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Ryan v. Napel

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

May 16, 2017

ROBERT NAPEL, Respondent.




         Michigan prisoner Sean Michael Ryan (“Petitioner”) has filed a pro se habeas corpus petition challenging his state convictions for seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520b(1)(a) (sexual penetration of a person under the age of thirteen). Petitioner alleges as grounds for relief that: (1) the state courts deprived him of due process by denying his requests for an evidentiary hearing; (2) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise stronger claims on direct appeal; (3) trial counsel's omissions deprived him of effective assistance; (4) the police delayed his arraignment to obtain additional information justifying his arrest; (5) the prosecutor relied on perjured testimony; (6) the prosecution suppressed exculpatory evidence; (7) the police destroyed or failed to preserve exculpatory video evidence; (8) his arrest was not supported by probable cause; (9) the trial court erroneously admitted his partially videotaped statement to the police; (10) the cumulative effect of errors resulted in an unfair trial; (11) he is actually innocent of the crimes for which he is incarcerated; and (12) the Court should grant leave to amend the petition if he raises additional claims. Respondent Robert Napel argues in an answer to the petition that several of Petitioner's claims are not cognizable on habeas review and that the state courts' decisions on Petitioner's other claims were neither contrary to Supreme Court precedent, unreasonable applications of Supreme Court precedent, nor unreasonable determinations of the facts. The Court agrees. Accordingly, the Court is denying Petitioner habeas petition relief.


         Petitioner was charged in Saginaw County, Michigan with nine counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving his eleven-year-old daughter. The Michigan Court of Appeals summarized the evidence at Petitioner's jury trial in Saginaw County Circuit Court as follows:

On March 1, 2010, the police were notified by local school personnel that a student had made allegations that her father, defendant, had sexually abused her on various occasions. The police met with defendant at the school, then transported him to the police department for questioning. Meanwhile, a detective took the victim to a local abuse and neglect center for purposes of a forensic interview. At the police department, defendant signed a form indicating that he understood and waived his Miranda[1] rights. He provided the police with the addresses of four properties that he owned, and defendant consented to a search of those locations.
In an initial police interview on March 1, defendant denied ever having sexual contact with his daughter. The interview was recorded, but a computer failure or human error resulted in the data or recording being lost. Defendant was then transported to the county jail. The next day, March 2, detectives went to the county jail with the intention of interviewing defendant once again. However, the detectives decided not to interview defendant because he complained of a lack of sleep. Defendant was again interviewed by police on March 3, 2010, and the interview was recorded and played for the jury. During the interview, defendant confessed to engaging in numerous instances of sexual contact and penetration with his daughter, including vaginal and anal intercourse, as well as fellatio and cunnilingus.[2] The trial court denied defendant's pretrial motion to suppress the confession ….
The victim testified that she was 12 years old at the time of trial and that she had stopped living with her mother and went to live with her father in 2009 at a house in Saginaw that he shared with his wife (the victim's stepmother) and the victim's two half-brothers. The victim indicated that her stepmother went to Mississippi for a wedding sometime in June 2009, leaving defendant to care for her and her brothers. Shortly after her stepmother left, defendant called the victim into his bedroom and demanded that she remove all of her clothing. She testified that defendant put his penis in her vagina and thereafter placed his penis in her mouth, leading to ejaculation. The victim was 11 years old at the time. The act of vaginal intercourse and the act of fellatio in this first episode or transaction gave rise to counts 3 and 9 of the information charging CSC-1. Defendant's daughter testified that he continued to engage in various acts of sexual contact and penetration with her after the initial incident and that the sexual abuse occurred numerous times at the various properties owned by defendant.
The victim stated that on February 28, 2010, her stepmother and brothers were gone from the house and defendant wanted her to remove her clothing, but she refused and climbed under her bed. She testified that defendant took his belt off and started swinging it under the bed, striking her once on the leg. The next day at school the victim told the school counselor about the sexual abuse.
Defendant took the stand and denied any sexual contact with his daughter, suggesting that she had made it all up in an effort to return to her mother out of state. Defendant testified that his confession was false and resulted from being deprived of medical attention and his pain medications as well as threats that his sons would be taken away from his wife and put in foster care.

People v. Ryan, 819 N.W.2d 55, 58-59 (Mich. Ct. App. 2012) (footnotes in original as notes 2 and 3).

         The trial court granted Petitioner's motion for a directed verdict of acquittal as to count two (sexual penetration with a vibrator), and on November 5, 2010, the jury acquitted Petitioner of count one (sexual penetration with a vibrator). On the same date, the jury found Petitioner guilty of the seven remaining counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree.

         On December 14, 2010, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to imprisonment for twenty-five to fifty years for each count of criminal sexual conduct. The court ordered the sentences to run concurrently, with the exception of count nine, which the court ordered to run consecutively to count three.[3]

         Through counsel, Petitioner filed a direct appeal, arguing that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his confession and by ordering consecutive sentences. Petitioner raised several other claims in a supplemental pro se brief. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentences after concluding “that the trial court correctly interpreted and applied MCL 750.520b(3) with respect to consecutive sentencing, that the court did not err by denying defendant's motion to suppress his confession, and that the remainder of defendant's appellate arguments lack merit.” Ryan, 819 N.W.2d at 58. On October 4, 2012, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal because it was not persuaded to review the issues. See People v. Ryan, 820 N.W.2d 918 (Mich. 2012).

         Petitioner raised multiple claims in a motion for relief from judgment, which the trial court denied. The trial court stated that all of Petitioner's claims, except for his claim about appellate counsel, were raised on direct appeal. The court determined that it was precluded from adjudicating the claims Petitioner raised on direct appeal and that the claim about appellate counsel lacked merit. See Op. and Order Den. Def.'s Mot. for Relief from J., People v. Ryan, No. 10-034589-FC, (Saginaw Cty. Cir. Ct. Dec. 13, 2012), ECF No. 48-12.

         Petitioner appealed the trial court's decision, but the Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal because Petitioner failed to establish entitlement to relief under Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D). See People v. Ryan, No. 315897 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 1, 2013), ECF No. 48-15. On February 28, 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court denied Petitioner leave to appeal for the same reason. See People v. Ryan, 843 N.W.2d 521 (Mich. 2014). On April 17, 2014, Petitioner filed his habeas petition.


         “The statutory authority of federal courts to issue habeas corpus relief for persons in state custody is provided by 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA).” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 97 (2011). Pursuant to § 2254, the Court may not grant a state prisoner's application for the writ of habeas corpus unless the state court's adjudication of the prisoner's claims on the merits

(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).

Under the “contrary to” clause [of § 2254(d)(1)], a federal habeas court may grant the writ 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. Under the “unreasonable application” clause [of § 2254(d)(1)], a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.

Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000) (O'Connor, J., opinion of the Court for Part II). “[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. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable.” Id. at 411.

         “AEDPA thus imposes a ‘highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, ' Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333, n. 7 (1997), and ‘demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt, ' Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam).” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010). “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.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 101 (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). To obtain a writ of habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on his or her 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.

         “ ‘In a proceeding instituted by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct, ' unless rebutted by ‘clear and convincing evidence'. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).” Holland v. Rivard, 800 F.3d 224, 242 (6th Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 1384 (2016). Finally, “review under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Claim One: Denial of an Evidentiary Hearing

         Petitioner alleges that the state courts deprived him of his right to due process and his right to present a complete defense by denying or ignoring his requests for evidentiary hearings to establish a factual record. Petitioner contends that, if he had been granted an opportunity to develop the record, his illegally obtained statement would have been suppressed, he would have received a new trial, and he probably would have been found not guilty.

         The record before the Court reveals that the trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on Petitioner's motion to suppress his statement to the police. (See 10/28/10, 10/29/10 & 11/2/10 Hr'g Trs., ECF Nos. 48-3, 48-4 & 48-5.) As for the failure to grant an evidentiary hearing on Petitioner's post-conviction motions for a new trial and relief from judgment, Petitioner's claim lacks merit because

the Sixth Circuit has consistently held that errors in post-conviction proceedings are outside the scope of federal habeas corpus review. See Kirby v. Dutton, 794 F.2d 245, 246-47 (6th Cir.1986); Roe v. Baker, 316 F.3d 557, 571 (6th Cir. 2002) . . . . [C]laims challenging state collateral post-conviction proceedings “cannot be brought under the federal habeas corpus provision, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, ” because “ ‘the essence of habeas corpus is an attack by a person in custody upon the legality of that custody, and . . . the traditional function of the writ is to secure release from illegal custody.' ” Kirby, 794 F.2d at 246 . . . . A due process claim related to collateral post-conviction proceedings, even if resolved in a petitioner's favor, would not “result [in] . . . release or a reduction in . . . time to be served or in any other way affect his detention because we would not be reviewing any matter directly pertaining to his detention.” Kirby, 794 F.2d at 247. . . . Accordingly, [the Sixth Circuit has] held repeatedly that “the scope of the writ [does not] reach this second tier of complaints about deficiencies in state post-conviction proceedings, ” noting that “the writ is not the proper means” to challenge “collateral matters” as opposed to “the underlying state conviction giving rise to the prisoner's incarceration.” Id. at 248, 247 . . . .

Cress v. Palmer, 484 F.3d 844, 853 (6th Cir. 2007). Furthermore,

it would be an unusual intrusion for federal courts to second-guess state procedures for resolving motions once they have been presented. States are independent sovereigns, and the federal government generally speaking should respect their choices about how to adjudicate disputes.
. . . [Federal courts] must instead presume that, once a federal claim comes before a state court, the state judge will use a fair procedure to achieve a just resolution of the claim - resolving some motions with neither an evidentiary hearing nor an oral argument, some with an oral argument alone, some with both.

Good v. Berghuis, 729 F.3d 636, 639 (6th Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 1174 (2015). For the reasons given by the Sixth Circuit in Cress and Good, Petitioner's challenge to the state trial court's post-conviction procedures is not cognizable on habeas corpus review.

         B. Claim Four: Delay in the Arraignment[4]

         Petitioner claims the police intentionally delayed his arraignment for four days to obtain additional information justifying his arrest. According to Petitioner, the police arrested him without a warrant on March 1, 2010, obtained a warrant on March 4, 2010, and finally brought him before a magistrate for an arraignment on March 5, 2010. Petitioner contends that this procedure violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and required suppression of any evidence collected as a result of the constitutional violation.

         Petitioner's Fourth Amendment claim is not cognizable here, because the Supreme Court held in Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465 (1976), that “where the State has provided an opportunity for full and fair litigation of a Fourth Amendment claim, a state prisoner may not be granted federal habeas corpus relief on the ground that evidence obtained in an unconstitutional search or seizure was introduced at his trial.” Id. at 494 (internal footnote omitted). “[T]he Powell ‘opportunity for full and fair consideration' means an available avenue for the prisoner to present his claim to the state courts, not an inquiry into the adequacy of the procedure actually used to resolve that particular claim.” Good, 729 F.3d at 639. “Michigan provide[s] an adequate avenue to raise a Fourth Amendment claim, ” Hurick v. Woods, No. 16-1554, 2016 WL 7093988, at *3 (6th Cir. Dec. 5, 2016), and Petitioner has failed to show that his claim was frustrated by a failure in Michigan's mechanism for reviewing Fourth Amendment claims.

         Even if cognizable here, the record does not support Petitioner's claim that the police intentionally delayed the arraignment to gather additional information justifying his arrest. The police searched Petitioner's properties and received a report concerning the complainant's forensic examination on the same day they arrested Petitioner, and Petitioner confessed to the crimes on the morning of March 3, 2010, less than 48 hours after his arrest.

         Although it is not clear from the record why Petitioner was not arraigned until March 5, 2010, “delay in arraignment, standing alone, without a showing of prejudice . . . present[s] no federal question.” Streeter v. Craven, 418 F.2d 273, 274 (9th Cir. 1969); see also Stevens v. Berghuis, No. 13-13268, 2016 WL 704966 at *5 (Feb. 23, 2016) (citing Kirkland v. Maxwell, 396 F.2d 687, 688 (6th Cir. 1966) (rejecting the petitioner's habeas claim of illegal delay in arraignment because he failed to show any prejudice resulting from the delay)). Petitioner's confession was not the fruit of the delay, because he confessed within 48 hours of his arrest, and he has not alleged that he was prejudiced in any other way.

         Petitioner is not entitled to relief on his Fourth Amendment claim.

         C. Claims Five and Six: Perjured Testimony and Suppression of Evidence

         In his sixth claim, Petitioner alleges that the police suppressed exculpatory evidence that the complainant received a sexual assault examination, that there were no signs of physical or sexual trauma, and that the police were notified of these facts. In his fifth claim, Petitioner asserts that two detectives perjured themselves when they testified at trial that they were unaware of the sexual assault examination. Petitioner purports to have new evidence that the victim was, in fact, ...

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