United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ANTONIO P. BRANDON, Petitioner,
CARMEN PALMER, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY,
AND (3) DENYING PERMISSION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON
CORBETT O'MEARA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner was convicted after a
jury trial in the Wayne Circuit Court of first-degree murder,
Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316, and two counts of
first-degree child abuse. Mich. Comp. Laws §
750.136b(2). Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment
for the murder conviction and concurrent terms of 10 to 15
years for the child abuse convictions. The petition raises a
single claim: Petitioner's right to present a defense was
violated by exclusion of a hearsay statement by the deceased
victim's mother that she killed her child. The petition
will be denied because Petitioner's claim is without
merit. The Court will also deny Petitioner a certificate of
appealability and deny him permission to proceed on appeal in
charges against Petitioner and his girlfriend, Nicole
Roberts, stemmed from events occurring between September 21,
2011, and December 5, 2011, and involved their twin sons,
Kayden and Cameron Brandon, who were then about two and
one-half months old. Kayden died on December 5, 2011, from
asphyxiation and blunt force trauma to the chest. The Court
recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the
Michigan Court of Appeals in its opinion affirming
Petitioner's convictions, 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):
Medical examiners testified that the two children in question
sustained multiple injuries, including fractured bones and
ribs, severe bruising and swelling, deep hemorrhages, and
internal bleeding. . . .
The prosecution presented substantial evidence that defendant
caused these injuries when he physically abused his
children-and that he intended to harm his children in so
doing. The medical examiners noted that the injuries
sustained by the infants are rare in children that cannot
walk, and that, given the amount of force it would take to
inflict such injuries, it was extremely unlikely the injuries
occurred by accident. Defendant had ready opportunity to
abuse his children because he was one of their primary
caretakers five days per week, and their sole caretaker at
night. Moreover, defendant admitted that he committed
abuse-included, but not limited to, biting the children,
placing his hand over their mouths for an extended period of
time, and punching his infant's chest in an attempt to
make the baby quiet. [n.1 During an interrogation, defendant
speculated that it was this last action that caused one of
his children to die.] And the jury heard testimony from a
witness that said she had seen defendant engage in both
physical and verbal aggression toward the children.
v. Brandon, No. 317568, 2014 WL 6468190, at *2 (Mich.
Ct. App. Nov. 18, 2014).
his conviction and sentence, Petitioner filed a claim of
appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals. His appellate brief
raised the following claims:
prosecution's evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that Brandon committed the crimes of felony
murder, with first-degree child abuse as the predicate
felony, or that he committed the two counts of first-degree
child abuse, thus rendering those convictions
constitutionally defective under the Fourteenth Amendment and
Const. 1963, Art. 1, §17, and, further, the trial
court's denial of a motion for directed verdict was an
abuse of discretion.
Brandon was denied his Constitutional due process rights to
present a defense, under the Fourteenth Amendment and Const.
1963, Art. 1, §17, where evidence of another's guilt
was prohibited from use at trial.
Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's
conviction in an unpublished opinion. Id. Petitioner
then filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan
Supreme Court, raising the same claims. The Michigan Supreme
Court denied the application because it was not persuaded
that the questions presented should be reviewed by the Court.
People v. Brandon, 863 N.W.2d 62 (Mich. 2015)
Standard of Review
U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) curtails a federal court's
review of constitutional claims raised by a state prisoner in
a habeas action if the claims were adjudicated on the merits
by the state courts. Relief is barred under this section
unless the state court adjudication was “contrary
to” or resulted in an “unreasonable application
of” clearly established Supreme Court law.
state court's decision is ‘contrary to' . . .
clearly established law if it ‘applies a rule that
contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court
cases]' or if it ‘confronts a set of facts that are
materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme]
Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from
[this] precedent.'” Mitchell v. Esparza,
540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam), quoting Williams
v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000).
‘unreasonable application' prong of the statute
permits a federal habeas court to ‘grant the writ if
the state court identifies the correct governing legal
principle from [the Supreme] Court but unreasonably applies
that principle to the facts' of petitioner's
case.” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520
(2003) quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 413.
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), quoting Yarborough v.
Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004). “Section
2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a guard
against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice
systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction
through appeal. . . . As a condition for obtaining habeas
corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that
the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in
federal court was so lacking in justification ...