of inaccurate information in the pre-sentence report and improperly scored sentencing guidelines; (3) trial counsel was ineffective; and (4) appellate counsel was ineffective on direct appeal. In an answer to the habeas petition, respondent Joe Barrett urges the Court to deny the petition because Petitioner's claims lack merit or are not cognizable on habeas review and because the state court's adjudication of the claims was objectively reasonable. The Court agrees with Respondent that Petitioner's claims do not warrant habeas relief. Accordingly, the habeas petition will be denied.

         I. Background

         Petitioner initially was charged in Wayne County, Michigan with five counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520b(1)(a) (sexual penetration of a person under thirteen years of age). Following a preliminary examination where the victim testified that Petitioner penetrated her vagina four times, the state district court transferred jurisdiction to the Wayne County Circuit Court on four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

         On March 23, 2009, Petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of gross indecency between a male and a female, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.338b, and one count of being a sexually delinquent person, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.10a. In return, the prosecution dismissed the four counts of criminal sexual conduct and agreed to a sentence of thirteen to forty years. On April 8, 2009, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to thirteen to forty years in prison for gross indecency between a male and a female and a concurrent term of one to five years in prison for being a sexually delinquent person. On May 27, 2009, the trial court entered an amended judgment of sentence, which reflected a sentence of one to five years in prison for the gross-indecency conviction and a concurrent term of thirteen to forty years for the sexually-delinquent-person conviction.

         In a delayed application for leave to appeal, Petitioner argued through counsel that: (1) his sentence was based on improperly scored sentencing guidelines and inaccurate information in the pre-sentence report; (2) his sentence for being a sexually delinquent person under Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.10a should be reversed because the statute merely defines what it is to be a sexually delinquent person and is not a charge; and (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to (a) make proper objections to the scoring of the guidelines and (b) inform either the trial court or Petitioner that count two (sexually delinquent person) was not a charge, but merely a definition of a term used in the gross-indecency count. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” See People v. Craig, No. 296159 (Mich. Ct. App. Apr. 2, 2010).

         Petitioner raised the same claims in the Michigan Supreme Court, which agreed with Petitioner that the sexually-delinquent-person statute is a definitional statute and that it does not carry the possibility of a separate conviction or sentence independent of other criminal charges. In lieu of granting leave to appeal, the state supreme court remanded the case to the trial court for amendment of the judgment of sentence to reflect a single conviction of gross indecency between a male and a female and a single sentence of thirteen to forty years. The supreme court denied leave to appeal in all other respects because it was not persuaded to review the remaining issues. See People v. Craig, 488 Mich. 861; 788 N.W.2d 13 (2010).[1]

         On or about February 29, 2012, Petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment in the trial court. He claimed that: (1) his guilty plea was illusory; (2) trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting to Petitioner being charged and sentenced under a definitional statute; (3) appellate counsel was ineffective for not raising his first two claims on direct appeal; and (4) he could establish “cause” for not raising his claims on direct appeal and resulting prejudice.

         The trial court denied Petitioner's motion after concluding that Petitioner's guilty plea was not illusory and that there was no basis for relief on Petitioner's other claims because the erroneous sentence was corrected by the Michigan Supreme Court and the trial court's corrected judgment of sentence.[2] See People v. Craig, No. 08-009824-01-FC, Op. and Order on Deft's Mot. for Relief from J. (Wayne Cty. Cir. Ct. May 7, 2012). Petitioner subsequently filed a document entitled “Construction Legal Notice.” The trial court treated the document as a motion for reconsideration and then granted Petitioner's request to correct the pre-sentence report to reflect the proper scoring of the guidelines. The court denied the motion in all other respects. See People v. Craig, No. 08-009824- 01-FC, Op. and Order on Deft's Mot. for Reconsideration (Wayne Cty. Cir. Ct. June 12, 2012).

         Petitioner appealed the trial court's decision, but the Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal for failure to establish entitlement to relief under Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D). See People v. Craig, No. 310515 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 8, 2012). On June 25, 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal for the same reason. See People v. Craig, 494 Mich. 868; 832 N.W.2d 223 (2013). Petitioner moved for reconsideration, but the state supreme court denied his motion. See People v. Craig, 495 Mich. 904; 839 N.W.2d 485 (2013). Finally, on June 18, 2014, Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Petitioner is entitled to federal habeas corpus relief

only if the state court's decision “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). “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, 101, 131 S.Ct. 770, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011) (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664, 124 S.Ct. 2140, 158 L.Ed.2d 938 (2004)). The state court decision must be “so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” White v. Woodall, 572 U.S.___, ___, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702, 188 L.Ed.2d 698 (2014) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Woods v. Etherton, 136 S.Ct. 1149, 1151 (2016).

         “AEDPA thus imposes a ‘highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, ' Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333 n.7 (1997), and ‘demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt, ' Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam).” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010).

         III. Analysis

         A. ...


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