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Bassett v. Woods

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

June 8, 2017

WILLIE C. BASSETT, JR., Petitioner,
v.
JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.

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

          HONORABLE JOHN CORBETT O'MEARA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Willie C. Bassett, Jr., (“Petitioner”), confined at the Chippewa Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, Michigan, seeks the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his pro se application, petitioner challenges his conviction for first degree felony murder, M.C.L.A. 750.316(1)(b); first-degree child abuse, M.C.L.A. 750.136b(2); and second-degree child abuse, M.C.L.A. 750.136b(3). For the reasons stated below, the application for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Petitioner was convicted by a jury 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 arise from the death of his three-month-old infant daughter, BB. According to the testimony of medical experts, BB died from non-accidental head trauma. During the day preceding BB's admission to the hospital and her subsequent death, the child was in defendant's sole care.

People v. Bassett, No. 315568, 2014 WL 6602427, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2014).

         Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id., lv. den. 498 Mich. 871, 868 N.W.2d 887 (2015); reconsideration den. 499 Mich. 859, 873 N.W.2d 554 (2016).

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

I. The trial judge violated defendant's constitutional due process right to a fair trial.
II. Defendant was denied his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel.
III. Defendant was denied his constitutional due process right to a fair trial when the trial court allowed the introduction of prior acts of domestic violence that were irrelevant and prejudicial.
IV. Defendant was denied his constitutional due process right to a fair trial when the trial court admitted evidence of defendant's bad character, the mother's good character, and prior injuries to the baby. The prosecutor's urging the jury to convict on that basis qualifies as misconduct.
V. The trial court reversibly erred in overruling the defense objection to a jury instruction when the evidence did not support any claim that the defendant was an accessory after the fact.
VI. The verdict is against the great weight of the evidence.

         II. Standard of Review

         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 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, 405-06 (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 410-11. “[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)(citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). 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 ...


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