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Williams v. Curtin

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

November 29, 2016

THADDEUS WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
CINDI CURTIN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          DAVID M. LAWSON United States District Judge

         Petitioner Thaddeus Williams was convicted of second-degree murder and firearms offenses by a Wayne County, Michigan jury and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences. He challenges his convictions and sentences in a pro se petition and amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Although he has raised 12 claims addressing a variety of alleged constitutional violations, one issue is fatal to his quest for relief: the untimeliness of his petition. Because Williams did not comply with the one-year statute of limitations applicable to federal habeas actions, see 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1), and the petition is not saved by equitable tolling, the Court must dismiss the petition and deny relief.

         I.

         The petitioner shot Rufus Marshall to death during an argument in an apartment hallway in Detroit, Michigan on March 16, 2007. The Michigan Court of Appeals summarized the relevant facts as follows:

Defendant was convicted of the second-degree murder of Rufus Marshall while he and Marshall were visiting an apartment in Detroit on March 16, 2007. Defendant and Marshall got into an argument about a rivalry between two neighborhoods in Detroit, and also about a debt owed to defendant. Defendant challenged Marshall to “knuckle it up, ” and Marshall placed two telephone calls asking someone to bring him his gun. Both men left the apartment and went into the hallway, where Marshall was fatally shot in the chest. Defendant contended that Marshall produced a gun during the confrontation in the hallway, and that the gun discharged when defendant grabbed Marshall in an attempt to disarm him. The prosecutor maintained that the physical evidence and other circumstances surrounding the shooting refuted defendant's claim of self-defense.

People v. Williams, No. 279974, 2008 WL 4958547, *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2008). These facts are presumed to be correct, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009), although they have little bearing on the main issue discussed below.

         Following his convictions and sentencing, the petitioner filed a direct appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals raising claims concerning the reference to his weapons conviction and denial of a mistrial motion, the sufficiency of the evidence, the submission of first-degree and second-degree murder charges to the jury, the conduct of the prosecutor and the trial court, and the jury instructions. The court denied relief on those claims and affirmed his convictions. The petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order on May 27, 2009. People v. Williams, 483 Mich. 1019, 765 N.W.2d 317 (2009). That court denied reconsideration on August 6, 2009. People v. Williams, 484 Mich. 874, 769 N.W.2d 232 (2009).

         On October 5, 2009, the petitioner filed a motion to vacate his convictions in the state trial court raising a claim concerning his notice and trial on the first-degree murder charge. The trial court denied relief in a summary order. People v. Williams, No. 07-007377-01 (Wayne Co. Cir. Ct. Nov. 24, 2009). The petitioner filed a delayed application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, which was denied “for failure to meet the burden of establishing entitlement to relief under MCR 6.508(D).” In denying the application, the court noted that the petitioner's convictions were no longer reviewable under the direct appeal rules, Mich. Ct. R. 7.200 or 7.300, and were only reviewable under the post-conviction rules, Mich. Ct. R. 6.500, et seq. People v. Williams, No. 295546 (Mich. Ct. App. May 24, 2010). The court also denied reconsideration. People v. Williams, No. 295546 (Mich. Ct. App. July 1, 2010). The petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order on September 9, 2010, People v. Williams, 488 Mich. 858, 787 N.W.2d 124 (2010), and reconsideration was denied on December 20, 2010. People v. Williams, 488 Mich. 998, 791 N.W.2d 445 (2010).

         On March 8, 2011, the petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment in the state trial court raising claims concerning his notice for the first-degree murder charge, his right to a public trial during jury voir dire, the jury instructions, the failure to preserve evidence, and the ineffectiveness of trial and appellate counsel. The court denied relief on those claims citing Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D)(3). People v. Williams, No. 07-007377 (Wayne Co. Cir. Ct. June 2, 2011). The petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, which was denied “for failure to meet the burden of establishing entitlement to relief under MCR 6.508(D).” People v. Williams, No. 306161 (Mich. Ct. App. March 23, 2012). The petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied on June 25, 2012 because the motion for relief from judgment was “prohibited by MCR 6.502(G).” People v. Williams, 491 Mich. 947, 815 N.W.2d 450 (2012). The court also denied reconsideration on November 20, 2012. People v. Williams, 493 Mich. 898, 822 N.W.2d 577 (2012).

         The petitioner, through counsel, filed an initial habeas petition in this Court on November 7, 2013. The petitioner, on his own, subsequently filed an amended petition raising the 12 claims that he raised on direct appeal and collateral review in the state courts. The Court accepted the amended petition as the operative petition in this case. The respondent filed an answer to the amended petition contending that the petition is untimely, that certain claims are barred by procedural default, and that all of the claims lack merit. The petitioner, through counsel, has filed a reply to that answer asserting that his petition is timely.

         II.

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) became effective on April 24, 1996 and governs the filing date for this action because the petitioner filed his petition after the AEDPA's effective date. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997). The AEDPA amended 28 U.S.C. § 2244 to include a one-year period of limitations for habeas petitions brought by prisoners challenging state court judgments. Vroman v. Brigano, 346 F.3d 598, 601 (6th Cir. 2003). The one-year statute of limitations runs from the latest of:

(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was ...

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