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Moran v. Campbell

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

April 13, 2017

SEMAJ D. MORAN, Petitioner,



         Petitioner Semaj D. Moran filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Dkt. 1), challenging his Oakland County Circuit Court convictions for two counts of first-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316, and commission of a felony with a firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder convictions and consecutive two-year terms for the firearm convictions.

         The petition raises a single claim: Petitioner's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination was violated by admission of his involuntary statement to the police at trial. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the petition, denies a certificate of appealability, and grants permission to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner's convictions arise out of the shooting death of two women in their Pontiac home. 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).

This case arises from an incident involving a home invasion and shooting that took place on February 17, 2012, in Pontiac, Michigan. Andrew Threlkeld testified that, on February 17, 2012, between approximately 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., he drove to a residence in Pontiac to visit his two longtime friends, Loretta Fournier and Luann Robinson. The two women lived in separate apartments on the two floors of the residence, although the apartments shared a common entrance and front hall area. When he arrived at the house, he noticed that the front door was cracked open. He pushed the door open and immediately saw Robinson's body lying at the bottom of the stairs in the front hall, just inside the front door. Approximately 10 feet away, Threlkeld observed Fournier's body lying in the front hall area. He smelled what he believed to be gunsmoke in the air; fearing that an armed intruder was inside the house, he ran outside and drove to a nearby business, where he called 911.
Police officers who arrived at the scene testified that they found Fournier and Robinson dead; Fournier had suffered two gunshot wounds to her face and one to her back, while Robinson had suffered one gunshot wound to her head. The officers also discovered a strike plate from the front door just inside the front hall and a baseball hat on the stairs leading up to Robinson's apartment. In Robinson's apartment, a television was on the floor just in front of the stairs down to the front hall, with the power cord leading back into Robinson's bedroom, and a cable box was unscrewed from the wall in the bedroom. After speaking with neighbors, police officers identified a person with the nickname “Hype” as a potential suspect for the shootings because he supplied marijuana to one or both of the victims. Police officers used Fournier's cell phone to identify a phone number for “Hype, ” who was then identified as defendant Howard. Officers traveled to Howard's home that night to speak with him. When officers arrived at Howard's home, Howard's mother allowed the officers inside and informed them that Howard was in his bedroom. After speaking with the officers inside the home, Howard was arrested.
Following his arrest, Howard was interviewed three separate times by police officers at a police station.
Jeff Buchmann of the Oakland County Sheriff's Department testified that the first interview was conducted on February 18, 2013 and that, at the outset, he informed Howard of his Miranda rights and obtained a waiver of those rights. According to Buchmann, during this interview, Howard claimed that he and Moran had gone to the residence of Fournier and Robinson for the purpose of smoking marijuana. Howard told Buchmann that while he was in the bathroom, he heard gunshots and when he exited the bathroom, he saw Fournier's body lying on the ground. He then stated that approximately 20 seconds later, he heard Robinson scream upstairs, heard more gunshots, and then heard Robinson's body tumble down the stairs.
The second interview, held the following day, February 19, 2013, was conducted after police recovered a purse containing identification belonging to one of the victims in the backyard of a residence near the scene of the crimes. Buchmann again conducted the interview and it is undisputed that he did not again read Howard his Miranda rights. During this brief interview, a transcript of which has been provided to this Court, Howard admitted to taking the purse and attempting to take the television that was found on the floor. However, he reiterated that he never had a gun on the night of the murders and that Moran had shot the two women.
Howard's third and final interview was conducted the following day, February 20, 2013. Before this interview, Buchmann read Howard his Miranda rights. According to Buchmann, Howard admitted to forcing open the door to the apartment and acknowledged that the baseball hat found on the stairs belonged to him. During the interview, Howard provided a written statement that read:
I was going to - was going to go smoke with [Fournier] as I do usually and my friend Semaj came along to ask [Fournier] about the fake money she gave Semaj when he sold her some weed. I told him he can ask her about the situation if he wanted to, but I never asked him to come or nothing else. He came and smoked, talked for a minute.
I went to the bathroom. He shot [Fournier], but I never planned or made any part in the actions that took place. The most I did wrong was not calling the police and report what I saw, but other than that I didn't plan, plot or have any control over the actions that my friend made. I went to smoke with [Fournier], that's it.
The lady upstairs was screaming. I pushed her down the stairs and Semaj said he couldn't leave any witnesses and he shot her.
Several days later, police returned to Howard's home with a search warrant and searched his room. Inside the pocket of Howard's coat, found in his bedroom closet, officers discovered multiple forms of identification belonging to the victims, including credit cards and insurance policies.
On February 19, 2013, Moran was interviewed by police at a substation of the Oakland County Sheriff's Department. Moran's mother traveled to the police station with him and gave officers permission to speak with him. Prior to interviewing Moran, Buchmann read him his Miranda rights. During the interview, Moran gave a written statement to Buchmann that read:
Around 8:00 - I walked to [Fournier's] house on Pingree. We sat at the table and we smoked. Hype gave me the gun while [Fournier] was in her room getting the hookah - the hookah - the hookah bong. And told me when you hear the toilet flush shoot. I heard the toilet flush, but I hesitated to shoot. I shot two shots and Hype ran up the stairs. While he was upstairs I heard a lady screaming. Then I heard multiple booms. When I looked the lady was on the floor. He told me to shoot her. After I shot her I started crying and running. While we were running I threw the gun behind a church/store. Hype told me to swear on my grave I wouldn't tell. I ...

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