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Williams v. Campbell

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

November 22, 2016




         Tajuan Marnez Williams, (“Petitioner”), confined at the Carson City Correctional Facility in Carson City, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction for first-degree premeditated murder, M.C.L.A. 750.316; felon in possession of a firearm, M.C.L.A. 750.224f; and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, M.C.L.A. 750.227b. For the reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Petitioner was convicted following a jury trial in the Genesee County Circuit Court. 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 arose out of the murder of Janien Cobbin, who had been defendant's girlfriend. In May 2005, Cobbin was shot and killed in her apartment. On the night the police first investigated the murder, defendant and two friends drove to Cobbin's apartment. While defendant and his friends were there, the police requested and received permission to search their car. The police found a handgun in the car and arrested all three men for possession of the gun. Defendant initially waived his right to counsel and told the police that he had attended car races on the night of the murder.
The prosecutor charged defendant with weapons counts but not with murder, because tests showed that the gun found in the car was not the murder weapon. Defendant pleaded guilty to certain weapons counts and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. Defendant began serving his sentence at the Newberry prison facility, where he met fellow inmate James Hicks.
Hicks and defendant had several conversations. Hicks then contacted authorities and indicated that defendant had made incriminating statements about the murder. Hicks subsequently agreed to have a hidden recorder placed in his radio. Both Hicks and defendant were transferred to the Muskegon prison facility, where they were made cellmates. For six days their conversations were recorded, including conversations in which Hicks asked defendant about Cobbin. During the recorded conversations, defendant indicated that he had killed Cobbin. The prosecutor subsequently charged defendant with the murder.
Defendant filed several pretrial motions to suppress the prison recordings. The trial court denied the motions. Defendant also filed motions to obtain Hicks's prison file, but the Department of Corrections (DOC) did not produce the file prior to trial. At trial, Hicks and the prosecutor read excerpts of the prison recordings into evidence. Those excerpts included defendant saying, “I blew her mother fucking head off.” The prosecutor played a portion of the recordings for the jury and introduced the transcript of the recordings into evidence.
The prosecution also presented expert witness Dan Harris, who testified about using cellular telephone records to identify the location of defendant's telephones at the time of the murder. Defendant objected to Harris's testimony on the ground that the prosecution had not previously identified Harris as an expert witness. The trial court overruled the objection, noting that the prosecution's mid-trial identification of Harris as a witness arose from defendant's objection to another witness's proffered testimony on the issue of cell phone location. Harris then testified that on the night of the murder, defendant's cell phones were in close geographic proximity to Cobbin's apartment. In response to Harris's testimony, defendant presented expert witness Manfred Schenk. Schenk stated that the call detail method used by Harris could not identify the location of a cell phone. Schenk explained that Harris's method could identify the location of the cell tower that handled a particular call, but that there was no direct relationship between the location of the cell tower and the location of a cell phone. Schenk opined that, absent a global positioning chip, the sole accurate method to locate a cell phone during a call is “triangulation”-which was not done in this case.
The prosecution later re-called Harris. Harris acknowledged that the call detail method he used in this case could not identify the precise location of a cell phone. Harris nonetheless testified that defendant's cell phones could not have been at his alibi location (car races) at the time of the murder.

People v. Williams, No. 301384, 2013 WL 5629647, at *1-2 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 15, 2013).

Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id., lv. den. 497 Mich. 852 (2014).
Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:
I. Police officers illegally seized and arrested Williams without probable cause or reasonable suspicion in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and his subsequent statement to police and the police agent were inadmissible at trial as the fruit of the poisonous tree.
II. Williams's statement was obtained in violation of his rights under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
III. Williams was denied a fair trial by the admission of an improper photographic line-up conducted while he was in custody; there was no independent basis for the in-court identification.
IV. Williams's right to privacy and due process was violated by the surreptitious recording of private conversations between Williams and his jailhouse lawyer; his attorney-client privilege was also violated.
V. Incriminating statements obtained from Williams through Hicks, an agent for police, was in violation of the attorney-client privilege and the prophylactic rule that required police to inform Williams about the availability of counsel, Williams was denied a fair trial where statements were introduced at trial.
VI. Williams was denied “fundamental fairness” where the trial court erred in denying the motion for new trial where employees of the Department of Corrections in complicity with the Flint Township Police and the prosecutor's office violated numerous prison policies and Williams's Fourth Amendment and Due Process rights when they introduced a recording device used by an inmate to record conversations without authorization.
VII. The state court erred reversibly in denying Williams relief pursuant to Federal and State eavesdropping laws.
VIII. Williams was denied his constitutional rights of (a) Equal Protection; (b) Freedom of communication and association; (c) right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and; (d) his right to the access of the court during pre-trial incarceration, making admission of his statements illegal and conviction unreliable.
IX. Williams was denied of multiple constitutional protections when the state denied his motion to suppress/dismiss the constitutionally defective arrest warrant.
X. The state court erred reversibly in denying Williams his motion to quash the bind over and dismiss the information.
XI. The state court erred in denying Williams's motion for a new trial when the prosecutor and the trial court denied his discovery request, suppressed material evidence, and denied due process and Sixth Amendment right to Confrontation.
XII. The state court should have granted Williams relief where he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.
XIII. The destruction of evidence that was favorable to Williams violated his right to confront the testimony of the State's star prosecution witness.
XIV. The admission of evidence of highly inflammatory other acts that were irrelevant and not probative under FRE 404(B) or any other evidence rule denied Williams a fair trial.
XV. The surprise introduction of a voicemail recording denied Williams his right to discovery and his right to a fair trial where the recording was not adequately identified.
XVI. The introduction of surprise expert testimony from a “cell tower” expert denied Williams his right to discovery and effective cross-examination; the expert testimony was not admissible as it was not based on a recognized science; Williams was denied effective assistance of counsel and fair trial.
XVII. Williams was deprived of effective assistance of trial counsel, trial by impartial and unbiased jury, where the trial court appeared to be biased and not impartial towards Williams and defense counsel.
XVIII. Williams was deprived of a fair trial through prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments, where remarks were not supported by the evidence, were intended to inflame and appeal to the passion of the jury.

         II. Standard of Review

         28 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 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.

         A decision of a state court is “contrary to” clearly established federal law 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, 405-06 (2000). An “unreasonable application” occurs when “a state court decision unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner's case.” Id. at 409. A federal habeas court may not “issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.” Id. at 410-11. “[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 (2011)(citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). Therefore, in order to obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state prisoner is required to show that the state court's rejection of his claim “was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103. A habeas petitioner should be denied relief as long as it is within the “realm of possibility” that fairminded jurists could find the state court decision to be reasonable. See Woods v. Etherton, 136 S.Ct. 1149, 1152 (2016).

         The Court is aware that although the Michigan Court of Appeals did not explicitly address several of the claims that petitioner raised on his appeal of right, the AEDPA's deferential standard nonetheless applies to these claims as well. “When a state court rejects a federal claim without expressly addressing that claim, a federal habeas court must presume that the federal claim was adjudicated on the merits” for purposes of invoking the AEDPA standard of review. Johnson v. Williams, 133 S.Ct. 1088, 1096 (2013).

         Petitioner filed a petition with this Court, raising eighteen claims. The Sixth Circuit recently observed: “When a party comes to us with nine grounds for reversing the district court, that usually means there are none.” Fifth Third Mortgage v. Chicago Title Ins., 692 F.3d 507, 509 (6th Cir. 2012).

         III. Discussion

         A. Claims # 1, # 4, # 6, # 7, and # 9. The Fourth Amendment claims.

         Petitioner brings a number of Fourth Amendment challenges to his conviction. In his first claim, petitioner alleges that the police arrested him without probable cause, thus, any subsequent statements made by petitioner to the police should have been suppressed as the fruit of an illegal arrest. As part of his fourth claim, petitioner argues that his Fourth Amendment right to privacy was violated when the conversations between himself and Mr. Hicks were secretly recorded. Petitioner repeats this claim in his sixth claim. In his seventh claim, petitioner alleges that the secret recording of his conversations with Mr. Hicks violated federal and state eavesdropping laws. In his ninth claim, petitioner contends that the state trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress or dismiss the allegedly defective arrest warrant on the murder charge.

         A federal habeas review of a petitioner's arrest or search by state police is barred where the state has provided a full and fair opportunity to litigate an illegal arrest or a search and seizure claim. Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 494-95 (1976); Machacek v. Hofbauer, 213 F.3d 947, 952 (6th Cir. 2000). For such an opportunity to have existed, the state must have provided, in the abstract, a mechanism by which the petitioner could raise the claim, and presentation of the claim must not have been frustrated by a failure of that mechanism. Riley v. Gray, 674 F.2d 522, 526 (6th Cir. 1982). The relevant inquiry is whether a habeas petitioner had an opportunity to litigate his claims, not whether he in fact did so or even whether the Fourth Amendment claim was correctly decided. See Wynne v. Renico, 279 F.Supp.2d 866, 892 (E.D. Mich. 2003); rev'd on other grds 606 F.3d 867 (6th Cir. 2010). Indeed, under Stone, the correctness of a state court's conclusions regarding a Fourth Amendment claim “is simply irrelevant.” See Brown v. Berghuis, 638 F. Supp, 2d 795, 812 (E.D. Mich. 2009). Moreover, this Court does not look into the adequacy of the procedures used to litigate petitioner's various Fourth Amendment claims in the state courts. The Sixth Circuit noted that “[t]he Powell ‘opportunity for full and fair consideration' means an available avenue for the prisoner to present his claim to the state courts, not an inquiry into the adequacy of the procedure actually used to resolve that particular claim.” See Good v. Berghuis, 729 F.3d 636, 639 (6th Cir. 2013).

         In the present case, petitioner was able to present his Fourth Amendment claims to the state trial court in his pre-trial motions to suppress and was later able to present his Fourth Amendment claims to the Michigan appellate courts. That is sufficient to preclude review of the claims on habeas review. Good v. Berghuis, 729 F.3d at 640. Moreover, because petitioner had an opportunity to challenge the admission of his statements to Hicks as a form of illegal eavesdropping, he is not entitled to habeas relief on any claim that the admission of this evidence violated his Fourth Amendment rights. See e.g. Crawford v. Artuz, 165 F.Supp.2d 627, 637 (S.D.N.Y. 2001).

         B. Claims # 2, # 4, and # 5. The claims relating to petitioner's statements to Mr. Hicks.

         The Court consolidates petitioner's second, fourth, and fifth claims together because they are interrelated and overlap.

         In his second claim, petitioner argues that his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent were violated when Mr. Hicks tape recorded his confessions to the murder in prison.

         Petitioner first claims that his Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated because he had been represented by an attorney on the original weapons charges that he pleaded guilty to and was still in the process of appealing that conviction with the assistance of counsel at the time that Mr. Hicks initiated the conversations in which petitioner incriminated himself.

         The Sixth Amendment right to counsel “does not attach until a prosecution is commenced, that is, at or after the initiation of adversary judicial criminal proceedings-whether by way of formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or arraignment.” Texas v. Cobb, 532 U.S. 162, 167-68 (2001)(quoting McNeil v. Wisconsin, 501 U.S. 171, 175 (1991)(internal citations and quotation marks omitted); See also Davis v. U.S., 512 U.S. 452, 456-57 (1994). Moreover, there is no exception to this rule for uncharged crimes that are “factually related” to a charged offense. Texas v. Cobb, 532 U.S. at 167-68. Petitioner had not been formally charged with the murder at the time that he spoke with Mr. Hicks, thus, the fact that he may have been represented by counsel on the weapons charges, even if they were factually related to the uncharged murder, would not bar Mr. Hicks from speaking with petitioner about the murder. Id., at 173.

         Petitioner further claims that his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights under Miranda were violated when Mr. Hicks spoke with petitioner and recorded his confessions.

         A prosecutor may not use a defendant's statements which stem from custodial interrogation unless the prosecutor can demonstrate the use of procedural safeguards which are effective to secure a defendant's privilege against self-incrimination. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966). Unless other means are devised to inform a suspect of his right to silence and a “continuous opportunity to exercise it, ” the following warnings are required to be given to a suspect:

1. the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent;
2. that any statement he does make may be used against him;
3. and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either appointed or retained.

Miranda, 384 U.S. at 444.

         Petitioner first suggests that Mr. Hicks should have advised him of his Miranda warnings before obtaining incriminating admissions from him. In Illinois v. Perkins, 496 U.S. 292, 300 (1990), the Supreme Court held that an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a fellow inmate was not required to give Miranda warnings to an incarcerated suspect before asking questions that may elicit an incriminating response. The Supreme Court reasoned that “Conversations between suspects and undercover agents do not implicate the concerns underlying Miranda. The essential ingredients of a “police-dominated atmosphere” and compulsion are not present when an incarcerated person speaks freely to someone whom he believes to be a fellow inmate.” Id., at 296. The Supreme Court further opined that “When a suspect considers himself in the company of cellmates and not officers, the coercive atmosphere is lacking.” Id. Other courts have extended the rationale in Perkins to hold that a prisoner acting as an undercover informant is not required to administer Miranda warnings prior to obtaining incriminating statements from a defendant. See United States v. Cook, 599 F.3d 1208, 1213-14 (10th Cir. 2010). Mr. Hicks was acting as an undercover informant, thus, he was not required to administer Miranda warnings to petitioner prior to recording his statements.

         In addition, petitioner was not subjected to a custodial interrogation at the time that he made his ...

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