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Morris v. Stewart

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

March 28, 2017

NICOLE V. MORRIS, Petitioner,
v.
ANTHONY STEWART, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DENYING PETITIONER A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          AVERN COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         This is a habeas case under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Nicole Morris, (“Petitioner”), proceeding pro se, was convicted by a jury of armed robbery, M.C.L. 750.529, and assault with a dangerous weapon. M.C.L. § 750.82. She was sentenced as a third-time habitual felony offender to concurrent terms of 10-to-18 years for the robbery conviction and 1-to-4 years for the assault conviction.

         The petition raises two claims: (1) the trial court erred in denying Petitioner's request for substitute counsel after there was a break-down in the attorney-client relationship, and (2) Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of counsel where her attorney failed to present the testimony of a defense witness and failed to investigate Petitioner's criminal history. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be denied for lack of merit.

         II. Background

         The 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 April 2013, defendant stole a bottle of wine from a party store in Detroit. When the store owner confronted her about her theft, and asked her to return the wine, defendant pulled out a box cutter and cut the owner's finger. The owner went to the hospital and received stitches for the cut.

People v. Morris, No. 318678, 2015 WL 2144867, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. May 7, 2015).

         Following her conviction, Petitioner moved for a new trial or resentencing on the grounds she was sentenced based on inaccurate information and had ineffective assistance of counsel. The trial court corrected the sentencing error as to her habitual status and held an evidentiary hearing under People v. Ginther, 390 Mich. 436 (1973) on trial counsel's alleged ineffectiveness, after which it denied relief.

         Petitioner appealed, presenting the same claims raised on habeas review. The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the claims on the merits. Id. The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal in a standard order. People v. Morris, 489 Mich. 921 (2015) (unpublished table decision).

         III. Standard of Review

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) imposes the following standard of review for habeas cases:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented ...

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