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Hobbs v. Palmer

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

March 20, 2017

RAYMOND E. HOBBS, Petitioner,
v.
CARMEN D. PALMER, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a habeas case filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Raymond E. Hobbs, (“Petitioner”), was convicted in the Wayne Circuit Court after a jury trial of assault with intent to commit murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.83, felon in possession of a firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224f, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a firearm. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. Petitioner was sentenced to 23 to 40 years imprisonment for the assault conviction, 6 to 10 years for the felon in possession conviction, and a consecutive 2 years for the firearm conviction. The petition raises two claims: (1) there was constitutionally insufficient evidence presented at trial to prove that Petitioner did not act in self-defense, and (2) Petitioner's sentence for the assault conviction violates the Eighth Amendment. The Court finds that Petitioner's claims are without merit. Therefore, the petition will be denied. The Court will also deny Petitioner a certificate of appealability and deny permission to appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. Background

         This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which are presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

In this case, the jury heard testimony that defendant intentionally bumped Holt as he was leaving Holt's house, and then turned around and punched Holt in the jaw. Witnesses testified that Holt did not want to fight and did not retaliate after being punched by defendant. Holt did pull a pocketknife out of his pocket, but testified that he never opened it or threatened defendant with it. The jury received testimony that Holt was inside his home and defendant was outside the home on the front porch, with a closed door separating the two of them, when Holt pulled out the knife. Defendant admitted that he was angry, wanted to fight, and did not leave the premises. Holt testified that he was holding the door shut from inside the home, trying to prevent defendant from re-entering the house, when defendant obtained a weapon and fired it in his direction. Holt testified that he opened the door and tried to grab the weapon, which led to a struggle during which both men fell off the porch. According to Holt, defendant fired two more shots, and after Holt complained that he had been shot, defendant fired an additional two shots. Holt was struck by three bullets. Holt repudiated defendant's self defense argument that he charged defendant with an open knife. Holt's pocketknife was later found on the ground outside, in the closed position.

People v. Hobbs, No. 318014, 2014 WL 6602724, at *2-3 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2014).

         Following his conviction and sentence, Petitioner filed a claim of appeal. His brief on appeal filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals raised two claims:

I. Verdict of guilty based upon insufficient evidence constituted a denial of due process.
II. Sentence imposed violated constitutional guarantees against cruel and/or unusual punishment.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction in an unpublished opinion. Hobbs, 2014 WL 6602724. Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court that raised the same two claims. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the application because it was not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by the Court. People v. Hobbs, 865 N.W.2d 14 (Mich. 2015) (Table).

         II. Standard of Review

         28 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.

         “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 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 ...


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