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Williams v. Campbell

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

September 6, 2017



          Sean F. Cox, U.S. District Judge.

         Anthony Lamar Williams, (“petitioner”), incarcerated at the Carson City Correctional Facility in Carson City, Michigan, seeks the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.§ 2254. In his pro se application, petitioner challenges his conviction for voluntary manslaughter, M.C.L.A. 750.321, larceny from a person, M.C.L.A. 750.357, possession of a firearm by a felon, M.C.L.A. 750.224f, felony-firearm, M.C.L.A. 750.227b, and being a third felony habitual offender, M.C.L.A. 769.11. For the reasons stated below, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Petitioner was originally charged with first-degree murder, larceny from a person, possession of a firearm by a felon, and felony-firearm. Following a preliminary examination, petitioner was bound over to the Wayne County Circuit Court on a reduced charge of second-degree murder and on the other charges. Petitioner was convicted following a jury trial of the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter and guilty as charged of the remaining offenses. This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts regarding petitioner's conviction from the Michigan Court of Appeals's opinion, which are presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See e.g., Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

Defendant shot and killed Cortez McCollum in the city of Detroit. Defendant does not dispute this fact. He claims that he acted in self-defense. Shayvonna Smith was the only known eyewitness. When she failed to appear at the preliminary examination, the prosecution obtained a material witness detainer in order to produce her at the rescheduled examination.
Defendant argues that, under the circumstances, the prosecution's efforts to produce Smith as a witness at trial fell short of due diligence. Therefore, defendant argues, Smith's prior testimony was improperly introduced at trial.
. . . .
Defendant's theory at trial was that he had acted in self-defense. Smith testified at the preliminary examination that the victim had initiated a physical fight with defendant by striking defendant with a glass bottle. According to Smith, it was only after being struck that defendant drew a gun and shot the victim.

People v. Williams, No. 310441, 2013 WL 3815633, at * 1-2 (Mich. Ct. App. July 23, 2013).

         Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id., lv. den. lv. Den. 495 Mich. 903, 839 N.W.2d 455 (Mich. 2013).

         Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, seeking habeas relief on the following grounds: I. Due diligence (abuse of discretion); and II. Sixth Amendment constitutional right to confrontation.

         The petition was dismissed without prejudice, because petitioner had failed to properly exhaust his second claim alleging a violation of the Confrontation Clause with the state courts. Williams v. Rapelje, No. 2:14-CV-10408, 2014 WL 4537438 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 11, 2014).

         Petitioner filed a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment, which was denied. People v. Williams, No. 12-000747-FC (Third Jud.Cir.Ct., Mar. 20, 2015). The Michigan appellate courts denied petitioner leave to appeal. People v. Williams, No. 328905 (Mich.Ct.App. Nov. 4, 2015); lv. Den. 499 Mich. 968, 880 N.W.2d 538 (2016).

         This Court granted petitioner's motion to reopen the case and to file an amended petition. Williams v. Campbell, No. 2:14-CV-10408, 2017 WL 895818 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 6, 2017).

         In his amended habeas petition, petitioner seeks relief on the following grounds:

I. Whether or not petitioner was denied his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment when counsel failed to do a thorough pretrial investigation which would have led to the discovery of additional witnesses that supported petitioner's theory of defense [self-defense]; counsel's failure to investigate was a miscarriage of justice and denied petitioner right to a fair trial. Thus due process of law. U.S. Const. Ams. VI, XIV.
II. Whether or not petitioner was deprived of counsel where the Wayne County [Circuit Court]'s unconstitutional practice of assigning counsel on the exact same day of the preliminary examination, which has already been federally condemned, constitutes a state impediment to the effective assistance of counsel and effectively served to constructively deprive petitioner of his right to counsel at all critical stages of the judicial proceedings, where due to the appointment on the same day of the preliminary examination counsel did not have the opportunity to meaningfully consult with his client, to receive necessary discovery, and to prepare for the case either factually or legally requiring automatic reversal because structural error resulted, appellate counsel was ineffective where counsel failed and/or refused to file this issue as a supplemental issue on direct appeal. U.S. Const. Ams. VI, XIV.
III. Whether or not petitioner was denied his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to effective assistance of counsel during the plea bargaining phase proceedings. U.S. Const. Ams. VI, XIV.
IV. Whether or not petitioner was denied effective assistance of appellate counsel for failure to raise obvious stronger issues that can be considered “dead-bang” winners, thus entitling petitioner to a new appeal of right.
V. Whether or not petitioner is entitled to a new trial where the trial court abused its discretion in finding due diligence as to Ms. Smith, a res gestae witness, thus permitting admission of her previous testimony.

         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)(citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). The Supreme Court has emphasized “that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id. at 102 (citing Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)).

         Furthermore, pursuant to § 2254(d), “a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or...could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision” of the Supreme Court. Id.

         “[I]f this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 102. Although 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the AEDPA, does not completely bar federal courts from relitigating claims that have previously been rejected in the state courts, it preserves the authority for a federal court to grant habeas relief only “in cases where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with” the Supreme Court's precedents. Id. Indeed, “Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a ‘guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, ' not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.” Id. at 102-03 (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332, n. 5 (1979))(Stevens, J., concurring in judgment)). Therefore, 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.

         III. ...

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