United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
J. JONKER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28
U.S.C. § 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition
for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a preliminary
review of the petition to determine whether “it plainly
appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits
annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief
in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing §
2254 Cases; see 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the
petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see Allen
v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district
court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that
lack merit on their face). A dismissal under Rule 4 includes
those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well
as those containing factual allegations that are palpably
incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434,
436-37 (6th Cir. 1999). After undertaking the review required
by Rule 4, the Court will dismiss the petition without
prejudice for failure to exhaust available state-court
William Chance Stephens is presently incarcerated with the
Michigan Department of Corrections at the Oaks Correctional
Facility in Manistee, Michigan. Petitioner is serving a
sentence of 11 years, 10 months to 22 years, 6 months
following his Van Buren County Circuit Court conviction on
one count of manslaughter, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.321.
Petitioner was sentenced as a habitual offender-second
offense, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.10.
with the assistance of counsel, directly appealed his
conviction and sentence to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Petitioner raised the following issues:
I. Mr. Stephens was denied the effective assistance of
counsel guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions
where trial counsel failed to investigate the deceased's
character history of drug dealing, carrying a concealed
weapon and assaulting a police officer when it would have
been significant corroboration of Mr. Stephens's theory
of self defense; where trial counsel failed to investigate
the hotel room for evidence demonstrating why there was no
sign of a struggle; and where trial counsel failed to object
to the trial court's denial of the jury[']s request
to view the crime scene.
II. The trial court erred and violated Mr. Stephens's
substantial constitutional right to due process when it
denied the jury's request to visit the crime scene after
deliberations had begun and further erred when it made its
denial without the presence or waiver of the Mr. Stephens.
III. The trial court reversibly erred when it permitted the
prosecution to introduce a gruesome video of the victim
running, bleeding, panicking and dying because its probative
value was greatly outweighed by its unfairly prejudicial
effect and likelihood to confuse the issues and mislead the
jury and should have been excluded under MRE 403.
IV. Mr. Stephens's conviction for manslaughter must be
reversed because the evidence presented was legally
insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr.
Stephens did not defend himself.
(Appellant's Br., ECF No. 1, PageID.98.) In
Petitioner's Standard 4 brief he “re-raised”
the sufficiency issue and raised one additional issue:
V. Mr. Stephens was denied the effective assistance of
counsel guaranteed by the Federal and State constitutions
where trial counsel failed to familiarize himself with
applicable case law, failed to object to improper jury
instructions and jury charge, failed to object to
prosecution's cumulative instances of misconduct of
denigrating defendant, shifting of the burden of proof,
misrepresenting evidence, misstating evidence, constant
inference and speculation, unsupported by the evidence.
Defense counsel also failed to object to use of immaterial
and irrelevant evidence that was only introduced to induce
sympathy, passion and prejudice in the jury. When the
objection to these many instances would have protected
defendant's right to due process and prohibited the jury
from having to consider and weigh matters outside of the
issue in dispute and given the defendant a fair trial.
Supplemental Br., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.137-138.) The Michigan
Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction and
sentence by unpublished opinion entered December 10, 2015.
People v. Stephens, No. 322721 2015 WL 8538751
(Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 10, 2015).
filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan
Supreme Court raising all of the issues he had raised in ...