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Jones v. Burton

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

November 8, 2016

RAYNADA JONES #321198, Petitioner,
v.
DeWAYNE BURTON, Respondent.

          Hon. Janet T. Neff, Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELLEN S. CARMODY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Jones' petition for writ of habeas corpus. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) authorizing United States Magistrate Judges to submit proposed findings of fact and recommendations for disposition of prisoner petitions, the undersigned recommends that Jones' petition be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         As a result of events occurring on April 8, 2010, Petitioner was charged with: (1) homicide, open murder; (2) first degree home invasion; and (3) carrying a concealed weapon. (ECF No. 24-6 at PageID.272-73). Following a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of: (1) first degree felony murder; (2) first degree home invasion; and (3) carrying a concealed weapon. (ECF No. 24-11 at PageID.456). Petitioner was sentenced to serve life in prison without possibility of parole on the felony murder conviction and lesser concurrent terms of imprisonment on the other convictions. (ECF No. 24-12 at PageID.478). Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Michigan Court of Appeals asserting the following claim:

I. The trial judge reversibly erred in sustaining a prosecution objection to testimony from Megan Collins' mother as to Ms. Collins' behavior and demeanor when she was not taking her medication for depression, as that inquiry was relevant to the defense theory that Ms. Collins' actions on the night of the offense provoked Mr. Jones and mitigated the homicide offense to voluntary manslaughter.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence. People v. Jones, 2012 WL 6913823 (Mich. Ct. App., Nov. 20, 2012). Asserting the above issue, as well as several new issues, Petitioner unsuccessfully moved in the Michigan Supreme Court for leave to appeal. People v. Jones, Case No. 146416, Order (Mich., Apr. 1, 2013). On June 23, 2014, Petitioner initiated the present action, asserting the claim identified above as well as several additional claims. (ECF No. 1). Petitioner subsequently amended his petition. (ECF No. 11).

         On October 1, 2014, the Honorable Janet T. Neff issued an Opinion finding that, with the exception of the claim identified above, Petitioner had failed to properly exhaust the claims in his petition for habeas relief. (ECF No. 14). The Court further determined, however, that Petitioner was entitled to a stay of this matter so that he could return to state court to pursue his unexhausted claims. (ECF No. 14). On January 20, 2015, however, Petitioner informed the Court that he had “voluntarily abandoned” his unexhausted claims and desired that the Court “proceed forward” to review his exhausted claim. (ECF No. 19). The Court granted Petitioner's request. (ECF No. 20). Thus, the only claim presented in this matter is the claim identified above.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Jones' petition is subject to the provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), as it amended 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The AEDPA amended the substantive standards for granting habeas relief under the following provisions:

(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -
(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 the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         The AEDPA has “modified” the role of the federal courts in habeas proceedings to “prevent federal habeas ‘retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002).

         Pursuant to § 2254(d)(1), a decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law when “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 confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and arrives at an opposite result.” Ayers v. Hudson, 623 F.3d 301, 307 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000)).

         Prior to Williams, the Sixth Circuit interpreted the “unreasonable application” clause of § 2254(d)(1) as precluding habeas relief unless the state court's decision was “so clearly incorrect that it would not be debatable among reasonable jurists.” Gordon v. Kelly, 2000 WL 145144 at *4 (6th Cir., February 1, 2000); see also, Blanton v. Elo, 186 F.3d 712, 714-15 (6th Cir. 1999). The Williams Court rejected this standard, indicating that it improperly transformed the “unreasonable application” examination into a subjective inquiry turning on whether “at least one of the Nation's jurists has applied the relevant federal law in the same manner” as did the state court. Williams, 529 U.S. at 409.

         In articulating the proper standard, the Court held that a writ may not issue simply because the reviewing court “concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 411. Rather, the Court must also find the state court's application thereof to be objectively unreasonable. Bell, 535 U.S. at 694; Williams, 529 U.S. at 409-12. Accordingly, a state court unreasonably applies clearly established federal law if it “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” or if it “either unreasonably extends or unreasonably refuses to extend a legal principle from the Supreme Court precedent to a new context.” Ayers, 623 F.3d at 307. Furthermore, review under § 2254(d)(1) “is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2), when reviewing whether the decision of the state court was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented, the “factual determination by [the] state courts are presumed correct absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.” Ayers, 623 F.3d at 308. Accordingly, a decision “adjudicated on the merits in a state court and based on a factual determination will not be overturned on factual grounds unless objectively unreasonable in light of the evidence presented in the state-court proceeding.” While this standard is “demanding” it is “not insatiable.” Id.

         For a writ to issue pursuant to § 2254(d)(1), the Court must find a violation of clearly established federal law “as set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the state court rendered its decision.” Stewart v. Irwin, 503 F.3d 488, 493 (6th Cir. 2007). This definition of “clearly established federal law” includes “only the holdings of the Supreme Court, rather than its dicta.” Bailey v. Mitchell, 271 F.3d 652, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). Nevertheless, “the decisions of lower ...


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