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Robinson v. Campbell

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

May 16, 2017

SHERMAN CAMPBELL, [1]Respondent.


          MARK A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge

         Petitioner Berry Robinson, currently confined at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Dkt. 1), challenging his convictions for first-degree felony murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316; assault with intent to rob while armed, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.89; armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529; and assault with intent to murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.83. Petitioner was sentenced as a fourth-offense habitual offender, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12, and is currently serving a life sentence for the murder conviction, and concurrent with sentences of 40 to 80 years for the robbery and assault convictions.[2] For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, declines to issue a certificate of appealability, but grants Petitioner leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was convicted of the above charges following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court. 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).

Defendant's convictions stem from a shooting that occurred at a residence in Detroit. James Pounds was at the residence with James Reid when defendant and another man entered. Defendant asked for a deal on marijuana, and Pounds replied, “[n]ot right now.” Defendant then hit Pounds in the face and the other man pulled out a gun. Defendant stated, “[d]on't play with us. You know what we're here for.” Defendant searched Pounds's pockets and took money and marijuana from him while the other man fatally shot Reid in the chest. The other man then searched Reid, and defendant picked up money that had fallen on the floor. Pounds jumped out a window and ran. As he was running, someone in a car yelled something at him, and five or six gunshots were fired in his direction.

People v. Robinson, No. 307104, 2013 WL 1631977, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Apr. 16, 2013) (per curiam), rev'd in part on other grounds, 837 N.W.2d 276 (Mich. 2013).

         The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction. Id. at *9. Petitioner then filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which raised the same claims as in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court, in lieu of granting leave to appeal, reversed the Michigan Court of Appeals on the question of sufficient evidence to support Petitioner's conviction of assault with intent to murder, vacated that conviction, and remanded the case to the Wayne County Circuit Court for entry of an amended judgment of sentence consistent with the order. People v. Robinson, 837 N.W.2d 276 (Mich. 2013). The Michigan Supreme Court then denied the application “[i]n all other respects, ” because it was “not persuaded that the remaining questions presented should be reviewed by” it. Id.

         Petitioner then filed a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Michigan Court Rule 6.500, et. seq. (Dkt. 6-17), which the Wayne County Circuit Court denied. People v. Robinson, No. 11-4878-01 (Wayne Cnty. Cir. Ct. Feb. 14, 2014) (Dkt. 6-18). The Michigan appellate courts denied Petitioner leave to appeal. People v. Robinson, No. 322104 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. 11, 2014) (Dkt. 6-19), leave denied, 864 N.W.2d 557 (Mich. 2015) (Dkt. 6-20).

         Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following two grounds:

i. “Petitioner was deprived of a fair trial and due process of law where the trial court refused to allow defense counsel to exercise a proper peremptory challenge.”
ii. “Petitioner was deprived of a fair trial and the effective assistance of counsel where the trial court denied defense counsel's motion for an adjournment and defense counsel failed to obtain and review discovery material sufficiently in advance of trial, failed to conduct a reasonable investigation, and failed to properly engage in plea negotiations.”

Pet'r Br. at i.


         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 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 -

         (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 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, 405-406 (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 409. 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). Thus, the AEDPA “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). 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 section 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 the Supreme Court. Id. Habeas relief is not appropriate unless each ground that supported the state-court's decision is examined and found to be unreasonable under the AEDPA. See Wetzel v. Lambert, 132 S.Ct. 1195, 1199 (2012).

         “If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 102. Although 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the AEDPA, does not completely bar federal courts from re-litigating 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” the Supreme Court's precedents. 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. Thus, a “readiness to attribute error [to a state court] is inconsistent with the presumption that state courts know and follow the law.” Woodford v. Viscotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002). 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.” Harrington, 131 S.Ct. at 786-787.

         A state court's factual determinations are presumed correct on federal habeas review. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). A habeas petitioner may rebut this presumption of correctness only with clear and convincing evidence. Id.; Warren v. Smith, 161 F.3d 358, 360-361 (6th Cir. 1998). Moreover, habeas review is ‚Äúlimited to ...

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