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McDaniel v. Bergh

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

April 6, 2017

CHRISTOPHER MCDANIEL, Petitioner,
v.
DAVID BERGH, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE APPLICATION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          BERNARD A. FRIEDMAN SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is presently before the Court on petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus. Petitioner challenges his convictions for armed robbery, felon in possession of a firearm, and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He raises these claims: the prosecutor withheld evidence in violation of Brady, the trial court violated petitioner's right of confrontation, and trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance. Respondent has filed an answer arguing that petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim is procedurally defaulted and that all of the claims are meritless. For the following reasons, the Court shall deny the petition.

         I. Background

         Petitioner's convictions arise from the robbery of Tyrone O'Neal. O'Neal, a postal worker, testified that on April 21, 2009, he was delivering mail in Detroit when he saw a person he later identified as petitioner walking in the middle of the street. Petitioner approached O'Neal, pointed a gun at O'Neal's chest while demanding that O'Neal empty his pockets. O'Neal emptied the contents of his pockets onto the ground, fled, and called 911. A few days later, O'Neal met with a police sketch artist who created a composite picture which was distributed in the community. Police received a tip that the person in the sketch was petitioner. On the basis of this tip, O'Neal was shown a photographic lineup which included a photograph of petitioner. O'Neal picked petitioner out of the lineup and identified him as the robber.

         Gregory Bridges, a service representative for DTE Energy, was offered as a Rule 404(b) witness. He testified that he was also approached by a man on April 21, 2009, in Detroit. The man pointed a gun at Bridges and told Bridges to empty the contents of his pockets. Bridges later viewed a photographic lineup and identified petitioner as the perpetrator.

         Postal Inspector Christopher Martin testified about the course of the investigation. He created a reward poster using a copy of the police sketch of the suspect in the O'Neal robbery. The reward poster was distributed within a six-block radius of the robbery location. Two tips were received in response to the poster. On April 23, 2009, an anonymous tipster informed police that someone who matched the police sketch frequently visited a home on State Fair Avenue, not far from the location of the O'Neal robbery. Police set up surveillance of the home and ultimately recovered a black jacket resembling one worn by the perpetrator as described by O'Neal, and a spent shell casing from inside the home. Inspector Martin received a tip from a confidential informant on April 29, 2009, identifying Petitioner as the robber. Petitioner was arrested on April 30. 2009.

         Petitioner testified in his own defense. He denied that he was the person who robbed O'Neal or Bridges.

         Following a jury trial in Wayne County Circuit Court, petitioner was convicted of armed robbery, felon in possession of a firearm, and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony. On October 16, 2009, he was sentenced as a second habitual offender to 9 to 20 years' imprisonment for the armed robbery conviction, 2 to 7-1/2 years' imprisonment for the felon-in- possession conviction, and 2 years' imprisonment for the felony-firearm conviction.

         Petitioner filed an appeal of right in the Michigan Court of Appeals, raising these claims: (i) pretrial identification procedures unduly suggestive; (ii) composite sketch improperly admitted; (iii) ineffective assistance of counsel; (iv) prosecutorial misconduct; (v) jury instruction error; and (vi) other act evidence improperly admitted. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed petitioner's convictions. People v. McDaniel, No. 294821, 2011 WL 519956 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 15, 2011). Petitioner sought leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court raising the same claims raised in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. People v. McDaniel, 490 Mich. 859 (2011).

         Petitioner then filed a motion for relief from judgment in the trial court, claiming that the prosecutor improperly withheld the name of the confidential informant, that admission of statements by the confidential informant violated the Confrontation Clause, and that counsel was ineffective in failing to object to this testimony. The trial court denied the motion. People v. McDaniel, No. 09-012025 (Wayne Cty. Cir. Ct. July 16, 2012). (ECF No. 9-17). Both Michigan appellate courts denied leave to appeal. People v. McDaniel, No. 316008 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 4, 2013); People v. McDaniel, 495 Mich. 949 (Mich. Feb. 28, 2014).

         Petitioner then filed the instant habeas petition. He raises these claims:

I. Petitioner was denied due process of law and equal protection of law by prosecution's misconduct, violating the Brady rule of disclosure of relevant and material evidence used against Petitioner to convict.
II. The trial court denied Petitioner due process by the court's abuse of discretion ...violating Petitioner's right to confrontation, violating substantial rights to a fair trial resulting in a miscarriage of justice.
III. Petitioner had ineffective assistance of counsel at trial by failing to make proper objections to hearsay and failure to make appropriate motions.

         II. Legal Standards

         Petitioner's claims are reviewed against the standards established by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (AEDPA). The AEDPA provides:

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 ...

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