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Watkins v. Woods

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

February 28, 2017

LINCOLN ANDERSON WATKINS, Petitioner,
v.
JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.

         OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING THE STATE'S MOTION TO DISMISS [Docket No. 8], DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTIONS FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL [Docket No. 2], FOR AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING [Docket No. 3], AND FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Docket No. 10], DISMISSING THE HABEAS PETITION [Docket No. 1], DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          sDenise Page Hood Chief Judge, United States District Court

         This matter has come before the Court on petitioner Lincoln Anderson Watkins' pro se habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and respondent Jeffrey Woods' motion to dismiss the habeas petition as untimely. Also pending before the Court are Petitioner's motions for appointment of counsel, for an evidentiary hearing, and for summary judgment. Because the Court agrees with Respondent that Petitioner's habeas petition is time-barred, Respondent's motion will be granted and Petitioner's motions will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Charges, Trial, and Sentence

         Petitioner was charged in Wayne County, Michigan with five counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, see Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520b(1)(a) (sexual penetration of a person under thirteen years of age), and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, see Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520c(1)(a) (sexual contact with a person under thirteen years of age). Petitioner's first two jury trials in Wayne County Circuit Court ended in mistrials. At his third jury trial,

the victim, then 15 years old, testified that she had known Watkins all her life, having lived next door to him and having occasionally babysat one of his children. She also stated that she was good friends with Watkins's wife, whom she considered her godmother. She considered Watkins her boyfriend. According to the victim, when she was 12 years old, Watkins approached her at a Memorial Day gathering and showed her sexually explicit images that were on his cell phone. She claimed that Watkins touched her breasts the next time she babysat and penetrated her vaginally the day after that. This conduct allegedly occurred consensually for the next couple of weeks. Sometime thereafter, when the victim arrived to babysit, she declined Watkins's request to engage in sexual activity because she was menstruating. She testified that Watkins's insistence disturbed her and she thought he might rape her. She told her mother what had happened. Although the victim did not want to get Watkins in trouble, she agreed to speak with the police.
The trial court allowed EW to testify regarding other-acts evidence under MCL 768.27a. According to EW, about 10 years earlier, when she was 15 years old, she had often babysat Watkins's oldest child. She testified that, during one visit, Watkins led her upstairs by the hand. He allegedly began kissing her, and their interactions culminated in sexual penetration. According to EW, their sexual relationship lasted a couple of years.
Watkins did not take the stand or call any witnesses. Defense counsel argued that the witnesses lacked credibility because their statements were inconsistent and uncorroborated.

People v. Watkins, 491 Mich. 450, 460-61; 818 N.W.2d 296, 301 (2012).

         On March 10, 2009, the jury acquitted Petitioner of one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, but found him guilty of four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. On March 26, 2009, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to concurrent terms of twenty-five to forty years in prison for each of the first-degree convictions and ten to fifteen years in prison for the second-degree conviction.

         B. The Direct Appeal and Post-Conviction Proceedings

         On appeal from his convictions, Petitioner argued that (1) his double jeopardy rights were violated because the prosecutor's misconduct precipitated a mistrial, (2) Mich. Comp. Laws § 768.27a violates the presumption of innocence and unconstitutionally infringes on the Michigan Supreme Court's authority, and (3) his due process rights were violated when the trial judge failed to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the scope of EW's testimony. The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected these claims and affirmed Petitioner's convictions in an unpublished decision. See People v. Watkins, No. 291841 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 5, 2010). On June 8, 2012, the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, see Watkins, 491 Mich. at 450; 818 N.W.2d at 296, [1] and on July 26, 2012, the state supreme court denied Petitioner's motion for rehearing. See People v. Watkins, 492 Mich. 859; 817 N.W.2d 111 (2012) (table).[2]

         On January 24, 2013, Petitioner filed a motion for an evidentiary hearing based on newly discovered evidence (the transcript of a hearing held on July 11, 2006). He claimed that the transcript would show he was innocent and that the victim's father lied at trial. The trial court treated Petitioner's motion as a motion for new trial and then denied the motion for lack of merit in Petitioner's arguments. See People v. Watkins, No. 06-008116-01-FC (Wayne County Cir. Ct. Feb. 21, 2013).

         Petitioner appealed the trial court's decision without success. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal for failure to establish entitlement to relief under Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D). See People v. Watkins, No. 316010 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 30, 2013.) The Court of Appeals subsequently re-issued its decision at Petitioner's request. See People v. Watkins, No. 316010 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 27, 2014).

         On November 25, 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court likewise denied leave to appeal under Rule 6.508(D), see People v. Watkins, 497 Mich. 903; 856 N.W.2d 38 (2014) (table), and on May 28, 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court denied reconsideration. See People v. Watkins, 497 Mich. 1031; 863 N.W.2d 45 (2015) (table). Petitioner then filed a petition for the writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. On February 29, 2016, the Supreme Court denied the application. See Watkins v. Michigan, 136 S.Ct. 1174 (2016).

         C. The Habeas Petition and Pending Motions

         On April 4, 2016, Petitioner signed and dated his habeas corpus petition, and on April 8, 2016, the Clerk of the Court filed the petition.[3] The grounds for relief set forth in the petition allege that: (1) Petitioner's rights under the double jeopardy clauses were violated because the prosecutor's misconduct precipitated a mistrial; (2) Petitioner's due process and equal protection rights were violated when the trial judge failed to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the scope of EW's testimony; (3) the trial court failed to hold a hearing and to apply Michigan Rule of Evidence 403 to ensure that EW's testimony was not admitted in evidence; (4) the trial court's failure to hold a hearing to determine what part of EW's testimony was admitted resulted in an improper jury instruction being read to the jury; (5) admitting EW's testimony without applying Michigan Rule of Evidence 403 violated Petitioner's right to a fair trial; (6) Mich. Comp. Laws § 768.27a violates the fundamental right to the presumption of innocence and unconstitutionally infringes on the Michigan Supreme Court's authority; (7) withholding the July 11, 2006 transcript violated Petitioner's right to pursue an appeal of right; (8) withholding the July 11, 2006 transcript caused Petitioner's lawyer to become ineffective; (9) the prosecutor's misconduct, including the withholding of evidence, deprived Petitioner of a fair trial; (10) Petitioner's right to confront his accuser and his right to present a defense were violated by the state district court clerk's statement that no testimony was given on July 11, 2006; (11) withholding the July 11, 2006 transcript violated Petitioner's rights to due process and equal protection of the law; and (12) Brady applies where the State repeatedly denied that the July 11, 2006 transcript existed.

         In his motion for appointment of counsel, which Petitioner filed with his habeas petition, he seeks a trained attorney to assist him in investigating these issues and bringing them before the Court. In his motion for an evidentiary hearing, also filed with the habeas petition, Petitioner alleges that a hearing is needed to determine what the victim's father revealed to the prosecutor on the matter of the father's pretrial conversations with Petitioner, what the prosecutor knew about the July 11, 2006 transcript, and how defense counsel would have used the transcript at trial.

         Respondent argues in his motion to dismiss the habeas petition that the petition is barred by the one-year statute of limitations for habeas petitions filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner argues in a combined motion for summary judgment and answer to Respondent's motion that his petition is timely and that he is innocent and entitled to equitable tolling of the statute of limitations. Petitioner contends that Respondent failed to file the July 11, 2006 transcript, downplayed Petitioner's claim of actual innocence, and failed to inform the Court of the State's role in impeding his ability to file his petition.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. The Statute of Limitations

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) established a one-year period of limitation for state prisoners to file their federal habeas corpus petitions. Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S. 545, 550 (2011) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)); Holbrook v. Curtin, 833 F.3d 612, 615 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing § 2244(d)(1)). The limitations period runs from the latest of the following four dates:

(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time ...

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