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Shaver v. Woods

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

November 2, 2016

JASON SHAVER, Petitioner,
v.
JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.

          OPINION

          ROBERT HOLMES BELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a habeas corpus petition brought by a state prisoner under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Timothy Greeley, who issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) on August 8, 2016, recommending that this Court deny the petition. (ECF No. 8.) The matter is before the Court on Petitioner's objections to the R&R. (ECF No. 11.)

         This Court is required to make a de novo review upon the record of those portions of the R&R to which specific objections have been made, and may accept, reject, or modify any or all of the magistrate judge's findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see also Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995) (“[A] general objection to a magistrate's report, which fails to specify the issues of contention, does not satisfy the requirement that an objection be filed. The objections must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.”).

         Petitioner filed two objections. First, he objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the Michigan Court of Appeals' decision that the trial court properly applied the Michigan rape-shield statute was not contrary to, and did not involve an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law. Second, he objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the Michigan Court of Appeals' decision that counsel was not ineffective for failing to investigate and present evidence of Petitioner's impotence and color of pubic hair was not contrary to, and did not involve an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law.

         I.

         When a petitioner's claim has been adjudicated on the merits in state court, § 2254(d) provides that a habeas petition shall not be granted unless the adjudication:

(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 facts in light of the evidence presented in the state-court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2554(d)(1)-(2). Under the contrary-to clause, “a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). To justify habeas relief, a federal court must find a violation of law clearly established by holdings of the Supreme Court, as opposed to its dicta, at the time of the relevant state-court decision. Id. at 412. Moreover, a federal court may not find a state adjudication unreasonable “simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.” Id. Rather, the application must also be “unreasonable.” Id. Under the unreasonable-applicable clause, “a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Id. at 413.

         This Court defers to state-court decisions when the state court addressed the merits of Petitioner's claim. Harris v. Stovall, 212 F.3d 940, 943 (6th Cir. 2000). The state court's factual findings are presumed to be correct but may be rebutted by Petitioner with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         II.

         A. Michigan's Rape Shield Act

         Evidence of specific instances of a victim's past sexual conduct with others is generally legally irrelevant and inadmissible under Mich. Comp. Laws 750.520j. Wimbley v. Sherry, No. 2:06-CV-265, 2009 WL 3644808, at *3 (W.D. Mich. Oct. 30, 2009) (Bell, J.) (citing People v. Arenda, 330 N.W.2d 814 (1982)). Inquiries into sexual history, even when minimally relevant, carry a danger of unfairly prejudicing and misleading the jury. Id. Michigan's rape-shield statute provides:

Evidence of specific instances of the victim's sexual conduct, opinion evidence of the victim's sexual conduct, and reputation evidence of the victim's sexual conduct shall not be admitted under sections 520b to 520g unless and only to the extent that the judge finds that the following proposed evidence is material to a fact at issue in the case and that its inflammatory or prejudicial nature does not outweigh its probative value: (a) evidence of victim's past sexual conduct with the ...

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