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Scott v. Woods

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

December 15, 2016

WILLIE SCOTT, Petitioner,
v.
JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          Gerald E. Rosen United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Willie Scott's petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges his convictions for kidnapping, three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder on the grounds that his jury waiver was invalid, he was denied the effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, insufficient evidence sustained his conviction, and the prosecutor committed misconduct. Respondent, through the Attorney General's Office, has filed an answer in opposition arguing that certain of the claims are procedurally defaulted and that all of the claims lack merit. Petitioner fails to show entitlement to habeas relief and the petition is denied.

         I. Background

         Petitioner's convictions arise from the assault of Joann B. on December 22, 2009, in Detroit, Michigan. Joann B. testified that she made money by moving things for people. On December 22, 2009, she received a call from a woman she knew in the neighborhood who asked her to move a stove and refrigerator. Joann went to the woman's home, which she described as appearing vacant, and Petitioner opened the door. Petitioner held a gun to her head and pulled her into the home. He asked her for money. When she did not give him money, he began beating her in the head with bricks. Another man then entered the room carrying a shovel and asked for money. Petitioner told the man to beat Joann until she came up with the money. The second man beat Joann on the legs and arms with a shovel until one of her legs broke. He also beat her with nunchucks. Petitioner beat her with a cane. Joann testified that it felt as if the beatings continued for hours.

         The woman who had called her to the home then arrived. Petitioner ordered her to search Joann for the money. The woman, whose name Joann could not remember, placed her hand inside Joann's vagina and rectum to see if she had hidden money there. Petitioner and the woman also placed sticks inside Joann's vagina and rectum. Joann testified that Petitioner and the other man ejaculated on her.

         Later, another man arrived and asked what was going on. Joann testified that she was lying in puddles of blood. Petitioner told the man that they were going to kill Joann. The man, who was later identified to be Carl Scott, said he was instead going to take her to the hospital. As Carl Scott was carrying Joann out of the home, Petitioner threatened that if she told anyone what happened he would kill her and her family. Carl Scott drove Joann to a church, from which an ambulance took her to the hospital. Joann suffered two broken legs, concussions, fractured ribs, and what she characterized as “female problems.” Tr., 2/4/11 at 29.

         Petitioner testified in his defense. He admitted that he lived in the home where Joann was attacked but claimed that he had been staying down the street with a friend at the time of the attack because his home was too cold. He denied being in the home on the day of the attack.

         Following a bench trial in Wayne County Circuit Court, Petitioner was convicted of kidnapping, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.349, three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520b, and assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.84. On March 18, 2011, he was sentenced as a fourth habitual offender to 22-1/2 to 35 years' imprisonment for each offense.

         Petitioner filed an appeal of right in the Michigan Court of Appeals raising these claims: (i) invalid jury waiver; (ii) ineffective assistance of counsel; and (iii) findings of fact were clearly erroneous. The Michigan Court of Appeals remanded the matter for an evidentiary hearing on Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. 12/13/11 Order, ECF No. 7-14, Pg. ID 756. Following a hearing, the trial court found that counsel was not ineffective. See ECF No. 7-10.

         Petitioner filed a supplemental brief in the Michigan Court of Appeals challenging the trial court's finding that counsel was not ineffective. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions. People v. Scott, No. 303671, 2012 WL 4800314 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 9, 2012). Petitioner then filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, raising the same claims raised in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. People v. Scott, 493 Mich. 953 (Mich. Apr. 1, 2013).

         Petitioner returned to the trial court to file a motion for relief from judgment. He raised these claims: (i) prosecutor failed to properly investigate the case; (ii) actual innocence; (iii) trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction; and (iv) prosecutor maliciously obstructed justice by failing to call the doctor who examined the victim and counsel was ineffective for failing to call the doctor to testify. The trial court denied the motion. See 6/10/14 Opinion, ECF No. 7-13. The Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court both denied Petitioner leave to appeal the trial court's decision. People v. Scott, No. 323880 (Mich. Ct. App. Jan. 30, 2015), ECF No. 7-16; People v. Scott, 498 Mich. 919 (Mich. Nov. 24, 2015).

         Petitioner then filed the pending habeas corpus petition. He raises these claims:

I. Petitioner's jury waiver was invalid since he was not arraigned on the information and the court failed to establish that it was voluntarily and intelligently made in violation of due process of law and his right to a trial by jury, U.S. Const. VI, XIV; 1963 Const. art. 1, sec 17, 20.
II. Petitioner Willie Scott was denied his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel at trial.
III. There was insufficient evidence to sustain the trial judge's findings of fact which were clearly erroneous and the guilty verdict for the kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct and assault with intent to do great bodily harm charges must be set aside consistent with the Due Process Clause.
IV. The prosecution failed to perform his duty to properly investigate the allegations brought forth against the petitioner, where if certain essential, critical information had been investigated, the petitioner's innocence would have been shown, preventing the prosecutor from convicting the petitioner based on the complainant's false testimony.
V. Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of appellate counsel which establishes “cause” to excuse any procedural default for failure to raise his habeas issues on direct appeal.

         II. Standard

         Review of this case is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). Under the AEDPA, a state prisoner is entitled to a writ of habeas corpus only if he can show that the state court's adjudication of his claims -

(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 ...

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