United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA
A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge
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. 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
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).
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.
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).
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
Pet'r Br. at i.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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:
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 -
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 “limited to