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Morrell v. McCullick

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

November 16, 2017

RONALD MORRELL, Petitioner,
v.
MARK McCULLICK, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) GRANTING THE MOTION TO AMEND THE HABEAS PETITION, (2) HOLDING IN ABEYANCE THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND (3) ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSING THE CASE

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Ronald Morrell, (“Petitioner”), filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction for one count of armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529; four counts of unlawful imprisonment, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.349b; one count of first-degree home invasion, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.110a(2); one count of larceny of a firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.357b; one count of larceny in a building, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.360; five counts of felonious assault, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.82; and thirteen counts of felony firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b.

         Petitioner has also filed several lengthy pleadings in addition to his original petition, which are construed as a motion to amend the habeas petition to add additional claims. The motion to amend the petition is GRANTED. The amended petition appears to raise new claims that have yet to be exhausted with the state courts. In lieu of dismissing the petition without prejudice, this Court holds the petition in abeyance and stays the proceedings under the terms outlined in this opinion to permit petitioner to return to the state courts to exhaust his additional claims. If this fails, the petition will be dismissed without prejudice.

         I. Background

         Petitioner pleaded nolo contendere in the Livingston County Circuit Court and was sentenced to prison. Petitioner's conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. People v. Morrell, No. 330591 (Mich.Ct.App. Mar. 29, 2016); lv. den. 500 Mich. 868 (2016).

         Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, seeking relief on the following grounds:

I. Trial court violated constitutional due process by refusal to allow plea withdrawal.
II. Petitioner's sentencing range was incorrectly scored.
III. Inaccurate and biased pre-sentencing report which prejudices Petitioner.

         II. Discussion

         A. The motion to amend the petition for writ of habeas corpus is GRANTED.

         Petitioner has filed several pleadings in addition to his original habeas petition. (Docs. # 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11). These pleadings all contain lengthy factual allegations and legal arguments by petitioner that not only buttress the three claims raised by petitioner in his initial petition, but also appear to advance new claims. Petitioner appears to be raising the following claims in these pleadings: (1) Petitioner's confession was involuntary because he was under the influence of drugs, was denied medical care, and the police threatened to kill his wife and children, (2) prosecutorial misconduct, (3) the police and prosecutor brought false charges against petitioner, (4) petitioner was forced by his trial counsel into pleading nolo contendere, (5) ineffective assistance of trial counsel, in that counsel failed to locate evidence of petitioner's innocence, (6) trial counsel had a conflict of interest with petitioner in that he was working in collusion with the prosecutor and police, (7) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, (8) the judge conspired with the police, and (9) transcripts of the proceedings were altered or falsified.

         Petitioner did not separately list all of these claims for relief in his original petition, as required by Rule 2© of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254. However, the appropriate liberal construction of a pro se habeas petition, even though it is vague and conclusory, requires active interpretation in some cases to construe a pro se petition to encompass any allegation which may state a ground for federal relief. See Franklin v. Rose, 765 F.2d 82, 84-85 (6th Cir. 1985). A habeas petitioner's “undeveloped allegations” of constitutional error may be sufficient to alert a district court to the petitioner's intention to raise additional claims. Id., at 85.

         Petitioner's lengthy and detailed pleadings raise several new claims alleging serious constitutional error. These are not passing references to possible constitutional violations but extended and repeated allegations by petitioner concerning these new claims. This Court is willing to construe these pleadings as a motion to amend the petition to add these new claims. The proposed amended habeas petition should be granted because it ...


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