United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS AND DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY OR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON
H. CLELAND UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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,  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.
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).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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.
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.
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.
Expert witness testimony
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.