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Parks v. Warren

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

September 28, 2017

CURTIS PARKS, Petitioner,
v.
MILLICENT WARREN, Respondent.

          CHARLES E. BINDER MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS (AFTER REMAND)

          DAVID M. LAWSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case is before the Court once again, this time after remand by the court of appeals. The Court had denied the petition, addressing primarily the question whether a computer glitch by the Kent County, Michigan jury clerk resulting in systematic exclusion of minority jurors from the jury pool denied the petitioner his right to a jury composed of a fair cross-section of the community, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Parks v. Warren, 773 F.Supp.2d 715 (E.D. Mich. 2011), on reconsideration in part, No. 05-10036, 2011 WL 5838486 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 21, 2011), abrogated by Garcia-Dorantes v. Warren, 978 F.Supp.2d 815 (E.D. Mich. 2013), vacated No. 11-2531 (6th Cir. Feb. 18, 2014). The Court also rejected the petitioner's challenge to the prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges of minority jurors asserted under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).

         When addressing the petitioner's fair cross-section claim, this Court held that such a defect amounted to a structural error, absolving the petitioner of the obligation to prove prejudice. The Court denied the claim nonetheless, because the statistical evidence failed to show that “the representation of [the excluded] group in venires from which juries are selected is not fair and reasonable in relation to the number of such persons in the community.” Parks, 773 F.Supp.2d at 727 (quoting Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357, 364 (1979)). Since that time, however, the court of appeals has held that even if the Kent County aberration, which was addrressed in other federal habeas cases as well, was a structural error, a habeas petitioner must show prejudice to overcome a procedural-default defense asserted by the state. See Ambrose v. Booker, 684 F.3d 638, 649 (6th Cir. 2012). The court of appeals remanded this case so this Court could address the issue of prejudice. The court of appeals also observed that when considering the petitioner's Batson issue, this court overlooked a voir dire transcript that was in the record. The remand instruction allowed this Court to “consider any arguments Parks may wish to make” on that issue.

         The Court has reviewed the record and concludes that no prejudice has been demonstrated that would entitle the petitioner to habeas relief on his fair cross-section argument. The Court also has reviewed the voir dire transcript and finds no merit in the Batson issue. Therefore, the petition for writ of habeas corpus will be denied.

         I

         The petitioner did not raise either his fair cross-section claim or his Batson challenge in the state trial court, and therefore the issue of procedural default was central to this Court's previous decisions. A procedural default is “a critical failure to comply with state procedural law.” Trest v. Cain, 522 U.S. 87, 89 (1997). It will bar consideration of the merits of a federal claim if the state rule is actually enforced and is an adequate and independent ground for the state court's decision. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991); Monzo v. Edwards, 281 F.3d 568, 576 (6th Cir. 2002). A procedural default can be excused by a showing of cause and prejudice. Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750. The Court has found cause to excuse the petitioner's lack of objection to the fair cross-section claim, and there is no reason to revisit that determination. To show prejudice, the petitioner must show that a “careful review of [the] trial record indicates that there is a reasonable probability that a different jury would have reached a different result.” Ambrose, 684 F.3d at 649 (citing Francis v. Henderson, 425 U.S. 536 (1976)); id. at 598, 599 n.8 (“The question is not whether the petitioner missed his chance to stand trial before a more merciful jury panel or a panel with a particular racial balance, but rather whether there is a reasonable probability that a different jury would have reached a different result.” (quotations omitted)). “The most important aspect to the inquiry is the strength of the case against the defendant.” Id. at 593. If the Court finds that the trial record shows “a case against [the petitioner] so strong, and [a] defense so weak, that [it would be] highly improbable that an unbiased jury could acquit, ” then “actual prejudice would not be shown.” Id. at 593-94 (quotations and citations omitted).

         The proper determination of prejudice, therefore, requires a review of the trial evidence.

         II.

         The essence of the case is a charge of sexual assault by the petitioner. The victim, Beverly Jefferson, claimed that the petitioner penetrated her three times against her will, and the petitioner asserted that the sexual encounter was consensual in exchange for money. A Kent County, Michigan jury rejected the petitioner's version and convicted him. The petitioner was sentenced on November 29, 2001 to a prison term of fifteen to forty years. He was released on parole on April 21, 2016, and his term of supervised release presently is set to end on April 21, 2018.

         A. Beverly Jefferson

         At trial, complainant Beverly Jefferson testified that, on the morning of April 22, 2001, she was roused from bed by a loud knock at her door. Trial Tr. Vol. II at 56 (Oct. 16, 2001) (Pg ID 246). Jefferson opened the door and encountered a man, whom she had not met before and did not recognize, but whom she identified at trial as Parks, who asked to use her phone. Id. at 57, 63. Jefferson allowed the man to enter, and directed him to a sofa in the front room, where he sat down and made two calls. Id. at 57-58.

         After Parks finished using the phone, Jefferson told him it was time for him to leave, and in response Parks “stood up, and he came around [the] coffee table, and he hit [Jefferson] in the mouth.” Id. at 60. Jefferson fell down between the sofa and a chair, and Parks then hit her again. Ibid. Jefferson asked Parks if he was going to rape her, and Parks responded by telling her to take off her pants, or he would hit her again. Id. at 60-61. Parks took a condom out of his pocket, told Jefferson to lay on the floor, and proceeded to rape her. Id. at 61.

         After Parks was done, Jefferson asked if she could go to the bathroom and if Parks would help her up from the floor. Id. at 61-62. Parks then followed Jefferson through the kitchen toward the bathroom, and on her way through the kitchen Jefferson grabbed a knife and “ran at him with it.” Id. at 62. Parks ran into the bedroom as Jefferson pursued him with the knife, telling him repeatedly to leave. Id. at 62-63. Parks seized a laundry basket full of clothes from the bedroom and used it to fend off Jefferson's advance by swinging the basket around until the clothes flew out and the handle broke off the basket. Id. at 63-64. At some point the two wound up back in the front room, where Parks told Jefferson he was not going to leave, and that he would break her TV and VCR. Id. at 64-65. Jefferson then desisted and put down the knife, because she did not want Parks to further ravage her home. Id. at 65.

         Parks then told Jefferson to give him the knife, which she did, and then he told her to go to the bedroom, where he had sex with her again and made her perform oral sex on him. Id. at 65-67. While they were in the bedroom, Parks told Jefferson, “I've been watching you a long time, ” and “I really like you.” Id. at 67. Parks then fell into a state of half-sleep on the bed, nodding in and out, with the knife still in his hand. Id. at 68. Eventually Parks fell fully asleep and the knife slipped out of his hand, at which point Jefferson seized the knife, went to the front room, dialed 911, told the police she had been raped, and asked them to send an officer immediately. Id. at 68-69.

         While she waited for the police, Jefferson heard Parks begin to rouse, and she called back and asked the police to hurry because the man who had raped her still was in her house and was waking up. Id. at 69-70. Before the police arrived, Parks woke up, came out to the front room, and told Jefferson to get on the floor, where he proceeded to rape her again. Id. at 70-71. Jefferson heard police coming up the stairs to her door, and she began screaming, but Parks held his hand over her mouth in an attempt to silence her. Id. at 71. The police then kicked in the door and ordered Parks to get off of Jefferson and get down on the ground. Id. at 71. After Parks was arrested by the police, Jefferson was taken to the emergency room where she received stitches to close two injuries to her inner and outer lip. Id. at 73.

         B. Police and Medical Treaters

         Grand Rapids Police Officer Michael LaFave testified that he was dispatched to Jefferson's home around 8:50 p.m., in response to a report of a rape that had just occurred. Trial Tr. Vol. II at 128-29 (Oct. 16, 2001) (Pg ID 264-65). LaFave was on patrol less than a block away from Jefferson's residence, and it took him less than a minute to arrive. Ibid. When he arrived, he walked up the stairs and knocked on the door. Id. at 129. LaFave heard “some bumping around” inside the apartment, and “a female inside called to [him]” and told him to come in. Ibid. LaFave tried the door, but it was locked; when he yelled that the door was locked and he could not enter, the female “tried to scream, a real terrified scream, ” and again told him to come in. Ibid. LaFave then kicked in the door and, upon entering the apartment, saw Jefferson on her back on the floor and Parks on his knees over her, with his pants around his knees, “doing something sexual.” Ibid. Parks stood up and lunged at LaFave, who drew his weapon and ordered Parks to get on the ground; Parks looked at LaFave, and then complied. Id. at 129-30.

         Crime scene technician Julie Chan testified that she was dispatched to Jefferson's apartment around 9:00 a.m. on the morning following the incident. Trial Tr. Vol. III at 22-23 (Oct. 17, 2001) (Pg ID 274). Jefferson was still in the apartment when Chan arrived. Id. at 24. Chan photographed the scene and Jefferson's injuries, and she collected a knife from the scene after Jefferson pulled back a rug and showed Chan where it was. Id. at 23-24. Chan also collected what appeared to be a used condom, and she dusted the knife and a fan that she found on the bed in the bedroom for fingerprints. Id. at 24-27. Jefferson stated that she did not know how the fan got on the bed. Id. at 25. Chan did not find any fingerprints on the knife, but she testified that prints she lifted from the fan matched the petitioner. Id. at 26-27.

         Emergency room doctor Brian Buller testified that he treated Jefferson around 9:55 a.m. on the morning following the incident for a laceration on the inside of her left upper lip, which required stitches to close. Trial Tr. Vol III. at 11-13 (Oct. 17, 2001) (Pg ID 271). Buller stated that the injury appeared to him to be less than twelve hours old. Id. at 12.

         Sexual assault nurse Suzanne Reiter saw Jefferson at her office around 11:00 a.m. on the morning following the incident. Trial Tr. Vol. II at 38 (Oct. 16, 2001) (Pg ID 242). She noted injuries to Jefferson's mouth that appeared to be “very fresh.” Id. at 39. Reiter examined Jefferson and noted multiple abrasions and lacerations around her genitalia and anus; she observed that one of the lacerations still was bleeding. Id. at 41. Reiter testified based on her experience that the injuries were ...


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