United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
SEMAJ D. MORAN, Petitioner,
SHARMAN CAMPBELL, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING
PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
A. GOLDSMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
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.
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
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
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 ...