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Ingram v. Mackie

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

May 16, 2017

CHEYENNE INGRAM, Petitioner,
v.
THOMAS MACKIE, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          MARK A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge

         Petitioner Cheyenne Ingram, currently confined at the Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility in Ionia, 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 one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 750.157a, 750.316; and six counts of assault with intent to commit murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.83. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies petition for 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 following a jury trial in the Oakland 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 arise from a shooting at a private skating party at the Rolladium skating rink in Waterford Township during the early morning hours of December 23, 2011. According to advertising fliers, the party was sponsored by “$GME$ & LBM.[1]” The party began on the evening of December 22, 2011, and continued into the early morning hours of December 23. During the event, a number of fights broke out.
According to Quintin Hardiman, a security officer at the Rolladium, defendant, Treandis Jamison, [2] and Robert German were ejected from the building after an initial large fight. Hardiman had hoped that the ejection would end the fighting. After defendant was ejected, Hardiman observed him standing outside the building holding a small-barreled revolver. Defendant was breathing hard and Hardiman heard him say, “They jumped on me.” Hardiman left his station at the entranceway to break up more fighting inside. The entrance doors were locked to prevent entry from the outside, but a person could still gain entry if someone from the inside opened the door. Shortly after Hardiman left his position at the entranceway, gunshots were fired inside the building. The prosecutor argued at trial that defendant, Treandis Jamison, and Robert German all entered the building and fired guns indiscriminately into a large crowd of party attendees. The defense theory at trial was that defendant was not involved in the shooting.
Surveillance cameras captured some of the activities inside and outside the building, including images of defendant with Jamison and German in the parking lot and their movements after they reentered the building and proceeded to the archway entrance of the skating rink where the gunshots were fired. Six persons received gunshot injuries.

People v. Ingram, No. 312656, 2014 WL 1679128, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Apr. 24, 2014) (per curiam).

         Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id. at *10, leave denied, 853 N.W.2d 363 (Mich. 2014).

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

i. “The great weight of the evidence presented by the prosecutor was insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of the crimes for which he was charged and convicted, pursuant to U.S. Const, Ams V, VI, XIV; Const 1963, Art 1, Sec 17, 20.”
ii. “The prosecutor's misconduct deprived Mr. Ingram of a fair trial and due process of law, the error was plain, or in the alternative trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting.”
iii. “The prosecutor's failure to list key witness Quintin Hardiman in the name of potential witnesses during voir dire of the jury denied Mr. Ingram his right to an impartial jury under U.S. Const Am VI; Const 1963, Art 1, Sec 20, or in the alternative, trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting.”
iv. “The trial court incorrectly denied defense counsel's motion to suppress Quintin Hardiman's pretrial identification of the defendant where the totality of circumstances establish that the pre-trial identification was impermissibly suggestive, in violation of the defendant's due process rights.”

         Pet. at ii.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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 “limited to the record that was before the state court.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Claim One: The Sufficiency-of-Evidence Claim

         Petitioner argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of either conspiracy to commit first-degree murder or assault with intent to commit murder. Petitioner argues that, at most, the evidence established his mere presence at the skating rink, but it did not show that he conspired with or aided and abetted the other shooters. Petitioner also challenges the credibility of the main witness, Quintin Hardiman.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected Petitioner's claim:

Viewed in a light most favorable to the prosecution, the evidence was sufficient to establish each conviction offense. Hardiman's testimony, if believed by the trier of fact, was sufficient to identify defendant as one of the persons ejected from the building after the initial fight. Although there was no photographic evidence showing that defendant was involved in the fight, one of the assault victims, Cargle, testified that he saw defendant “running off at the mouth.” According to Waterford Township Police Detective Jack Sutherford, surveillance photographs depicted Cargle fighting with a person believed to be German. In light of Hardiman's testimony that he used a metal detector to search individuals entering the building for weapons before this fight, a jury could reasonably infer that defendant, German, and Jamison did not have a gun at the time of this initial fight.
The surveillance photographs support an inference that defendant was acting in concert with German and Jamison before and after the initial fight began, and that they each acquired a gun at some point while outside the building. Hardiman's testimony indicated that defendant tried to gain reentry while holding a small-barreled revolver, and that Hardiman thereafter left the building entrance to deal with more fighting inside. Although the entrance door was locked from the outside, someone on the inside would have been able to open the door to allow an outside person to enter the building. Surveillance photographs depicted German, followed by Jamison and defendant, back inside the building after Hardiman left his post at the door. The placement of defendant's hands in the photographs suggested that he could have been concealing a gun, like his companions, as they walked toward the entranceway or archway to the skating rink. A firearms examiner testified that evidence recovered following the shooting indicated that between two and four weapons were involved. This evidence, combined with the evidence that defendant was observed possessing a revolver outside the building, supports an inference that defendant was armed with a gun while approaching the entranceway to the skating rink.
We disagree with defendant's argument that the surveillance photograph depicting him running toward the exit after the gunfire started precluded the jury from finding that he actively participated in the offense while out of sight from the surveillance cameras. Even if defendant did not directly participate in the shooting, the evidence that he was armed with a firearm and acted in concert with German and Jamison would have allowed the jury to find that he aided and abetted his companions by adding security and support. Similarly, defendant's act of running after the shooting did not preclude the jury from finding beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant had agreed with Jamison and German before reentering the building to take the lethal action of shooting into the area of the skating rink. Further, evidence was presented that defendant gave the police a false name after the shooting on January 17, 2012. Evidence that a defendant tried to flee or conceal his identity from the police is relevant to show consciousness of guilt. Considered as ...

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