United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S PETITION
FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING
CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY AND DENYING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN
L. LUDINGTON, United States District Judge
Williams James Hastings, a state court prisoner confined at
the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility, was convicted of
first-degree murder following a jury trial in the Jackson
County Circuit Court, and was sentenced as a fourth habitual
offender to life imprisonment without parole. On May 20, 2014
Petitioner, through counsel, filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, asserting
that he is being held in violation of his constitutional
rights. In support of this assertion, Petitioner argues that
he is actually innocent of the murder conviction, that the
prosecutor engaged in various forms of misconduct, and that
his trial and appellate counsel were ineffective. Respondent
has filed an answer to the petition, arguing that
Petitioner's claims lack merit. Because Respondent is
correct, Petitioner Hastings' petition will be denied.
following relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of
Appeals 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).
This case arose out of the killing of Vicki Cook, whose body
was discovered in a state of advanced decomposition in an
undeveloped marshland area on August 2, 2002. The date of her
death was estimated to have been July 27, 2002. In late July
2002, defendant and an associate picked Cook up as a
prostitute for sex in exchange for drugs and, in fact, smoked
crack cocaine with her at another friend's house. Cocaine
was found in Cook's body. Defendant and Cook left
together, at which time Cook was wearing clothes, including a
denim long-sleeved shirt depicting a Looney Tunes character,
that belonged to Teresa Merrifield, defendant's
girlfriend. Among other things, defendant testified that he
told Merrifield that he had killed Cook. Merrifield also
testified at trial that defendant had told her that he killed
People v. Hastings, No. 262698, 2006 WL 3333094, *1
(Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 16, 2006). The Court of Appeals further
noted that the cause of Ms. Cook's death was manual
strangulation. Id. at * 3.
his conviction, Petitioner Hastings filed a motion for a new
trial with the trial court based upon newly-discovered
evidence that another man, Thomas Mowrer, had confessed to
the crime. The trial court denied the motion. Petitioner then
filed an appeal as of right with the Michigan Court of
Appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in rejecting his
motion for a new trial based on the newly discovered
evidence. He also argued that the prosecutor had engaged in
misconduct in three ways: (1) by failing to disclose
“the extent of a deal” with a key prosecution
witness; (2) by eliciting improper character evidence; and
(3) by making an improper self-bolstering argument.
Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Hasting's conviction,
finding that any prosecutorial misconduct was harmless, and
agreeing with the trial court that Thomas Mowrer's
“confession” was a false confession, as evidenced
by glaring inconsistencies between his statements and the
actual facts of the case. See Hastings, 2006 WL
3333094 at *1-*3. Petitioner filed an application for leave
to appeal to the Supreme Court, which was denied, with two
justices dissenting. See People v. Hastings, 478
Mich. 914; 733 N.W.2d 19 (2007). Petitioner moved for
reconsideration, which was denied. People v.
Hastings, 480 Mich. 864; 737 N.W.2d 705 (2007).
filed his first petition for habeas corpus relief on August
7, 2008. See Hastings v. Berghuis, No.
1:08-CV-13478, ECF No. 1, (E.D. Mich. Aug. 7, 2008). Because
the petition contained unexhausted claims, the Court
dismissed the petition without prejudice so as to allow
Petitioner to exhaust his claims in state court. Id.
at ECF No. 22.
his petition was dismissed, on December 18, 2009, Petitioner
filed a motion for relief from judgment with the state court,
which was subsequently denied. People v. Hastings,
No. 04-000690-FH (Jackson County Cir. Ct. August 11, 2010).
Petitioner then filed an application for leave to appeal in
the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Court of Appeals
granted the application and issued an unpublished opinion
affirming the conviction. People v. Hastings, No.
299960, 2011 WL 5965782 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 29, 2011). The
Michigan Supreme Court ultimately denied the petitioner leave
to appeal. See People v. Hastings, 495 Mich. 946;
843 N.W.2d 527 (2014).
exhausted his claims in state court, Petitioner Hastings
filed the current petition for habeas corpus on May 20, 2014.
See ECF No. 1. Through the Petition, Hastings seeks
habeas corpus relief based on the following claims: (1)
actual innocence, as both a “gateway claim” and
as a “factual consideration within the context of
evaluating whether he was prejudiced by violations of federal
law;” (2) prosecutorial misconduct for failing to
disclose exculpatory evidence as required by Napue v.
Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1950) and Brady v.
Maryland, 371 U.S. 83 (1963); (3) Ineffective assistance
of trial counsel; and (4) ineffective assistance of appellate
counsel on direct appeal.
U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by The Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), imposes the
following standard of review for habeas cases: 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
(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;
(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.
court adjudication is contrary to Supreme Court precedent
under § 2254(d)(1) if (1) “the state court applies
a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in
[Supreme Court] cases” or (2) “ the state court
confronts a set of facts that are materially
indistinguishable from a decision [of the Supreme Court] and
nevertheless arrives at a [different result].”
Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 73 (2003) (internal
quotation marks omitted). A state court adjudication involves
an unreasonable application of federal law under §
2254(d)(1) 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.” Harris v.
Haeberlin, 526 F.3d 903, 909 (6th Cir. 2008) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
order for a federal court to find a state court's
application of [Supreme Court] precedent unreasonable, the
state court's decision must have been more than incorrect
or erroneous, ” but rather “must have been
objectively unreasonable.” Wiggins v. ...