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Matsey v. Tribley

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

July 6, 2017

MELVIN MATSEY, #236265, Petitioner,
LINDA TRIBLEY, Respondent.




         Petitioner Melvin Matsey is a state prisoner in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections. In 2012, a jury in the Oakland County Circuit Court convicted Matsey of four counts of breaking and entering a building with intent to commit a larceny, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.110. The state court sentenced Matsey as a fourth habitual offender, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12, to concurrent terms of 5 to 40 years imprisonment. On October 31, 2014, Matsey filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (See ECF #1.) He then amended the Petition. (See ECF #18.) The Petition, as amended, raises claims related to the admission of other acts evidence at Matsey's trial and the consolidation for trial of the four separate breaking-and-entering charges brought against him. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES the Petition. The Court also DENIES Matsey a certificate of appealability and DENIES him leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.


         Matsey's convictions arise from four breaking-and-entering incidents in Oakland County, Michigan in 2010 and 2011. The Michigan Court of Appeals described the relevant facts as follows:

Defendant was charged in four separate informations with breaking and entering a building with intent to commit a larceny, MCL 750.110, for crimes that occurred on June 15, 2007, in Farmington Hills, on August 8, 2010, in Madison Heights, on April 16, 2011, in Novi, and on June 20, 2011, in Southfield. The prosecution moved to consolidate the cases for trial, MCR 6.120, alleging that defendant was involved in a series of acts constituting parts of a single scheme or plan. Defendant opposed the motion for consolidation, alleging that his conduct did not fall within the scope of the court rule and one trial would deprive him of due process of law. In a written order, the trial court granted the motion for the reasons indicated on the record. Additionally, the prosecution sought to admit MRE 404(b) evidence, specifically defendant's prior convictions involving breaking and entering and the concurrent charged offenses. The prosecution argued that the evidence was relevant and the probative value was not substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice. Again, the defense opposed this motion, contending that the evidence was irrelevant and prejudicial. In a written order, the trial court granted the motion for the reasons stated on the record.
At trial, it was established that alarm systems for four businesses were triggered after work hours. When the police and the business owners arrived on the scene, a large rock or concrete object was found thrown through a glass window or door. Laptop computers were stolen from three of the four businesses. Blood was discovered at all four locations, and the blood matched a DNA sample provided by defendant. Defendant's independent expert concluded that defendant was the donor of the blood found at the crime scenes. Additionally, at trial, the parties stipulated to admit six prior convictions for breaking and entering or attempted breaking and entering. The jury was advised that the convictions were presented for the limited purpose of demonstrating that the events did not occur by accident or mistake, but represented a planned system or characteristic scheme.
Defendant testified that he did not break and enter into the four businesses. Rather, at the Madison Heights business, he entered the building during business hours after he cut himself changing a tire. Additionally, defendant acted as a “middle man” for his friends who stole items. He denied breaking and entering into the Novi and Southfield locations, but alleged that he entered those premises after his friends had broken in earlier. Defendant testified that he believed that he previously pleaded guilty to the Farmington Hills charge that occurred in 2007, while he was in prison. Defendant admitted that he committed his prior convicted offenses, but with regard to the current crimes, he denied responsibility. Despite this testimony, defendant was convicted as charged.

People v. Matsey, 2014 WL 1510153, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. April 15, 2014).

         Following his convictions and sentencing, Matsey filed an appeal of right with the Michigan Court of Appeals in which he asserted that the trial court erred when it admitted the other acts evidence and when it consolidated his four separate breaking-and-entering charges into one trial. The state appellate court denied relief on those claims and affirmed his convictions and sentences. Id. at ** 2-5. Matsey then filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court raising the same two claims that he raised in the Court of Appeals, as well as claims that his appellate counsel was ineffective and that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to support his convictions. The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal in a standard order. See People v. Matsey, 853 N.W.2d 357 (Mich. 2014).

         Matsey thereafter filed a federal habeas petition in this Court. (See ECF #1.) In that Petition, Matsey raised four claims concerning: (1) the effectiveness of his appellate counsel, (2) the admission of other acts evidence at his trial, (3) the consolidation of his four breaking-and-entering charges, and (4) the sufficiency of the evidence. (See id.) Respondent filed an answer to the Petition in which she argued that the Court should dismiss the Petition because Matsey's first and fourth claims were not properly exhausted in the state courts and/or that all of his claims lack merit. (See ECF #8.) The Court reviewed the Petition and Respondent's answer and determined that the first and fourth claims of the Petition were unexhausted. Instead of dismissing the Petition at that time, the Court entered a written order that stayed and administratively closed this action so that Matsey could return to the state courts and fully exhaust his claims. (See ECF #16.) On May 4, 2017, Matsey moved to re-open this action and to proceed only on the two properly exhausted claims (i.e. his claims related to the admission of other acts evidence and the consolidation of the four breaking-and-entering charges). (See ECF #17.) The Court granted that motion on June 19, 2017, and re-opened this action for review of Matsey's two unexhausted claims. (See ECF #18.)


         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2241 et seq., sets forth the standard of review that federal courts must use when considering habeas petitions brought by prisoners challenging their state court convictions. AEDPA provides in relevant part:

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 ...

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