United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division
CHRISTOPHER D. WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
MITCH PERRY, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND
J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. §
2254. On June 13, 2017, Magistrate Judge Timothy P. Greeley
issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”)
recommending that the Court dismiss the action with prejudice
because Petitioner's claims are without merit, and
recommending that the Court deny a certificate of
appealability (ECF No. 18). Before the Court are
Petitioner's objections to the R&R (ECF No. 19).
Court makes a de novo determination of those
portions of an R&R to which specific objections are made.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). “[A]
general objection to a magistrate's report, which fails
to specify the issues of contention, does not satisfy the
requirement that an objection be filed. The objections must
be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those
issues that are dispositive and contentious.”
Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995).
The Court may accept, reject, or modify any or all of the
magistrate judge's findings or recommendations.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
argues that the magistrate judge improperly denied his claim
that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of
felony-firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, and
felon-in-possession. A § 2254 challenge to the
sufficiency of the evidence is governed by the standard set
forth in Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319
(1979), which is “whether, after viewing the evidence
in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational
trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the
crime beyond a reasonable doubt.” This standard
“gives full play to the responsibility of the trier of
fact fairly to resolve conflicts in the testimony, to weigh
the evidence, and to draw reasonable inferences from basic
facts to ultimate facts.” Jackson, 443 U.S. at
319. Moreover, because both the Jackson standard and
the AEDPA apply to Petitioner's claims, “‘the
law commands deference at two levels in this case: First,
deference should be given to the trier-of-fact's verdict,
as contemplated by Jackson; second, deference should
be given to the Michigan [court's] consideration of the
trier-of-fact's verdict, as dictated by
AEDPA.'” Davis v. Lafler, 658 F.3d 525,
531 (6th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (quoting Tucker v.
Palmer, 541 F.3d 652, 656 (6th Cir. 2008)). This
double-deference standard erects “a nearly
insurmountable hurdle” for petitioners who seek habeas
relief on sufficiency-of-the-evidence grounds. Id.
at 534 (quoting United States v. Oros, 578 F.3d 703,
710 (7th Cir. 2009)).
indicated in the R&R, the Michigan Court of Appeals noted
the following evidence of Petitioner's guilt:
[S]everal eyewitnesses testified that they saw defendant in
possession of a firearm. One bar patron testified that she
“looked back and . . . saw a gun” in
defendant's hand, and added that she noticed “the
shine” from the butt of the gun. She was
“certain” she saw defendant holding a gun. Her
male companion testified that he got within ten feet of
defendant, and observed defendant “reach into his
waistband and pull out a firearm” with his right hand.
This eyewitness had “no doubt at all” that
defendant pulled out a gun. A bar employee also stated she
saw defendant “pull something out of his pocket that
[she] thought was a [black] gun.” And all these
witnesses testified that they heard the sound of gunfire, and
one testified that defendant ran out of the bar after the
gunshot. In addition, a police officer testified that he saw
a bullet hole in the bar's front door, made by a weapon
with a caliber larger than .177-which means that the weapon
in question is a “firearm” per MCL 8.3t and
(MCOA Op. 2, ECF No. 13-9.)
contends that this evidence was insufficient because: (1)
there was no ballistics evidence supporting the officer's
opinion that the caliber of the weapon was larger than .177;
(2) none of the witnesses could conclude that it was a
“firearm” that Petitioner brandished; and (3)
there was no testimony stating that the hole in the door was
not present prior to the incident.
the first issue, ballistics evidence regarding the caliber of
the weapon was not necessary. Witnesses testified that they
heard a gunshot. A “firearm” is “any weapon
which will, is designed to, or may readily be converted to
expel a projectile by action of an explosive.” Mich.
Comp. Laws § 750.222(e). A reasonable jury could infer
that the gunshot sound was caused by a weapon “designed
to . . . expel a projectile by action of an explosive.”
In addition, the officer who saw the hole in the door could
rely on his experience with firearms to determine whether the
hole was large enough to be caused by something larger than a
pellet gun, and the jury could rely on his opinion. As to the
second issue, multiple witnesses saw Petitioner with a gun.
This is sufficient for a rational jury to find that he was in
possession of a firearm. As to the third issue, a witness
unmistakably testified that the hole in the door was not
present before the incident. (Trial Tr. 168-69, ECF No.
13-4.) Thus, Petitioner's objections to the denial of
this claim are without merit.
Improper Sentence Score
objects to the conclusion that his claim of improper sentence
scoring is meritless, but he does not address the reasons
given by the magistrate judge for this conclusion. Petitioner
merely states that he has presented a viable claim. This is
not sufficient to enable the Court discern the issue in
contention. The Court discerns no error in the magistrate
judge's disposition of this claim.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Petitioner objects to the denial of his claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel, but he fails to identify any
particular error in the magistrate judge's conclusion.
Petitioner claims that the magistrate judge should have made
an independent conclusion rather than examining the state
court's decision on appeal; however, the magistrate judge
applied the correct standard of review. Where, as here, a
claim has already been adjudicated by the state court, this
Court is not permitted to review it on a blank slate. The
Court must consider the state court's adjudication of the
claim, and may grant relief only if “it is shown that
the earlier state court's decision ‘was contrary
to' federal law then clearly established in the holdings
of [the Supreme] Court, § 2254(d)(1); or that it
‘involved an unreasonable application of' such law,
§ 2254(d)(1); or that it ...