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Chapman v. Burt

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

July 20, 2017

ALPHONZO D. CHAPMAN, Petitioner,
v.
S.L. BURT, 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

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Alphonzo D. Chapman, (“Petitioner”), confined at the Muskegon Correctional Facility in Muskegon, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in which he challenges his conviction for three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, M.C.L.A. 750.520b(1)(A), and two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, M.C.L.A. 750.520c(1)(A). For the reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Petitioner was convicted following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court. The victim in this case was petitioner's girlfriend's daughter, who testified that petitioner sexually assaulted her numerous times while petitioner lived with her family.

         Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. People v. Chapman, No. 327152 (Mich.Ct.App. Sep. 18, 2015); lv. den. 499 Mich. 915, 877 N.W.2d 899 (2016).

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

I. Did the prosecutor elict [sic] testimonial evidence against Mr. Chapman that was prejudicial, inflamatory [sic] and was irrelevant to whether Mr. Chapman committed the crimes he was charged with and therefore Mr. Chapman was denied a fair and impartial trial in violation of his state and federally mandated right to due process of law?
II. Was Mr. Chapman denied effective assistance of counsel at his trial because his trial counsel did not object to questions posed by the prosecutor from the victim and her family that elicited testimony that was prejudicial, inflamatory [sic] and was irrelevant to whether Mr. Chapman committed the crimes he was charged with?
III. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by not allowing Mr. Chapman's counsel to withdraw?

         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). In order to obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state prisoner is required to show that the state court's rejection of his or her claim “was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Id. at 103.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals denied petitioner's application for leave to appeal on petitioner's direct appeal in a form order “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” The Michigan Supreme Court subsequently denied the petitioner leave to appeal in a standard form order without any extended discussion. Determining whether a state court's decision resulted from an unreasonable legal or factual conclusion, as would warrant federal habeas relief, does not require that there be an opinion from the state court that explains the state court's reasoning. Harrington, 562 U.S. at 98. “Where a state court's decision is unaccompanied by an explanation, the habeas petitioner's burden still must be met by showing there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief.” Id. In fact, when a habeas petitioner has presented a federal claim to a state court and that state court has denied relief, “it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary.” Id. at 99. That presumption may be overcome only when there is a reason to think that some other explanation for the state court's decision is more likely. Id. at 99-100.

         The AEDPA deferential standard of review applies to petitioner's claims where the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected petitioner's appeal “for lack of merit in the grounds presented” and the Michigan Supreme Court subsequently denied leave to appeal in a standard form order, because these orders ...


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