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Guster v. Klee

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

February 17, 2017

GARY LAMONT GUSTER, #138562, Petitioner,
v.
PAUL KLEE, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL

          Arthur J. Tarnow Senior United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         This is a habeas case under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Michigan prisoner Gary Lamont Guster (“Petitioner”) was convicted of first-degree home invasion, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.110a(2)(b), following a jury trial in the Washtenaw County Circuit Court and was sentenced as a fourth habitual offender, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12, to 8 years 4 months to 25 years imprisonment in 2012. In his petition, he raises claims concerning the admission of other acts evidence and the sufficiency of the evidence. For the reasons set forth, the Court denies the petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Court also denies a certificate of appealability and denies leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.

         II. Facts and Procedural History

         Petitioner's conviction stems from his improper entry into an occupied dorm room, and theft from a student, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan on January 6, 2012. At trial, the prosecution presented testimony from two students who lived in the dorm room and were present during the incident, testimony from police investigators (which referenced a security videotape showing Petitioner entering the dorm), and testimony that Petitioner had committed a similar crime on campus in the past.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals described the underlying facts, which are presumed correct on habeas review, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009), as follows:

Defendant entered the East Quad dormitory at the University of Michigan and entered Room 301, which was marked with three names. One roommate was present, asleep in her bed. Another roommate was walking back to the room, but she stopped in the hallway and saw defendant in the room. Defendant stared at the sleeping roommate; moments later, defendant looked inside all three roommates' closets. Defendant then noticed the roommate who was standing in the hallway. She asked defendant what he was doing in the room, and defendant said that he was looking for a bathroom. She told him that the bathroom was downstairs and defendant ran away. A day later, the sleeping roommate noticed that a wallet was missing from her desk.
At trial, the prosecution introduced evidence that defendant had entered a fraternity house at the University of Michigan, where he stole a money clip from a student's room. When the student saw defendant leaving the house, defendant informed the student that he was looking for a bathroom.

People v. Guster, No. 314734, 2014 WL 3704951, *1 (Mich. Ct. App. July 24, 2014) (unpublished).

         Petitioner did not testify at trial. His defense was that he was merely looking for a bathroom, that he mistakenly entered the dorm room, and that he did not steal or intend to steal anything from the room. At the close of trial, the jury convicted Petitioner of first-degree home invasion. The trial court subsequently sentenced him to 8 years 4 months to 25 years imprisonment.

         Petitioner filed an appeal of right with the Michigan Court of Appeals raising the same claims presented on habeas review. The court denied relief on those claims and affirmed his convictions. People v. Guster, No. 314734, 2014 WL 3704951, *1-2 (Mich. Ct. App. July 24, 2014) (unpublished). Petitioner then filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order. People v. Guster, 497 Mich. 955, 858 N.W.2d 450 (2015).

         Petitioner dated his federal habeas petition on August 4, 2015. As noted, he raises claims concerning the admission of other acts evidence and the sufficiency of the evidence. Respondent has filed an answer to the petition contending that it should be denied. Petitioner has filed a reply to that answer.

         III. Standard of Review

         Federal law imposes the following standard of review for habeas cases:

An 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 ...

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