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Young v. Woods

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

May 12, 2017

DONOVAN YOUNG, Petitioner,
JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.


          Honorable Bernard A. Friedman United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the petition of Donovan Young for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Young was convicted after a jury trial in the Wayne Circuit Court of first-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316, 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. Petitioner was sentenced to a controlling term of life imprisonment without possibility of parole for the murder conviction and lesser terms for the other convictions.

         Petitioner raises five claims: (1) the prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence by failing to list two people on its witness list that would have testified favorably to the defense; (2) petitioner was denied the effective assistance of counsel for failure to move for separate trials from petitioner's co-defendant; (3) the prosecutor committed misconduct at trial; (4) petitioner was denied the effective assistance of counsel when his trial attorney failed to request a felonious assault instruction; and (5) petitioner confrontation rights were violated when the trial court ruled that he could not recall a prosecution witness for additional cross examination.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was tried jointly with his co-defendant, Kevin Craig, in relation to a fatal shooting in Detroit. This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals:

Defendants' convictions arise from the shooting death of Antonio Turner and nonfatal gunshot injuries to Darneil Richardson on June 12, 2011, on Sorrento Street in Detroit. Richardson and defendant Craig were rival drug dealers. Richardson testified that he encountered defendant Craig on the street and the two became involved in an argument. Turner and defendant Young also were present. According to Richardson, defendant Young pointed a .357 caliber revolver at Turner's face, said “f* *k it, ” and pulled the trigger, but the revolver did not discharge. Richardson then observed defendant Craig also pull out a gun. Richardson and Turner both ran off. As Richardson was running, he heard gunshots and was shot in the leg. Turner was shot three times and died at the scene.
A witness, Barbara Ingram, testified that she saw defendant Craig and another man both pull out guns, which were pointed at Turner. After Turner put his hands up in the air, shooting started. Ingram briefly ducked for cover, but then looked up again and saw Turner on the ground. Defendant Craig had left, but then returned and shot Turner. Another witness, Ariel Sydes, testified that she heard a gunshot, looked outside, and saw defendant Craig, who was armed with a gun, chasing Richardson. Turner was lying in the middle of the street. Neither defendant testified at trial. Both defendants attacked the credibility of the prosecution witnesses and argued that the evidence failed to show that the two defendants were acting in concert and did not establish who actually shot the victims. . . .
Viewed in a light most favorable to the prosecution, the evidence established that multiple gunshots were fired after Richardson saw defendant Young point a revolver at Turner's face and pull the trigger. Witnesses testified that both defendant Young and codefendant Craig were armed with guns. Ingram testified that she heard ''a lot of gunshots.'' Richardson testified that he heard 15 to 17 gunshots. Sydes testified that she heard one gunshot followed by another ''set'' of two or three gunshots. Turner sustained three gunshot wounds. All of these events occurred outside Richardson's drug house, after Richardson, accompanied by Turner, had been confronted by defendant Craig, a rival seller of drugs. The evidence supported an inference that defendant Young and codefendant Craig were acting in concert outside of Richardson's drug house. Regardless of whether defendant Young was able to fire his revolver after Richardson and Turner fled, the jury could find that defendant Young's act of pointing the revolver at Turner's face and pulling the trigger was the impetus for the shooting.

People v. Young, No. 310435, 2014 WL 3745186, at *1, 5 (Mich. Ct. App. July 29, 2014). These facts are presumed correct on habeas review. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

         Following his conviction Petitioner filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The appellate brief filed by his appointed counsel raised a single claim challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. Petitioner also filed a supplemental pro se brief, raising what now form his first through fourth habeas claims. Petitioner also filed a motion to remand the case to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The Michigan Court of Appeals granted the motion and remanded the case to the trial court to hold a hearing. People v. Young, No. 310435 (Mich. Ct. App. Order, Feb. 20, 2014).

         At the evidentiary hearing, Petitioner's trial counsel, Lillian Diallo, and Petitioner testified. Dkt. 11-16. The trial court denied Petitioner's claim:

Well, the claim by Mr. Young now that he would have taken the deal rather than face life without parole in prison is somewhat captious (sic) in the sense that anybody in their right mind would take such an offer if the option was to go to prison for the rest of your natural life. That aside, the decision for separate juries or one jury was mine and mine alone. And whether the Defendant understood that is of no moment. The trial would have proceeded in front of me with one jury once I was persuaded that there was no conflict. Now to say well, it would have been different if the codefendant testified or didn't testify, none of us has a crystal ball. So none of us could know whether his codefendant would testify or not testify. As every Defendant, including Mr. Young, has the absolute right not to testify. So the claim that Ms. Diallo was ineffective because of a ruling of mine is without merit. The motion for whatever relief Mr. Young is asking is denied. And I find that Ms. Diallo was not ineffective in her representation of him.

Id. at 27B28.

         Petitioner's appellate counsel then filed a supplemental brief on appeal, raising the following claim:

Was it error for the trial court judge to deny the defendant-appellant's motion for a new trial where he alleged that he would have accepted the plea and sentence agreement extended to him if he understood that his joint trial with the codefendant would be conducted before a single jury B and not before separate juries B which was contrary to his trial counsel's assurance and which denied him the effective assistance of trial counsel?

         The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions in an unpublished opinion. Young, 2014 WL 3745186. Petitioner subsequently filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, raising the same claims that he raised in his pro se supplemental brief. Petitioner also raised what now forms his fifth habeas claim. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the application because it was not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by the Court. People v. Young, 859 N.W.2d 516 (Mich. March 3, 2015) (Table decision).

         II. Standard of Review

         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 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 B
(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.

         A state court adjudication is ''contrary to'' Supreme Court precedent under ' 2254(d)(1) ''if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases'' or ''if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision [of the Supreme Court] and nevertheless arrives at a ...

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