United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
KENNETH R. WRIGHT, Petitioner,
JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY,
AND (3) DENYING PERMISSION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON
Corbett O'Meara United States District Judge.
a habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254
brought by a prisoner incarcerated at a Michigan correctional
facility. Petitioner is serving a term of 39 to 99 years'
imprisonment resulting from his Oakland Circuit Court
conviction of delivery of a controlled substance causing
death. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.317(a). The petition
raises a single claim: the prosecution failed to prove beyond
a reasonable doubt that the heroin supplied by Petitioner was
the but-for cause of the victim's death as required by
Burrage v. United States, 134 S.Ct. 881 (2014). The
petition will be denied because Petitioner's claim is
without merit. The Court will also deny Petitioner a
certificate of appealability and deny him permission to
proceed on appeal in forma pauperis.
was presented at Petitioner's trial that he sold heroin
and cocaine to a prostitute, Wendy Delozier, on the afternoon
of February 23, 2010. Delozier then went to a motel with
another prostitute, Starr Thompson, where they met up with
two men, Robert Gotshaw and Robert Wilcox. Thompson injected
some of the heroin into Wilcox, and Wilcox immediately fell
to the ground unconscious. Thompson unsuccessfully tried to
revive Wilcox by blowing crack-cocaine smoke in his face and
splashing water onto him.
was then placed in the backseat of Gotshaw's car, and
Gotshaw and Delozier drove to Wilcox's trailer. Thompson
remained behind at the motel. Gotshaw and Delozier went
inside the trailer and used heroin. They left Wilcox outside
in the car. Delozier checked on Wilcox a few times, but he
never regained consciousness. Gotshaw finally called 9-1-1
sometime after 11:00 p.m.
paramedics arrived at 11:52 pm, Wilcox had no vital signs.
The medical examiner arrived soon thereafter and pronouned
the victim dead. The victim's body temperature was 40
degrees, and the outside air temperature was 21 degrees.
After an autopsy, the cause of death was determined to be
drug abuse. Toxicology analysis revealed a potentially lethal
dose of morphine in the victim's blood. Based on this
evidence, the jury found Petitioner guilty of delivery of a
controlled substance causing death.
his conviction and sentence, Petitioner filed an appeal of
right. His appellate attorney filed a brief on appeal raising
four claims not presented in the current action. Petitioner
also filed a pro se supplemental brief that raised an
additional five claims, including a challenge to the
sufficiency of the evidence that Petitioner's actions
caused the victim's death. The Michigan Court of Appeals
affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence. People
v. Wright, No. 308765, 2013 WL 6692747 (Mich. Ct App Dec
appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, but his application
for leave to appeal was denied by standard order. People
v. Wright, 846 N.W.2d 567 (Mich. 2014) (table).
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, citing
Burrage as providing additional support for his
sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim. The motion was denied, but
the court stated that the denial of relief was “without
prejudice to the defendant seeking relief under MCR
Subchapter 6.500 based on Burrage.” People
v. Wright, 854 N.W.2d 728 (Mich. 2014) (table).
then filed a motion for relief from judgment in the trial
court renewing his sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim in light
of the Michigan Supreme Court's order. The trial court
denied the motion for failure to show a retroactive change in
the law applicable to his case and for his failure to show
actual prejudice. See Dkt. 8-10, at 8-16.
filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan
Court of Appeals, but it was denied on the same grounds.
People v. Wright, No. 327181 (Mich. Ct. App. June
15, 2015). Petitioner appealed in the Michigan Supreme Court,
but his application for leave to appeal was denied by form
order. People v. Wright, 878 N.W.2d 837 (Mich. 2016)
Standard of Review
U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) curtails a federal court's
review of constitutional claims raised by a state prisoner in
a habeas action if the claims were adjudicated on the merits
by the state courts. Relief is barred under this section
unless the state court adjudication was “contrary
to” or resulted in an “unreasonable application
of” clearly established Supreme Court law.
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), quoting Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000).
‘unreasonable application' prong of the statute
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