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Martin v. Haas

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

August 14, 2017

RONALD DAVID MARTIN, Petitioner,
v.
RANDALL HAAS, [1] Respondent.

         OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND, (2) GRANTING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY WITH RESPECT TO PETITIONER'S FIRST ALLEGATION OF INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL AND HIS RIGHT TO PRESENT A DEFENSE CLAIM.

          Hon. Victoria A. Roberts United States District Judge

         This is a habeas case brought by a Michigan prisoner through counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Ronald David Martin, (“Petitioner”), was convicted after a jury trial in the Oakland Circuit Court of five counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520b, and four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520c. Petitioner was sentenced to five concurrent terms of 15 to 30 years for the first-degree convictions and four concurrent terms of 8 to 15 years for the second-degree convictions.

         The petition and supplemental brief assert six grounds for relief: (1) Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective for failing to renew a motion to present defense evidence after the trial court reserved its pretrial ruling, (2) counsel failed to secure the victim's medical records, (3) counsel failed to present expert testimony on the characteristics of child sexual abuse victims, (4) counsel failed to object to inadmissible hearsay, (5) the trial court violated Petitioner's rights to present a defense and to confrontation by excluding evidence regarding the victim's prior sexual history, and (6) the trial court incorrectly scored the sentencing guidelines. Respondent asserts that Petitioner's first claim is barred by the statute of limitations, and that all of Petitioner's claims were reasonably adjudicated by the state courts.

         The Court finds that Petitioner's claims are without merit; the petition is denied. The Court will, however, grant Petitioner a certificate of appealability with respect to his first allegation of ineffective assistance of counsel and his right to present a defense claim.

         I. Background

         The charges against Petitioner stemmed from allegations that he engaged in a sexual relationship with his minor daughter, Samantha, February through August of 2008, when she was fifteen years old.

         Prior to trial, Petitioner's counsel moved to admit evidence that the under-aged victim was engaged in a sexual relationship with a young man named Steven who was three or four years older than her, and Petitioner threatened to inform the police. See Dkt. 6-13. At a pretrial hearing held on the motion defense counsel asserted that the evidence of the sexual relationship was admissible to show Samantha's motive for making a false charge in retaliation for her father's threat. Dkt. 6-3, at 3-6. Defense counsel suggested that the parties enter into a stipulation that Samantha had sexual contact with Steven and that Petitioner threatened to inform the authorities. Id., at 6-7. The prosecutor did not object to evidence that Petitioner had a “father-daughter talk” about engaging in sexual relations at her age and her defiant reaction, but she objected to the introduction of evidence that Samantha in fact engaged in sexual activities with Steven. Id., at 7-9. The trial court took the matter under advisement. Id., at 13. The court subsequently issued a written order stating that the motion was “denied without prejudice. The Court will revisit the issue after hearing the prosecution's evidence at trial.” Dkt. 11. Nevertheless, neither the trial court nor defense counsel raised the issue again at trial.

         With respect to the evidence presented at trial, this Court recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which are presumed correct pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

The complainant was age 16 at the time of trial in May 2009. Martin is the complainant's father. He and the complainant's mother were never married and do not live together. The complainant lives with her mother and would normally visit her father on weekends. The complainant testified that the first time Martin did something inappropriate to her was in mid-January to early-February 2008. She stated that he grabbed the front of her pants and pulled her towards him. Later in February, Martin came into the room of the complainant's sister where the complainant was watching television, laid down next to her, and began touching her breasts on top of her bra. He eventually stopped but stayed in the bed with her. The complainant acknowledged that there were other beds available, but she stayed in the bed with Martin. At the end of February, she told her friend, OR, about this incident.
In March or April 2008, Martin, the complainant, and her younger sister stayed at a Holiday Inn. The complainant testified that, just after her sister left the room to go to the swimming pool, Martin took the complainant by the arms and pulled her towards him. The front of their bodies touched, and he tried to kiss her. Later that night, Martin lay down next to the complainant while her sister was in the other bed. He touched the complainant's breasts underneath her bra, put his hand down her shorts, and digitally penetrated her vagina. Martin then followed her into the bathroom, took off her shorts and his boxers, put her on the counter, and penetrated her vagina with his penis.
On cross-examination, the complainant testified that Martin had been in the bathroom and as he was walking out, she was walking in, and he then followed her back in. However, her testimony at the preliminary exam indicated that he had not been in the bathroom first. In a prior statement given to Amy Allen at Care House, the complainant said that she and her sister were in the same bed, that Martin moved her sister to the other bed, and then he got in bed with the complainant and penetrated her. She explained the discrepancy by saying that she must have mixed up the events. She acknowledged that she continued to visit Martin after the hotel incident, even though she was afraid he might rape her again, because she still wanted to see her dad.
During the summer of 2008, Martin was going through a divorce and began living with his brother, Don Martin. Martin occupied the guest bedroom in Don Martin's house. When the complainant stayed overnight with Martin, they slept in the same bed. The complainant said that she could not sleep on the couch because it hurt her back. On one occasion, she got into bed after Martin was already in bed. He touched her breast underneath her bra. She claimed that he then removed her shorts and asked her to remove her shirt. When she declined to do this, Martin took off his boxers and then penetrated her vagina with his penis.
Also during the summer of 2008, while the complainant was staying at her grandmother's house, Martin followed her into the bedroom and touched her breast underneath her bra. She initially said that he stopped and left when her sister came into the room to go to bed. On cross-examination, however, she said that he stayed in the room after her sister got in bed and resumed the inappropriate touching after her sister went to sleep. Also, she contradicted herself with regard to the timeframe, stating that this happened at the end of Spring 2008.
The complainant testified that, on a subsequent occasion at Don Martin's house, Martin joined her while she was in the shower. He pulled her towards him and his chest was touching her breasts. He asked if she wanted him to get out; he left when she said yes. She then finished her shower. When she went to the bedroom to get dressed, he was also getting dressed. At that moment, her sister called, asking to be picked up. After the phone call, Martin penetrated the complainant's vagina with his penis. This time he wore a condom. On cross-examination, the complainant said that she got dressed in the bedroom, whereas at the preliminary examination she said that she got dressed in the bathroom. Also, she said that Martin was in the kitchen when she initially entered the bedroom. She also stated that he stopped because of the phone call.
Toward the end of August 2008, the complainant went to a birthday party with Martin and then returned to Don Martin's house with him. She got in bed, and Martin joined her. She claimed that he then penetrated her vagina with his penis. Although she saw Martin after this incident, this was the last time the abuse occurred. The complainant had previously told Amy Allen of Care House that everything started after Martin moved in with Don Martin. She also told Allen that two of the rapes occurred in her bunk bed. The bunk bed arrived at Don Martin's house in August 2008.
In October 2008, the complainant told her boyfriend, CH, about what happened. Two days later, she told her best friend, OR, the full story as well. The complainant said that she finally told someone because she did not want to have to keep visiting Martin and did not want the same thing to happen to her sister. She could not explain why she waited until October. She said that OR told her she had to tell someone about the abuse. They decided to tell OR's mother, CR. CR is also the complainant's godmother. OR was the one that actually told CR about what happened, but the complainant responded to questions. The three of them then told the complainant's mother.
On cross-examination of the complainant, defense counsel established that she had incorrectly told her mother that all four incidents of intercourse happened at Don Martin's house. Further, defense counsel established that during the time period of the assaults, the complainant had visited Martin more often than she previously had. The two of them had done many activities together, such as going to Cedar Point and Michigan Adventure. Although the complainant claimed that she went to Don Martin's home to see her sister, she stayed even when her sister was not there. Also, the complainant chose to stay with Martin even though she had the option to go to her grandmother's house. The complainant had also testified on Martin's behalf when a personal protection order was sought regarding visitation rights for her sister.
Further, defense counsel established that, in October 2008, Martin had refused the complainant's request that she be put on his cell phone plan. She made her allegations of sexual abuse shortly after their argument. The complainant wanted to be on Martin's phone plan because it would have been easier and cheaper to talk to her friends. She claimed that he put her off, saying that he would wait to look at her grades. Despite this testimony, the complainant maintained that, other than the touching and rapes, there was nothing that was making her angry with Martin during the relevant period.
In his affidavit, Martin claimed that he agreed to put the complainant on the cell phone plan if her grades improved and she stopped seeing SC. Martin claimed that SC, 18 years old at the time, was having sexual relations with the complainant. Martin and the complainant got into numerous arguments over her relationship with SC. In the spring of 2008, Martin told the complainant that he did not approve of her seeing SC. In the summer of 2008, Martin again told the complainant not to see S.C. anymore. Martin also threatened to report S.C. to the police if the complainant did not stop seeing him. Martin made a similar threat at the end of the summer of 2008. Before trial, Martin sought to have evidence of the complainant's relationship with S.C. admitted into the record. But the trial court precluded the evidence on the basis of the rape shield law.
The complainant's mother testified that the complainant was upset and crying when she told her about what was happening with Martin. Her mother said that the complainant had told her that sexual intercourse had occurred on four occasions, each time at Don Martin's house. She said that during the relevant time period, the complainant would insist on going to Don Martin's home. The complainant never indicated that she did not want to go. After the complainant's disclosure regarding the abuse, her mother took her to see her pediatrician, Dr. Stacy Gorman.
Dr. Gorman testified that the complainant told her that Martin had forced her to have sexual intercourse four times since February 2008. Dr. Gorman took a patient history, which she said was necessary for treatment to know what happened and who was responsible. Dr. Gorman subsequently recommended counseling for the complainant. However, she did not perform a pelvic examination on the complainant. She explained that she did not perform a pelvic examination because the complainant had already had one in August 2008. Dr. Gorman further explained that she did not feel the need to repeat the exam because the complainant told her that August was the last time any sexual abuse had occurred.
After seeing Dr. Gorman, the complainant went to the Waterford Police Department and then to Care House, where Amy Allen conducted a forensic interview. Without objection, Allen was qualified as an expert in forensic interviewing, as well as on characteristics of children who report sexual abuse. Allen stated that she followed a forensic interviewing protocol that involved open-ended questions. In essence, she testified that it was not unusual for adolescents to delay reporting sexual abuse by a family member. Further, she said that it would not be unusual if one did not see outward signs of abuse. She also said it would not be unusual for a victim to show no fear. She explained that compliance might result because of the body's response to the abuse or because the child did not know how to make it stop. Allen also said that a child might return to the abuser because of a desire to protect someone else and might stay even if the person to be protected is not present because of compliance with the abuser. She explained that people change details when remembering traumatic events. Further, she said that a victim's motivating factor in reporting abuse was most often to make it stop, not trigger prosecution.
On cross-examination of Allen, defense counsel established that there were some similarities among child sexual abuse victims. Defense counsel further established that the complainant had not run away from home, did not use drugs, did not have poor hygiene, and was not underweight or overweight. Allen clarified, however, that an abused child could have really poor or extremely good hygiene, and really poor or extremely good grades. Allen did not know if the complainant suffered from low self-esteem. Defense counsel called into question that a 14-or 15-year-old child would withhold reporting abuse because he or she was close to independence. Further, defense counsel ascertained that Allen was not assessing truthfulness. Allen told the defense counsel that, in embellishing a story, a 15-year-old child would likely focus on what should have been done, like fighting the molester. Allen also acknowledged that inconsistent stories might result from blending events or from outright lying. Further, defense counsel established that Allen could not tell the difference between when a child was lying and when a child was changing the story based on more legitimate factors.
On a redirect examination, Allen testified that an investigator tries to develop alternative explanations for why a child is making the statement. She explained that when younger children are involved, an alleged touching could be for hygienic purposes. Allen did not speak to alternative hypotheses in this case. Yet, she explained that her team ruled out any alternative hypotheses for the complainant.

People v. Martin, No. 293129, 2011 WL 445806, at *1-4 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 8, 2011).

         Based on this evidence the jury found Petitioner guilty of the charges indicated above. After sentencing, Petitioner retained appellate counsel who filed a motion for new trial, asserting that Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of trial counsel. Among other arguments, the motion alleged that trial counsel ineffectively presented his pretrial motion to admit evidence of Samantha's sexual relationship with Steven and Petitioner's resultant threat. The motion also asserted that the trial testimony of Samantha's physician, Dr. Gorman, and the Care House worker, Amy Allen, created a new basis that defense counsel should have used to renew his motion for presentation of the defense evidence.

         On January 5, 2010, the trial court issued an opinion and order denying the motion for a new trial. The court found that trial counsel adequately and effectively presented his pretrial motion. In denying relief, the trial court suggested that it would have denied any renewed motion to admit the defense evidence, stating “[t]he Court ultimately denied the motion. The record shows that trial counsel made every effort to persuade the Court to admit evidence of Samantha's prior sexual conduct. Defendant has not shown seriously deficient conduct by his trial [counsel] and that he was prejudiced by the same.” Dkt. 6-19, at 2-3.

         Petitioner then filed a brief in the Michigan Court of Appeals, raising the following claims:

I. [Petitioner] was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel where defense counsel failed to litigate fully or properly request to introduce evidence excepted under the rape shield statute; where counsel failed to secure complainant's medical records; where counsel failed to secure the testimony of a responsive expert on the issue of the characteristics of child sexual abuse victims; and where counsel failed to object to inadmissible hearsay.
II. The trial court's pre- and post-trial rulings rejecting [Petitioner's] rape shield challenge were an abuse of discretion, and deprived [Petitioner] of his right to confront the witnesses and the right to present a defense, where the court excluded material evidence of the complainant's sexual history and motive to fabricate despite the prosecution's introduction of medical testimony of the complainant's earlier pelvic examination and expert testimony that the Care House “team” had ruled out alternative hypothesis for the complainant's allegations.
III. The trial court erroneously scored OV8, OV13, and PRV7, and also violated [Petitioner's] due process rights at sentencing by scoring the guidelines for reasons not proven to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt, in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion affirming Petitioner's convictions. Martin, 2011 WL 445806. With respect to Petitioner's first and second allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel, the court found that Petitioner failed to demonstrate deficient performance because “there is no indication that a renewed motion would have been successful. In fact, the trial court's opinion implies that it would have denied a renewed motion. Accordingly, defense counsel was not ineffective, either for his initial arguments or for failing to renew the motion.” Id., at *6. The court also rejected Petitioner's other claims of ineffective assistance of counsel on the merits. Id., at *6-8.

         With respect to Petitioner's right to present a defense claim, the court found that the defense evidence would have been barred by Michigan's rape-shield law: “While evidence of the complainant's sexual past may have developed an alternative hypothesis [for the complaint's claims against Petitioner], such evidence is precluded by the rape shield law, and Martin has failed to show sufficient cause to circumvent the statutory prohibition.” Martin, 2011 WL 445806, at *8.

         Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, raising the same claims. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the application because it was not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed. People v. Martin, 489 Mich. 975 (2011) (table).

         Petitioner then filed this action, raising the same three claims he presented to the state courts during his direct appeal. Respondent filed a responsive pleading. Neither party took notice of the fact that the trial court's pretrial order denying the motion to admit the defense evidence was denied without prejudice, or that the trial court stated that it would reconsider the matter during trial after the prosecutor rested. The Court issued an Opinion denying the petition on the merits, but it noted the mistaken assumption that the trial court had denied the pretrial motion with prejudice. See Dkt. 14.[2]

         Confronted with this new basis for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, i.e., counsel's failure to renew the motion because the trial court stated it was reserving its ruling, Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion to hold the case in abeyance so he could return to the state courts and present this new claim to the state courts. See Dkt. 15. The Court vacated the order denying the petition, and granted Petitioner's motion to hold the case in abeyance while he returned to state court. See Dkt. 19.

         Petitioner then returned to the state trial court and filed a motion for relief from judgment raising his new allegation of ineffective assistance of counsel. The trial court denied the motion on the basis of Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D)(2), finding that it could not review the claim because it had been raised on direct appeal. See Dkt. 24-4, at 2. The court reasoned:

During oral argument on the [pretrial] motion, defense counsel argued that complainant was sexually active with an older boy named “Steven, ” that because of Samantha's age it was illegal. In arguing the motion, defense counsel asserted that Defendant had confronted complainant about it and told her that if she did not stop having sex he would call the police, which created a motive for Samantha to lie. Defense counsel argued that Defendant's brother was prepared to testify that Defendant confronted complainant this way. The Court took the motion under advisement and later issued a written order denying the motion. The order stated that the ruling was “without prejudice. The Court will revisit the motion after hearing the prosecutor's evidence at trial.” defendant counsel did not request that the issue by revisited during trial.
In his appeal, Defendant argued he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel where defense counsel failed to litigate fully or properly a request to introduce evidence excepted under the rape shield statute. The Court of Appeals addressed this argument and found no merit. Defendant argued the defense counsel should have renewed the motion again following Dr. Gorman's and Amy Allen's testimonies. The Court of Appeals addressed this argument and found defense counsel was not ineffective either for his initial arguments or for failing to renew the motion. Thus, the ...

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