Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Sanford v. Stewart

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

June 9, 2017

CELITA SANFORD, Petitioner,
v.
ANTHONY STEWART, Respondent.

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

          Sean F. Cox United States District Judge.

         Celita Sanford, (“Petitioner”), presently on parole supervision with the Michigan Department of Corrections, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, through counsel, Valerie Newman and Robert W. Stevenson, challenging her convictions for voluntary manslaughter, Mich. Comp. Laws, § 750.321, and felony-firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws, § 750.227b. For the reasons stated below, the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. Background

         Petitioner was originally charged with second-degree murder and felony-firearm. Following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court, petitioner was found guilty of the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter and guilty as charged of felony-firearm. This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts regarding petitioner's conviction from the Michigan Court of Appeals's opinion, which are presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See e.g. Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

At trial, defendant stated that she lived with the victim for six years and had dated him for 11 years. She testified regarding the victim's physically abusive behavior during their relationship. Indeed, multiple witnesses spoke of the victim's physical abuse of defendant. According to defendant, the victim, on the basis of previous demands made by defendant, was supposed to move out of defendant's house on the day of the shooting. And after the two engaged in an argument over a party that she refused to attend, the victim became angry, resulting in defendant's decision to pack his clothes. As defendant walked out of the kitchen, she heard a pop and saw some smoke from a gun. She believed that the victim had intentionally shot at her. The victim then tossed the gun in a bedroom and started assaulting defendant. She explained, “I said wow. I said, what the f* *k; what the-what is wrong with you? He didn't say what was wrong. He started fighting me. He was fighting.” Defendant testified that the victim began pulling her hair and that they ended up in the bedroom as the tussle developed. At some point, the victim also started to choke defendant, which frightened her given that she had passed out the last time he choked her. The victim then threw defendant on the ground and started looking for his gun that he had earlier discarded in the bedroom, but defendant found it first. Defendant claimed that she picked up the gun and started backing away from the victim, who then lunged toward her. Defendant heard a pop and then dropped the gun as the victim grabbed his side. Defendant later testified regarding why she shot the victim:
I shot him because I feared for my life being that he already shot once and then when he said, where the f* *k is his gun, and I didn't know where it was, but when I saw him looking through the clothes and I found it first I feared for my life and I may not be here. It's a lot of women that didn't get to make it.
Well, when I found the gun and I picked it up and he was coming towards me and I'm backing back and I'm saying, no, I was scared for my life. I didn't know what was going to happen when he came my way being that he had already shot first[.]
I don't want to die. I didn't want him to die either, but I knew at that point it was one of us. I was already scared. He had already choked me. He had already fought me, threw me. I had no choice but to defend myself and I was very scared and I shot the gun.
Defendant testified that the victim's assault on her resulted in bruises to her neck, scratches on her face, and the loss of some hair. Defendant also testified that she did not have an opportunity or chance to retreat once the incident began to develop. Defense counsel argued in favor of acquittal based on self-defense.
The prosecutor focused on defendant's statements to others after the shooting, noting her failure to describe the incident in a manner consistent with defendant's trial testimony. Defendant informed one police officer that the victim initially had the gun and dropped it, causing it to discharge in a hallway, and that she then picked up the gun but accidently dropped it, causing it to discharge, with the bullet striking the victim. Defendant further indicated that the victim had refused to move out of her house despite her demands. Defendant also told the officer that she had caught the victim cheating on her, so she had nothing to say to him and wanted him out of her home. She informed a second officer that the victim had dropped the gun, that the gun discharged when dropped, with a bullet hitting a wall in the hallway, and that she subsequently picked up the gun, at which point it accidently discharged and the victim was shot. Defendant explained that she had not pointed the gun at the victim, nor had her hand been on the trigger. An evidence technician testified that the gun involved in the case had to be cocked before one could pull the trigger. He also identified a bullet mark in the hallway wall of defendant's home, which mark was located 31 inches above the floor. In closing argument, the prosecutor suggested that defendant shot the victim because of his cheating and because she wanted him out of the house. The jury acquitted defendant of the charge of second-degree murder and instead found her guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

People v. Sanford, No. 307747, 2013 WL 5338575, at *1-2 (Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 24, 2013).

Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id., lv. den. 495 Mich. 936 (2014).
Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:
I. The United States Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant's right to the effective assistance of counsel. Ms. Sanford's defense counsel was constitutionally deficient when she failed to investigate and present an important defense, and these deficiencies prejudiced Ms. Sanford.
II. The United States Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant's right to the effective assistance of counsel. Ms. Sanford's defense counsel was constitutionally deficient when she failed to investigate her own witness and discover that witness' bias, and this deficiency prejudiced Ms. Sanford.

         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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.