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Martin v. Warren

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

February 13, 2017

ALISON MARTIN, Petitioner,



         Petitioner Alison Martin, presently incarcerated at the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan, seeks the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In her application, Petitioner challenges her conviction of first-degree murder, [1] conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, and torture. (Dkt. # 1.) Petitioner is currently serving life imprisonment for the first-degree murder and conspiracy convictions, 180 months to 30 years for the kidnapping conviction, and 225 months to 50 years for the torture conviction. For the reasons that follow, the court will deny the petition and decline to issue a certificate of appealability.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was convicted of the above offenses following a jury trial in the Allegan County Circuit Court. The court here recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals. These facts 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):

This case involves the murder of Brandon Silverlight, which happened around 12:00 a.m. on November 14, 2009. Defendant and Silverlight exchanged text messages before Silverlight's murder; they arranged to meet at a South Haven restaurant and arranged for Silverlight to follow defendant back to her parents' trailer, where they would engage in a sexual liaison with a third person. When defendant and Silverlight arrived at the trailer on November 13, 2009, codefendant Justin Terpstra ambushed Silverlight. Then, according to statements that defendant made to Shawn West, a friend, and to April Golombieski, a fellow inmate at the Allegan County Jail, defendant and Terpstra proceeded to torture Silverlight. They hit him on the head with a post, stabbed him multiple times, and set his body on fire. At trial, defendant claimed that there was no plan to kill, or to even hurt, Silverlight and that Terpstra acted alone and on his own accord in murdering Silverlight.

People v. Martin, No. 302071, 2012 WL 1758723, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. May 17, 2012). Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id., leave to appeal denied at 493 Mich. 892, 822 N.W.2d 552 (Mich. 2012).


         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), the court shall not grant a writ of habeas corpus with respect to “any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings” unless the proceeding resulted in a decision that (1) “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of” clearly established federal law or (2) “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” A decision of a state court is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). An “unreasonable application” occurs when “a state court decision unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner's case.” Id. at 409. A federal habeas court may not “issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Id. at 410-11.

         The Supreme Court has explained that “a federal court's collateral review of a state-court decision must be consistent with the respect due state courts in our federal system.” Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003). “AEDPA thus imposes a ‘highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, ' and ‘demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.'” Renico v. Lett, 130 S.Ct. 1855, 1862 (2010) (quoting Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333, n.7 (1997)). “[A] 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, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786 (2011) (citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). The Supreme Court has emphasized “that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id. (citing Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)). Furthermore, pursuant to § 2254(d), “a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or . . . could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision” of the Supreme Court. Id.


         Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on two grounds. First, that the trial court violated her right to present a defense and to due process by excluding expert witness testimony. Second, that the trial court violated the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause by admitting over objection investigatory statements made to the police by an unavailable witness and the state court of appeals erred in its determination that the testimonial hearsay did not affect the outcome of the trial. (Dkt. # 1.) The court will address each argument in turn.

         A. Expert witness testimony

          In her first claim, Petitioner claims that the trial court deprived her of the right to present a defense by excluding the proposed expert testimony of Dr. Ravinder Mediratta regarding post-traumatic stress disorder. Petitioner claimed that Dr. Mediratta's ...

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