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Mathis v. Haas

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

May 31, 2017

RANDALL HAAS, Respondent.


          Sean F. Cox U.S. District Judge

         This is a habeas case filed by a Michigan prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner Antonio Mathis was convicted after a jury trial in the Macomb Circuit Court of assault with intent to commit murder, Mich. Comp. Laws. § 750.83, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws. § 750.316; Mich. Comp. Laws. § 750.157a, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws. § 750.227b, unlawful imprisonment, Mich. Comp. Laws. § 750.349b, and conspiracy to commit unlawful imprisonment, Mich. Comp. Laws. § 750.349b; Mich. Comp. Laws. § 750.157a.

         Petitioner was sentenced as a fourth-time habitual felony offender to a controlling term of 50 to 75 years for the assault with intent to commit murder conviction, life imprisonment for the conspiracy to commit murder conviction, a two-year consecutive term for the firearm conviction, and lesser concurrent terms for his other convictions.

         The petition raises a single claim: Petitioner was denied his due process right to a fair trial when the trial court denied Petitioner motion to separate his trial from his co-defendant, Jamal Rogers. The Court finds that Petitioner's claim is without merit. Therefore, the petition will be denied. The Court will also deny a certificate of appealability and deny permission to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. Background

         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):

[Co-defendant Jamal] Rogers and Latonya Bowman (“Bowman”), the victim, met in high school. In 2011, Bowman became pregnant with Rogers's child. Rogers expressed a desire for Bowman to terminate the pregnancy, but she did not do so. On May 25, 2012, when Bowman was nine months' pregnant, the two went to a drive-in movie together. After the movie, Bowman drove them back to Rogers's home. The two arrived at Rogers's home at approximately 1:30 a.m. the morning of May 26, 2012. When they arrived, Rogers told Bowman to pull her vehicle into the garage. Rogers manually opened the garage door, and after Bowman pulled in, closed it behind her vehicle. Bowman got out of the car, and felt an assailant, wearing gloves, grab the back of her neck and put a gun to her head. Bowman looked at Rogers, who said “Oh, shit, ” and did nothing else. The assailant restrained Bowman with duct tape and placed her in the rear seat of the vehicle. Duct tape was placed over Bowman's glasses, preventing her from seeing the assailant.
The assailant drove Bowman to an unknown location. The assailant doused Bowman in lighter fluid and lit her on fire. Bowman managed to move the upper half of her body out of the car and tried to roll to put the flames out. While she did so, she heard two gunshots. She played dead, not knowing if she had been struck. She heard the footsteps of her assailant running away from the scene, and once she could no longer hear the footsteps, she managed to fully exit the vehicle and put out most of the flames. She was able to remove the tape binding her hands and, after removing the rest of her restraints and some clothing that would not stop burning, got back in the car. The keys were still in the ignition, so she started the car and drove away. After finding her bearings, she was able to drive to her mother's home, and her mother took her to the hospital.
Police arrested Rogers later that morning. Mathis was later identified as the alleged assailant. Both defendants were charged. Before trial, defendants requested separate trials or juries, and the trial court denied their requests. Rogers also moved to suppress a statement he made to police, which the trial court also denied.

People v. Mathis, No. 317519, 2014 WL 6778962, at *1-2 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 2, 2014).

         Following his conviction and sentence, Petitioner filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals. His appellate brief raised a single claim:

I. Is Defendant-Appellant entitled to a new trial where the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion for a separate trial?

         The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions in an unpublished opinion. Id. Petitioner subsequently filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, which raised the same claim as he raised in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the application because it was not persuaded that the ...

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