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Conway v. Haas

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

August 14, 2017

RANDALL HAAS, Respondent.



         Petitioner Derrick Conway, a state prisoner presently confined at the Macomb Correctional Facility in New Haven, Michigan, has filed a pro se application for the writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner was convicted in 2014 of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Saginaw County, Michigan and sentenced to imprisonment for eighteen to thirty-five years. He alleges that (1) he was not fully advised of his trial rights before he pleaded no contest, (2) his plea was not knowing and understanding, and (3) his trial counsel failed to investigate his mental capacity and move for a competency hearing. Respondent Randall Haas urges the Court to deny the petition on grounds that Petitioner's claims are meritless and that the state courts' decisions were not contrary to federal law, unreasonable applications of federal law, or unreasonable determinations of the facts. Because the Court agrees that Petitioner's claims do not warrant habeas relief, the petition will be denied.


         Following a preliminary examination, Petitioner was bound over to circuit court on three charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The charges arose from allegations that Petitioner used force or coercion to sexually penetrate a mentally incapacitated woman. On July 7, 2014, Petitioner pleaded guilty[1] to three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520d(1). He also acknowledged being a habitual offender, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12. In return, the prosecutor dismissed the three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and a separate case charging Petitioner with failing to register as a sex offender. In addition, the trial court agreed to sentence Petitioner to eighteen years in prison. On August 20, 2014, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to three concurrent terms of eighteen to thirty-five years in prison.

         Petitioner moved to withdraw his plea on grounds that he was not properly advised of his constitutional rights before he entered his plea, that he was under the influence of medication at the time of the plea, and that he was denied effective assistance of counsel due to trial counsel's failure to investigate whether he was mentally competent. The trial court denied Petitioner's motion, and the Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” People v. Conway, No. 329068 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 29, 2015). The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal because it was not persuaded to review the issues. See People v. Conway, 878 N.W.2d 841 (Mich. 2016). Finally, on June 28, 2016, Petitioner filed his federal habeas corpus petition, raising the same grounds that he asserted in state court.


         “The statutory authority of federal courts to issue habeas corpus relief for persons in state custody is provided by 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA).” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 97 (2011). Pursuant to § 2254, the Court may not grant a state prisoner's application for the writ of habeas corpus unless the state court's adjudication of the prisoner's claims on the merits

(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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

Under the “contrary to” clause [of § 2254(d)(1)], a federal habeas court may grant the writ 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. Under the “unreasonable application” clause [of § 2254(d)(1)], a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.

Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000) (O'Connor, J., opinion of the Court for Part II).

         “[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. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable.” Id. at 411.“AEDPA thus imposes a ‘highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, ' Lindh v.Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333, n. 7 (1997), and ‘demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt, ' Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam).” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010).

         “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.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 101 (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). To obtain a writ of habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on 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.

         “‘In a proceeding instituted by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct, ' unless rebutted by ‘clear and convincing evidence.' 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).” Holland v. Rivard, 800 F.3d 224, 242 (6th Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 1384 (2016). Lastly, “review under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to ...

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