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Jackson v. Hoffner

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

April 6, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on Andre Lamont Jackson's petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316, conspiracy to commit murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.157a, assault with intent to commit murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.83, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b, following a joint jury trial with co-defendants Quonshay Douglas-Ricardo Mason and Kainte Hickey in the Wayne County Circuit Court. Petitioner, through counsel, raises nine claims for habeas corpus relief. Respondent, through the Attorney General's Office, has filed an answer in opposition arguing that six of Petitioner's claims are procedurally defaulted and that all of the claims lack merit. The Court finds no basis for habeas corpus relief and denies the petition.

         1. Background

         Petitioner's convictions arise from a shooting in the City of Detroit on September 2, 2007. The Michigan Court of Appeals described the circumstances leading to Petitioner's convictions as follows:

Defendant's convictions arose from the fatal shooting of Bennie Peterson and the nonfatal shooting of Donteau Dennis on the east side of Detroit during the early morning hours of September 28, 2007. According to the prosecution's evidence, codefendant Quonshay Douglas-Ricardo Mason persuaded Peterson and Dennis to leave Peterson's house under the pretext that they were going to rob a drug addict who was carrying a large amount of cash to purchase drugs. Mason drove Peterson and Dennis, in Peterson's minivan, to a house on Malcolm Street and told Dennis to purchase drugs in the house to use as bait in the robbery. Defendant and codefendant Kainte Hickey had followed Mason in defendant's Jeep. After Dennis left Peterson's minivan to purchase the drugs, Mason and defendant parked their vehicles so that the minivan was blocked in and could not be driven away. Mason then got out of the minivan and defendant got out of his Jeep, and the two of them went to the side of the minivan and began firing guns at Peterson, who was still inside. At the same time, Hickey emerged from defendant's Jeep and fired several shots at Dennis as he crossed the street. Peterson was killed.
Officer Frank Senter arrived and found Dennis lying wounded in a backyard. Dennis remarked that he did not believe that he would survive and told Officer Senter that Hickey had shot him over a drug debt. Although Officer Senter did not recall hearing Dennis say anything about Peterson, defendant, or Mason, he stated that Dennis made additional statements that Officer Senter could not understand because of Dennis's condition. Later, while Dennis was hospitalized, he gave a statement implicating defendant and Mason in the shooting attack on Peterson. At trial, Dennis again identified defendant and Mason as the persons who shot at Peterson inside the minivan.

People v. Jackson, 292 Mich.App. 583, 586-87 (Mich. Ct. App. 2011).

         Following a jury trial in Wayne County Circuit Court, Petitioner was convicted and sentenced as follows: life in prison for the first-degree murder and conspiracy convictions and 225 months to 40 years' imprisonment for the assault conviction, with those sentences to be served concurrently but consecutively to a two-year term of imprisonment for the felony-firearm conviction.

         Petitioner filed an appeal of right in the Michigan Court of Appeals raising claims of insufficient evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, trial court error in handling of juror confusion, Confrontation Clause violation, trial court bias, ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to provide discovery materials and failing to challenge medicated witness's statements as unreliable. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions. Id. Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, raising the same claims. The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. People v. Jackson, 490 Mich. 882 (Mich. Oct. 5, 2011).

         Petitioner returned to state court to file a motion for relief from judgment, raising several jury instruction-related claims and a claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the instructions. The trial court denied the motion. 4/25/13 Order, ECF No. 5-8. Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. People v. Jackson, No. 318197 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 23, 2013), ECF No. 5-11. The Michigan Supreme Court also denied leave to appeal. People v. Jackson, 496 Mich. 858 (Mich. 2014).

         Petitioner, through counsel, then filed the pending habeas corpus petition. He raises these claims:

I. Petitioner's due process rights were violated when he was convicted pursuant to insufficient evidence to support the convictions of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and assault with intent to commit murder.
II. The prosecutor violated petitioner's due process rights by failing to disclose a transcript of a prosecution witness' testimony given during an investigative subpoena.
III. The trial court violated Petitioner's due process rights by failing to ensure that the jury members had not been exposed to extraneous influences that led to the dismissal of one of the jurors.
IV. The trial court violated petitioner's due process rights by failing to exclude statements from an officer concerning his interview of one of the victims at the hospital with the assistance of a nurse who was not called as a witness at trial.
V. The trial court violated petitioner's due process rights by demonstrating judicial bias against the petitioner during the trial.
VI. Petitioner was denied his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel at trial.
VII. The trial court violated petitioner's due process rights in its instruction to the jury, when it failed to instruct the jury as to the intent required and the assistance necessary for aiding and abetting, thereby denying him the due process right to a properly instructed jury.
VIII. Petitioner was denied due process when the prosecutor argued that petitioner acted as a principal while advancing an alternative aiding and abetting theory, thereby making it impossible to determine which theory of guilt the jury unanimously agreed upon.
IX. The trial judge violated petitioner's due process right to a properly instructed jury with its instructions to the jury regarding first degree murder.

         II. Standard

         Review of this case is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). Under the AEDPA, a state prisoner is entitled to a writ of habeas corpus only if he can show that the state court's adjudication of his claims -

(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 in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         A decision of a state court is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000). An “unreasonable application” occurs when “a state court decision unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner's case.” Id. at 408. “[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.” Id. at 411.

         The Supreme Court has explained that “[a] federal court's collateral review of a state-court decision must be consistent with the respect due state courts in our federal system.” Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003). The “AEDPA thus imposes a ‘highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, ' and ‘demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.'” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (quoting Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333 n. 7 (1997); Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam)). “[A] state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011). The Supreme Court has emphasized “that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id. at 102. Furthermore, pursuant to § 2254(d), “a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or ... could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of th[e Supreme] Court.” Id.

         Although 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the AEDPA, does not completely bar federal courts from relitigating claims that have previously been rejected in the state courts, it preserves the authority for a federal court to grant habeas relief only “in cases where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with” Supreme Court precedent. Id. Indeed, “Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a ‘guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, ' not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.” Id. (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332 n. 5 (1979)) (Stevens, J., concurring)). Therefore, in order to obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state prisoner is required to show that the state court's rejection of his claim “was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Id. at 103, 131 S.Ct. at 786-87.

         Additionally, a state court's factual determinations are entitled to a presumption of correctness on federal habeas review. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). A petitioner may rebut this presumption with clear and convincing evidence. See Warren v. Smith, 161 F.3d 358, 360-61 (6th Cir. 1998). Moreover, habeas review is “limited to the record that was before the state court.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).

         III. Discussion

         A. Procedural Default

         Respondent argues that several of Petitioner's claims are procedurally defaulted. “[F]ederal courts are not required to address a procedural-default issue before deciding against the petitioner on the merits.” Hudson v. Jones, 351 F.3d 212, 215 (6th Cir. 2003), citing Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U.S. 518, 525 (1997). “Judicial economy might counsel giving the [other] question priority, for example, if it were easily resolvable against the habeas petitioner, whereas the procedural-bar issue involved complicated issues of state law.” Lambrix, ...

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