United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE HABEAS CORPUS PETITION,
DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, BUT GRANTING LEAVE TO
APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
J. Tarnow Senior United States District Judge.
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.
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.
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
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).
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).
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
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. 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).
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.
Standard of Review
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(AEDPA), Petitioner is entitled to federal habeas corpus
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).
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).