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Polston v. Stoddard

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

February 16, 2017

WILLIAM BRYAN POLSTON, # 794019, Petitioner,
v.
CATHLEEN STODDARD, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge

         This is a habeas corpus proceeding brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is challenging his Eaton County Circuit Court convictions on three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC I), Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520b(1)(b) (victim more than 13 but less than 16 years of age, and actor is a teacher of the school in which the victim is enrolled), and three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC III), Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520d(1)(e) (victim at least 16 but less than 18 years of age, and actor is a teacher of the school in which the victim is enrolled). The Michigan Court of Appeals summarized the facts giving rise to petitioner's convictions as follows:

Defendant's convictions stem from his relationship with E.P., who had been a student in his high school world history class. In the fall of 2002, E.P., a high school freshman, was struggling academically, and defendant began tutoring her in world history. E.P. and defendant became friendly. On January 20, 2003, defendant picked E.P. up from her parents' house and took her to his home in Eaton County. There, E.P. and defendant engaged in fellatio, cunnilingus, and vaginal intercourse. At the time, E.P. was 14 years old.
After the incident, E.P. continued to talk to defendant regularly, and the two often engaged in kissing and touching in defendant's classroom. E.P. again went to defendant's house on June 11, 2004, where they engaged in fellatio and vaginal intercourse. E.P. went to defendant's house for the last time on September 17, 2004, after a high school football game. There, defendant gave E.P. alcohol and the two engaged in fellatio and vaginal intercourse. E.P. was 16 years old at the time of both the last two sexual encounters.
E.P. did not tell anyone of her involvement with defendant until several years later, when she told both a former teacher and a coworker. The coworker eventually accompanied E.P. to visit an attorney, and E.P. chose to pursue an out-of-court settlement rather than going to the police. Eventually, E.P. reached a $70, 000 settlement agreement with defendant, and received an initial payment of $10, 000. Eventually, the teacher E.P. had confided in informed school administrators about the relationship, and E.P. was interviewed about it in the ensuing criminal investigation.

(Op. at 1-2, ECF No. 18-17, PageID.1672-73; see also People v. Polston, No. 303302, 2012 WL 3046237, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. July 26, 2012)).

         On January 13, 2011, the jury found petitioner guilty of committing the aforementioned crimes. On February 24, 2011, Judge Calvin Osterhaven sentenced petitioner to fifteen to thirty years' imprisonment on his CSC I convictions and 57 to 180 months' imprisonment on his CSC III convictions. After unsuccessful attempts to overturn his convictions in Michigan's courts, petitioner filed his federal habeas corpus petition.

         Petitioner seeks federal habeas corpus relief on the following grounds:

I. Newly discovered evidence demonstrates that petitioner could not have committed the alleged offenses. The trial court did not grant him an evidentiary hearing on this evidence.
II. Petitioner was denied his right to a fair trial because the judge denied his motion for additional time to prepare a defense. The events [that he] was charged with occurred 7 to 8 years prior to trial, and crucial facts that would prove [his] innocence were not discovered until after sentencing.
III. Petitioner was denied his right to a fair trial because the court should not have admitted evidence of other pending charges.
IV. Petitioner was denied a fair trial by the dismissal of a juror.

(Amended Petition at 4-6, ECF No. 7, PageID.31-33).

         On December 29, 2014, respondent filed her answer to petitioner's amended petition. She argues that all grounds in the petition lack merit. Grounds I, III, and IV were rejected by the Michigan Court of Appeals and petitioner has not carried his burden under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Ground II is unexhausted and meritless. (Respondent's Answer, ECF No. 17, PageID.49-104).

         After review of the state-court record, the Court finds petitioner has not established grounds for federal habeas corpus relief. The petition will be denied.

         Standard of Review

         Because petitioner filed his habeas application long after the April 1996 enactment of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (AEDPA), the provisions of that law govern the scope of the Court's review. See Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792 (2001). AEDPA has “drastically changed” the nature of habeas review. Bailey v. Mitchell, 271 F.3d 652, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). AEDPA “dictates a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings which demands the state court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Bell v. Cone, 543 U.S. 447, 455 (2005) (citations omitted); see Hardy v. Cross, 132 S.Ct. 490, 491 (2011) (per curiam); Felkner v. Jackson, 562 U.S. 594, 597 (2011) (per curiam); Renrico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010). “AEDPA requires heightened respect for state court factual and legal determinations.” Lundgren v. Mitchell, 440 F.3d 754, 762 (6th Cir. 2006). Section 2254(e)(1) states: “[A] determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct. The applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” “State-court factual findings [] are presumed correct; the petitioner has the burden of rebutting the presumption by clear and convincing evidence.” Davis v. Ayala, 135 S.Ct. 2187, 2199-2200 (2015) (citations and internal quotations omitted).

         If a state court adjudicated the claim, deferential AEDPA standards must be applied. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); see Premo v. Moore, 562 U.S. 115, 121 (2011); Waddington v. Sarausad, 555 U.S. 179, 190 (2009); Holder v. Palmer, 588 F.3d 328, 341 (6th Cir. 2009) ((“[A]ny claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings' is subject to AEDPA deference.”) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)). AEDPA prevents federal habeas “retrials” and ensures that state court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law. Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693-94 (2002). It prohibits “using federal habeas corpus review as a vehicle to second-guess the reasonable decisions of state courts.” Parker v. Matthews, 132 S.Ct. 2148, 2149 (2012) (per curiam).

         The AEDPA standard is difficult to meet “because it was meant to be.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011); see Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16 (2013); Metrish v. Lancaster, 133 S.Ct. 1781, 1786-87 (2013); Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011). “Section 2254(d) reflects the that habeas corpus is a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error corrections through appeal.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 102-03 (citation and internal quotation omitted); see Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015). Section 2254(d) states that an application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person who is incarcerated pursuant to a state conviction cannot be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudication “(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; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based upon an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); see White v. Wheeler, 136 S.Ct. 456, 460 (2015); White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014); Davis v. Ayala, 135 S.Ct. at 2198.

         The only definitive source of clearly established federal law for purposes of § 2254(d)(1) is the holdings-not dicta-of Supreme Court decisions. White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. at 1702; see Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. at 1377 (“Because none of our cases confront ‘the specific question presented by this case, ' the state court's decision could not be ‘contrary to' any holding from this Court.”). “[W]here the precise contours of a right remain unclear, state courts enjoy broad discretion in their adjudication of a prisoner's claims.” Id. (quotations and internal citations omitted).

         An unreasonable application of the Supreme Court's holding must be “‘objectively unreasonable, ' not merely wrong; even ‘clear error' will not suffice.” White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. at 1702 (quoting Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75-76 (2003)). Rather, “[a]s 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 that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. at 1702 (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. at 103). “[C]ircuit precedent does not constitute ‘clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, ' ” and “[i]t therefore cannot form the basis for habeas relief under AEDPA.” Hill v. Curtin, 792 F.3d 670, 677 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Parker v. Matthews, 132 S.Ct. at 2155); see Glebe v. Frost, 135 S.Ct. 429, 431 (2014) (per curiam) (“As we have repeatedly emphasized, [] circuit precedent does not constitute ‘clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court.'”).

         “[A] state-court factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.” Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301 (2010). Section 2254 (d)(2) requires that this Court accord the state trial court substantial deference. If reasonable minds reviewing the record might disagree about the finding in question, on habeas review that does not suffice to supersede the trial court's determination. Brumfield v. Cain, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2277 (2015); Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. at 15.

         Findings of Fact

         A. District Court Proceedings

         On July 7, 2010, petitioner received a preliminary examination in the 56A District Court for Eaton County. (ECF No. 18-2, PageID.117-241). He was represented by Attorney Lawrence Emery. Judge Julie Reincke heard testimony from a number of witnesses, including E. P., the victim (Id. at 9-95, PageID.125-211), a representative of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (Id. at 5-8, PageID.121-24), school officials (Id. at 95-109, PageID. 211-25), and a detective (Id. at 110-15, PageID.226-31). Judge Reincke bound petitioner over for trial on all charges: three counts of CSC I and three counts of CSC III. (Id. at 122-23, PageID.238-39).

         B. Circuit Court Proceedings

         1. Pretri ...


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