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Darden v. Palmer

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

November 2, 2016

EDWARD DARDEN, JR. Petitioner,
v.
CARMEN PALMER, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND (3) DENYING PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          Gerald E. Rosen, United States District Judge.

         This is a habeas case filed by Michigan prisoner Edward Darden, Jr. (“Petitioner”) under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges his Wayne Circuit Court convictions of second-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.317, reckless driving causing death, Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.626(4), reckless driving causing serious impairment, Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.626(3), failure to remain at the scene of an accident causing death, Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.617(3), and failure to remain at the scene of an accident resulting in serious impairment. Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.617(2). Petitioner was sentenced to a string of concurrent terms of imprisonment, the longest of which is a term of 25 to 40 years for the second-degree murder conviction.

         The petition raises two claims: (1) insufficient evidence was presented at trial to sustain his conviction for second-degree murder, and (2) Petitioner's convictions for both failure to stop at the scene of an accident causing death and failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in serious impairment violate his right against double jeopardy. The Court finds that both of Petitioner's claim are without merit. Therefore, the petition will be denied. The Court will also deny Petitioner a certificate of appealability, and it will deny him 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):

Defendant's convictions arise from his involvement in a car accident that killed one person and seriously injured another. The accident occurred when defendant, the driver of a Dodge Ram pickup truck traveling at a high rate of speed in a residential area, while under police surveillance, disregarded a red traffic signal at an intersection and collided with a minivan that had entered the intersection on a green signal. After the collision, defendant and two other passengers from the pickup truck fled on foot. The driver of the minivan was killed and a front-seat passenger in the minivan sustained numerous serious injuries.

People v. Darden, No. 314562, 2014 WL 2619444, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Jun. 12, 2014).

         Following his conviction and sentence as indicated above, Petitioner filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, raising the following claims:

I. Defendant's conviction for second degree murder must be vacated where the prosecution failed to present legally sufficient evidence on an essential element of the crime, viz., that defendant Darden acted in wanton and willful disregard of the likelihood that the natural tendency of his behavior was to cause death or great bodily harm.
II. Defendant's multiple convictions in count 4 (failure to stop at accident scene resulting in death) and count 5 (failure to stop at accident scene resulting in serious impairment or death) violated state and federal double jeopardy principles.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions in an unpublished opinion. Id. Petitioner subsequently filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, raising the same claims as he raised in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the application because it was not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed. People v. Darden, 857 N.W.2d 46 (Mich. 2014) (table).

         II. Standard of Review

         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) curtails a federal court's review of constitutional claims raised by a state prisoner in a habeas action if the claims were adjudicated 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. Where, as here, the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected a petitioner's appeal “for lack of merit in the grounds presented, ” and the Michigan Supreme Court subsequently denied leave to appeal in a standard form order, the state courts' decision are entitled to deference under § 2254(d)(1). See Werth v. Bell, 692 F.3d 486, 492-94 (6th Cir. 2012).

         “A 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 ...


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