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Henix v. Burton

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

January 18, 2017

WILLIAM CLYDE HENIX, Petitioner,
v.
DEWAYNE BURTON, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE AMENDED HABEAS CORPUS PETITION AND DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, BUT GRANTING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL

          SEAN F. COX, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is presently before the Court on petitioner William Clyde Henix' pro se amended petition for the writ of habeas corpus. The amended petition challenges Petitioner's plea-based convictions for witness intimidation, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.122, and assault with a dangerous weapon (felonious assault), Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.82. Petitioner alleges as grounds for relief that (1) his no-contest plea was involuntary, (2) the prosecution failed to ensure that his rights were protected, (3) the trial court failed to exercise control of the proceedings at all times, (4) trial counsel sabotaged the proceedings and abandoned him, and (5) appellate counsel sabotaged the appeal and abandoned him. Respondent Dewayne Burton argues in an answer to the petition filed through counsel that the state courts reasonably rejected Petitioner's claims. The Court agrees that Petitioner's claims do not warrant habeas relief. Accordingly, the petition will be denied.

         I. Background

         A. The Facts and Preliminary Proceedings

         Petitioner was charged with two counts of felonious assault and two counts of witness intimidation. The charges arose from an incident that occurred on May 25, 2010.

         Barbara Carter testified at the preliminary examination in state district court that, on May 25, 2010, she and her daughter Shakeisha Carter went to the courthouse in Saginaw County, Michigan because Petitioner was scheduled for trial that day on a domestic violence charge involving Shakeisha. When Shakeisha refused to go in the courtroom to testify against Petitioner, the matter was adjourned. Shakeisha and Barbara then left the courthouse and proceeded to go home in Mrs. Carter's car.

         On their way home, Shakeisha noticed Petitioner and said, “There he go[es].” Barbara was driving at the time, and she subsequently saw Petitioner in her rear-view mirror. Petitioner was driving a pick-up truck, which he rammed three times into the back of Mrs. Carter's car. Petitioner's actions caused Mrs. Carter's car to jump two curbs, hit a pole and a tree, and land in someone's yard. The bumper came off her car, and the two front tires went flat. Petitioner drove away after the collision. (Prelim. Examination Tr. at 8-22, June 10, 2010.)

         Shakeisha Carter refused to testify at the preliminary examination. (Id. at 23-24.) However, a witness to the collision (Kaylee Groulx) corroborated Mrs. Carter's testimony, even though she was unable to identify the driver of the truck. (Id. at 4-8).

         Near the conclusion of Mrs. Carter's testimony, Petitioner's first attorney, Joseph H. Luplow (“Luplow”), moved to withdraw as counsel for Petitioner on the basis that he was with Petitioner when the felonious assaults and witness intimidation allegedly occurred. The state district court denied the motion after Luplow admitted that the assaults occurred after the scheduled court appearance where Luplow represented Petitioner and that he (Luplow) was not with Petitioner at that time. (Id. at 20.) At a subsequent hearing, however, the state trial court permitted Luplow to withdraw as attorney for Petitioner on the basis that Luplow was an alibi witness for Petitioner. (Hr'g Tr. at 3-5, July 15, 2010.)

         The trial court then appointed William D. White (“White”) to represent Petitioner. On September 14, 2010, Petitioner complained at a court hearing that there was a breakdown in his relationship with White and that White was not representing him properly. The trial court denied the motion on the basis that Petitioner had not shown good cause for substitution of counsel. (Hr'g Tr. at 3-13, Sept. 14, 2010.)

         On April 5, 2011, the date set for trial, Petitioner stated that he did not want White representing him because White had called him a foul name. White denied the accusation, but the trial court permitted him to withdraw as counsel for Petitioner. The court then adjourned the trial and promised to appoint a different attorney for Petitioner. (Hr'g Tr. at 3-10, Apr. 5, 2011.)

         The trial court subsequently appointed William R. Cowdry (“Cowdry”) to represent Petitioner. On September 20, 2011, Petitioner rejected a plea offer and stated that he wanted to fire Cowdry, because he had been unaware that Cowdry was his attorney and because he did not feel safe going to trial with Cowdry. The trial court stated that the matter had begun to look like a revolving door, but that the court would appoint one final attorney for Petitioner. (Hr'g at 3-9, Sept. 20, 2011.)

         The trial court subsequently appointed attorney Eldor R. Herrmann (“Herrmann”) to represent Petitioner. At a hearing held on December 6, 2011, Petitioner stated that he wanted to fire Herrmann because he had not heard from Herrmann and because they had met for the first time that day. The trial court refused to remove Herrmann from the case, but moved the trial date to January 18, 2012. (Hr'g Tr. at 3-9, Dec. 6, 2011.)

         B. The Plea, Sentence, and Direct Appeal

         On January 18, 2012, Petitioner pleaded no contest in Saginaw County Circuit Court to two counts of witness intimidation and two counts of felonious assault. There was no plea bargain, but the trial court agreed to sentence Petitioner to the middle of the sentencing guidelines and to make the sentence run concurrently with the sentence that Petitioner was serving in another case. (Plea Tr. at 22, Jan. 18, 2012.)

         Petitioner subsequently moved to withdraw his plea on the basis that his plea was involuntary. The trial court denied Petitioner's motion and then sentenced Petitioner to imprisonment for 150 months (twelve and a half years) to twenty-five years for each of the witness-intimidation convictions. The court sentenced Petitioner to a concurrent term of 120 months (ten years) to fifteen years for each of the felonious-assault convictions. (Sentencing Tr. at 3-7, Feb. 28, 2012.)

         On appeal, Petitioner argued that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to withdraw his plea. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” People v. Henix, No. 312957 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2012). On May 28, 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal because it was not persuaded to review the issue. See People v. Henix, 494 Mich. 855; 830 N.W.2d 405 (2013) (table).

         C. The Initial Habeas Petition, Post-Conviction Proceedings in State Court, and Amended Habeas Petition

         On September 10, 2013, Petitioner filed his first petition for the writ of habeas corpus and a motion to hold the petition in abeyance while he pursued additional state remedies. (Dkt. 1 and 4). His sole habeas claim was that the state trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to withdraw his no-contest plea. On October 24, 2013, the Court granted Petitioner's motion for a stay and closed this case for administrative purposes. (Dkt. 6).

         Petitioner then filed a motion for relief from judgment in the state trial court. He alleged that (1) the prosecution failed to ensure that his rights were protected, (2) the trial court failed to control the proceedings at all times, (3) trial counsel sabotaged the criminal proceedings and then abandoned him, and (4) appellate counsel sabotaged his appeal and then abandoned him. The state trial court denied Petitioner's motion on the basis that Petitioner had failed to meet his burden of showing entitlement to relief under Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D). The court also noted that Petitioner had understood the terms of the plea agreement and entered his plea knowingly and understandingly. See Opinion & Order, No. 10-34370-FH-3 (Saginaw Cty. Cir. Ct., Jan. 16, 2014). Petitioner appealed the trial court's decision, but both the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal for failure to meet the burden of establishing entitlement to relief under Rule 6.508(D). See People v. Henix, No. 320656 (Mich. Ct. App. June 27, 2014); People v. Henix, 497 Mich. 953; 858 N.W.2d 55 (2015) (table).

         On February 24, 2015, Petitioner filed an amended pro se petition for the writ of habeas corpus (Dkt. 8) and a motion to re-open this case (Dkt. 7). The Court granted the motion to reopen this case (Dkt. 9), and on December 18, 2015, the State filed an answer to the petition ...


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