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Robinson v. Jackson

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

December 2, 2016

JAYQUAN ROBINSON, Petitioner,
v.
SHANE JACKSON, Respondent.

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

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Jayquan Robinson (“Robinson”) is a state prisoner in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections. On July 25, 2013, Robinson pleaded no contest in the Oakland County Circuit Court to one count of assault with intent to commit murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.83, two counts of armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529, and three counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. The state trial court sentenced Robinson to concurrent terms of 330 to 720 months for the assault and armed robbery conviction and a consecutive term of 2 years for the firearm convictions.

         On November 12, 2015, Robinson filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (the “Petition”). (See ECF #1.)[1] The Petition raises three claims: 1) Robinson's no contest plea was the product of ineffective assistance of counsel, 2) the state trial court incorrectly scored Robinson's sentencing guidelines to reflect a prior felony conviction that was actually a juvenile misdemeanor, and 3) Robinson's trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the scoring of the guidelines. The Court concludes that Robinson is not entitled to habeas relief. Accordingly, for the reasons stated below, the Petition is DENIED. The Court also DENIES Robinson a certificate of appealability and permission to appeal in forma pauperis.

         I

         The charges against Robinson arose after he and another man, Artrus Pickens (“Pickens”), robbed and shot a man named Damaris Ellsworth (“Ellsworth”). Ellsworth testified at the preliminary examination that on the evening of March 30, 2011, he was at his girlfriend's residence in Pontiac, Michigan. (See ECF #14-2 at 5, Pg. ID 157.) Ellsworth said that Robinson and Pickens came to his girlfriend's house, ostensibly to purchase marijuana. (See Id. at 9-11, Pg. ID 161-63.) Ellsworth knew Robinson because Robinson had previously purchased marijuana from him. (See Id. at 9-10, Pg. ID 161-62.) Ellsworth testified that after Robinson entered the house, Robinson pulled out a revolver and Pickens pulled out an assault rifle. (See Id. at 12, Pg. ID 164.) Robinson thereafter pointed his gun at the back of Ellsworth's head and demanded Ellsworth's money. (See Id. at 12-13, Pg. ID 164-65.) Robinson then rifled through Ellsworth's pockets and took Ellsworth's cellphone. (See Id. at 14, 17, Pg. ID 166, 169.) Robinson and Pickens then left the house, and Ellsworth closed the door behind him. (See Id. at 14, Pg. ID 165.) Ellsworth testified that Robinson then shot towards the closed door three or four times, striking Ellsworth in the chest. (See Id. at 14-15, Pg. ID 166-67.). The bullet penetrated Ellsworth's diaphragm, went through a kidney, and it lodged in his liver. (See Id. at 15, Pg. ID 167.)

         Based on this evidence, the state district court judge bound Robinson over to the circuit court for trial on fourteen charges: 1) one count of assault with intent to commit murder, 2) six counts of armed robbery, and 3) seven counts of commission of a felony with a firearm. (See Id. at 25-26, Pg. ID 177-78; ECF #14-15 at 19, Pg. ID 241.)

         On July 25, 2013, Robinson appeared in the Oakland County Circuit Court for a pre-trial hearing. At that hearing, Robinson's counsel indicated that she met with Robinson and that he informed her that he wanted to enter into a plea agreement to resolve the charges against him. (See ECF #14-3 at 2, Pg. ID 181.) The prosecutor told the state court that the plea deal called for Robinson to plead no contest to the first six counts brought against him - one count of assault with intent to murder, two counts of armed robbery, and three counts of commission of a felony with a firearm. (See id.) In exchange, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the remaining eight counts. (See id.) The trial court then stated on the record that it had previously met with the attorneys in chambers and had made a Cobbs evaluation that Robinson would be sentenced to the lower third of the sentencing guidelines. (See id.)[2] Robinson told the trial court that he understood the terms of the plea agreement and that he recognized that he would be required to serve a two-year sentence for the firearm convictions before his other sentences. (See id.)

         Robinson was then placed under oath. (See Id. at 3, Pg. ID 182.) Robinson told the state court that he was twenty years old, that he could read, write, and understand the English language, and that he understood the court and his attorney. (See id.) The trial court then asked Robinson specifically if he understood that he was pleading to, among other charges, “one count of assault with intent to murder.”[3] (Id.) Robinson responded affirmatively. (See id.) The court then informed Robinson that the maximum possible penalty was life imprisonment and the minimum possible sentence was fifteen years imprisonment. (See id.) Robinson further told the court that he understood that the court had agreed to sentence Robinson to the lower third of his sentencing guidelines. (See id.) Robinson then stated he had no questions about the plea agreement and that he understood the agreement. (See id.)

         The Court next informed Robinson of all the trial rights that he would be waiving by entering his plea, and Robinson said that he understood those rights. (See Id. at 3-4, Pg. ID 182-83.) Robinson also told the court that he understood that by entering his plea he was giving up any claim that his plea was the result of promises or threats that were not disclosed to the court. (See id.) Robinson then denied that anyone had threatened him in any manner to obtain the plea. (See id.)

         The prosecutor used the transcript of the preliminary examination to establish a factual basis for the plea. (See Id. at 4-5, Pg. ID 183-84.) He stated on the record that “the preliminary examination transcript in this matter and/or the incident report from the Pontiac Police Department would establish” that, among other things, Robinson “did commit assault with intent to murder by shooting [Ellsworth].” (Id.) Robinson acknowledged that he was present at the preliminary examination, heard the testimony of the one witness who testified, and had the opportunity to assist his counsel at that proceeding. (See id. at 5, Pg. ID 184.) At no time did Robinson object to either the charge of “assault with intent to murder” or the prosecutor's assertion that the preliminary examination could establish that he committed that crime. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court found that Robinson's plea was entered freely, voluntarily, accurately, and knowingly. (See id.)

         The court held Robinson's sentencing hearing on August 14, 2013. (See ECF #14-4.) At that hearing, defense counsel indicated that Robinson's sentencing guidelines were calculated higher than she anticipated. (See ECF #14-4 at 2, Pg. ID 187.) She then asked for the court to sentence Robinson at the bottom of the guideline range. (See id.) She told the court that Robinson was only 17-years-old when he committed the crime, that he could not read, and that he was unable to secure employment. (See Id. at 2-3, Pg. ID 187-88.)

         Robinson then addressed the court. (See Id. at 3, Pg. ID 18.) He said that he was sorry for harming the victim, that he wanted a second chance, and that he did not want to spend the rest of his life in prison because he had a son. (See id.) Robinson acknowledged “committ[ing] a crime” and told the court that what he did “was wrong.” (Id.)

         After Robinson spoke, the court informed the parties that it would comply with the Cobbs evaluation and sentence Robinson to the bottom third of the sentencing guidelines. (See Id. at 4, Pg. ID 189.) The sentencing guidelines were scored to call for a minimum sentence between 270 and 450 months. (See ECF #14-9 at 3, Pg. ID 204.) The court ultimately sentenced Robinson to 330 to 720 months for the assault and robbery convictions, and a consecutive two years for the firearm convictions. (See ECF #14-4 at 4, Pg. ID 189.)

         On February 5, 2014, Robinson's appellate counsel filed a motion in the state trial court to vacate Robinson's sentence on the ground that the sentencing guidelines were scored incorrectly. (See ECF #14-6.) Appellate counsel asserted that Robinson was erroneously scored points for being on probation for a felony conviciton when in fact he was on probation for a juvenile misdemeanor conviction. (See id.) Appellate counsel insisted that the corrected guidelines would have called for a minimum sentence between 225 and 375 months. (See id.)

         Robinson's appellate counsel also filed a motion to withdraw Robinson's plea. (See ECF #14-7.) In that motion, appellate counsel asserted that Robinson's plea was involuntary because his trial counsel failed to properly investigate the case, failed to interview witnesses, failed to investigate possible defenses, and provided inaccurate advice. (See id.) The motion further alleged that Robinson was not informed of the elements of the offense of assault with ...


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