United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
PATRICIA T. MORRIS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS AND DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lane Christian (“Petitioner”) filed through his
attorney Sandra L. Girard a petition for writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on August 13,
2015. Dkt. No. 1. In his application, Petitioner
challenges his conviction for one count of assault with
intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, Mich. Comp.
Laws § 750.84; and being a second felony habitual
offender, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769. For the reasons stated
below, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is
was convicted following a jury trial in the Eaton County
Circuit Court. This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts
relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals, 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):
This case arises out of a stabbing that took place in Delta
Township on March 9, 2010. Christian and the victim had known
each other for approximately ten years. The victim accused
Christian of stealing prescription medication from him
approximately six weeks before the stabbing. On the night of
the incident, Christian was at home with his parents. The
victim spoke with Christian's mother and advised that
Christian had been making inappropriate telephone calls to
him. The victim was intoxicated. Later that evening, the
victim arrived at Christian's home. Christian's
mother asked the victim to leave and threatened to call the
police. The victim testified that he then attempted to leave,
but was attacked by Christian. Christian testified that the
victim did not attempt to leave, but struck him with a hard
object, causing a laceration over Christian's left eye.
Christian stabbed the victim several times in the back,
causing life-threatening injuries. Eaton County Sheriff's
deputies arrived at the scene and interviewed the witnesses
and Christian. The deputies observed a small cut over
Christian's left eye. The victim was hospitalized for
over a month, was placed on a ventilator, and received
multiple surgical procedures.
People v. Christian, No. 304265, 2012 WL 1698377, at
* 1 (Mich. Ct. App. May 15, 2012). Petitioner's
conviction was affirmed on appeal. People v.
Christian, lv. den. 493 Mich. 897, 822 N.W.2d
filed a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment,
which was denied. People v. Christian, No.
10-020123-FH (Eaton Cty. Cir. Ct. May 29, 2013). The Michigan
appellate courts denied Petitioner leave to appeal.
People v. Christian, No. 319051 (Mich. Ct. App. June
2, 2014); lv. den. 497 Mich. 947, 857 N.W.2d 38
now seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:
I. The prosecution did not present sufficient evidence to
prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Matt Christian did not
act in self-defense.
II. Serious errors by trial counsel denied Matt Christian
effective assistance of counsel at trial where:
A. Trial counsel failed to call as witnesses Calvin K.
“Kody” McDuffie, Lacey Ruiz, and Capri Vaughn,
who would have offered testimony in support of Matt's
self-defense claim and impeaching Solomon's testimony.
B. Trial counsel should have introduced Matt's medical
records from the incident; objected to Detective Maltby's
personal opinion of the seriousness of Matt's head
injury; and presented an expert to testify that Matt's
injury was serious enough to have impaired his judgment.
C. Trial counsel should have presented expert testimony on
how Solomon's loss of more than all of his blood affected
his memory of events on March 9, 2010.
D. Trial counsel should have objected to the prosecutor's
questioning of Allen Christian that suggested that the trail
of blood up the steps and into the house came not from
Matt's head wound but from the knife with which he
stabbed Solomon and he should have had the blood swab from
the blood trail on the front step analyzed to show that it
was Matt's blood, not Solomon's.
E. Where it was undisputed that Matt was in his home where he
had a right to be when Solomon came up the driveway and up
the stairs shouting, “Where is he” and “Get
him out here, ” trial counsel should have objected to
the Court giving the first paragraph of C.J.I.2d 7.16.
III. Matt Christian was denied effective assistance of
counsel at sentencing where counsel did not object to the
amount of restitution ordered by the trial court. The trial
court found that Solomon was also at fault for his own
injuries because he was drunk, he came over looking for a
fight, and he violated the criminal trespass laws when he
came over after Peggy Christian ordered him not to. Given
that finding, the court should have apportioned liability and
counsel should have objected when it did not.
IV. Matt Christian was denied effective assistance of counsel
at sentencing where counsel failed to object to inaccurate,
incomplete, contradictory information and questionable
conclusions in the presentence report:
A. The claims in the Presentence Report that Matt was on
probation when he stabbed Solomon, that he had four prior
adult probations, and that he might qualify for SAI [Special
Alternative Incarceration] are wrong.
B. The Presentence Report is incomplete because it does not
contain a current psychological or psychiatric report or
diagnostic opinions required by M.C.R. 6.425(A) and M.C.L.
771.14(2)(g), and it says the writer spoke to “the
witnesses” but she did not speak to Peggy Christian,
the only sober witness to the entire chain of events.
C. The Presentence Report makes claims that are contradicted
by testimony at trial and the trial court's findings at
sentencing, specifically it incorrectly asserts that Solomon
went to tell Matt's parents about his drug abuse, that
Solomon was not drunk when he went to Matt's house, and
that Matt was “blame shifting” when he said it
would not have happened if Solomon had not come to his home.
D. The Presentence Report draws questionable conclusions that
contradict the evidence at trial, including its claims that
Matt was “swinging” a knife and that the evidence
did not support Matt's statement that Solomon hit him
with a rock.
V. Matt Christian was denied effective assistance of counsel
on his appeal of right where his appointed counsel did not
raise these issues on appeal and move to remand to make a
record to support them.
Dkt. No. 1, pp. 4-6 (Pg. ID 4-6).
Standard of Review
2254(d) of Title 28, United States Code, as amended by The
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(AEDPA), imposes the following standard of review for habeas
application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person
in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall
not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated
on the merits in State court proceedings unless the
adjudication of the claim-
(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;
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
in the State court proceeding.
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. “[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, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011)
(citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664
in order to obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state
prisoner is required to show that the state court's
rejection of his claim “was so lacking in justification
that there was an error well understood and comprehended in
existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded
disagreement.” Id., at 103. A habeas
petitioner should be denied relief as long as it is within
the “realm of possibility” that ...