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Williams v. Bauman

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

February 27, 2017

DEONDRA TERRELL WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
CATHERINE S. BAUMAN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS (ECF #1), (2) DECLINING TO ISSUE CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND (3) GRANTING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Deondra Terrell Williams (“Williams”) is a state prisoner confined at the Chippewa Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, Michigan. On February 18, 2014, Williams filed a petition in this Court seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (the “Petition”). (See ECF #1.) In the Petition, Williams challenges his state-court convictions for first-degree felony murder, armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (felony-firearm). For the reasons stated below, the Petition is DENIED.

         I

         On December 16, 2010, following a bench trial in the Genesee County Circuit Court, Judge Richard B. Yuille found Petitioner guilty of first-degree felony murder, M.C.L. § 750.316(1)(b), armed robbery, M.C.L. § 750.529, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, M.C.L. §§ 750.157a and 750.529, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (felony-firearm), M.C.L. § 750.227b. (See 12/16/2010 Trial Tr., ECF #10-14.) The Michigan Court of Appeals recited the relevant facts of the charged offenses as follows:

On September 21, 2008, Saba's Mini Mart was robbed and the clerk, Monir Alyatim, was shot and killed. The surveillance footage presented to the jury shows three men entering the store shortly after 11:00 p.m. The first subject to appear is wearing dark pants and a dark hooded sweatshirt with the hood up. Shortly thereafter, a second subject is seen running up to the front counter. The second subject jumps on the counter, puts his arm over the bulletproof glass, and points a handgun in the direction of the clerk. While the second subject is on the counter, a third subject is seen inside the store holding a pistol grip shotgun. The clerk is seen emptying the registers and handing the money to the second subject. After taking the money, the second subject shoots the clerk and flees the scene with the other subjects. [Petitioner], [co-defendant Geoffrey] Lawson, and [co-defendant Cortez] Bailey were eventually identified as being involved in the robbery and murder. Lawson was identified as the person who shot the clerk, while [Petitioner] was identified as the suspect holding the pistol grip shotgun.

People v. Williams, 2012 WL 2402027, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. June 26, 2012). The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction, and the Michigan Supreme Court denied Petitioner leave to appeal. See id.; lv. den., 822 N.W.2d 779 (Mich. 2012).

         Petitioner now seeks habeas relief on three grounds: he insists that the Michigan Court of Appeals unreasonably rejected his arguments that (1) there was insufficient evidence to convict him of felony murder, (2) he was denied a fair trial based on alleged misconduct of the state-court prosecutor, and (3) he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. (See Petition at 3, ECF #1 at Pg. ID 3.)

         II

         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), limits a federal court's review of constitutional claims raised by a state prisoner in a habeas action where the claims were adjudicated on the merits by the state courts. Pursuant to Section 2254(d)(1), relief is barred unless the state court adjudication was “contrary to” or resulted in an “unreasonable application of” clearly established federal law. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).

         “A state court's decision is ‘contrary to' . . . clearly established law if it ‘applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court cases]' or if it ‘confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [this] precedent.'” Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)).

         “[T]he ‘unreasonable application' prong of [Section 2254(d)(1)] permits a federal habeas court to ‘grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts' of petitioner's case.” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 413). “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) (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)).

         “Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal. . . . As 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.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103.

         III

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