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Carr v. Romanowski

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

November 27, 2017

LEONDRE CARR, Petitioner,
v.
KENNETH ROMANOWSKI, Respondent.

          R. Steven Whalen Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION AND DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS [1] AND DENYING AS MOOT PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR ORAL ARGUMENT [23]

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Leondre Carr and Reshia Fitzpatrick had a brief relationship. Fitzpatrick later gave birth to Carr's son. But soon after, Fitzpatrick started dating Dominque Wallace. After Fitzpatrick, Wallace, and Carr spent part of a day visiting with Fitzpatrick's children, an argument broke out. As Wallace's father drove Wallace and Fitzpatrick away, Carr allegedly opened fire on their car with a semi-automatic rifle. Wallace was killed and Fitzpatrick injured.

         A jury convicted Carr of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility for parole. After exhausting his direct appeals, Carr petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus. As the Court will explain, his claims are without merit.

         I.

         In 2009, Wallace was dating Fitzpatrick, Carr's ex-girlfriend and the mother of Carr's son.[1]On the day of the murder, Wallace was at Fitzpatrick's home playing with her children. Carr and two friends arrived to visit with Carr's then-infant son. (R. 17, PID 953-54.) The visit turned sour. About an hour after Carr arrived, Fitzpatrick's mother says she heard voices escalating, and believing an argument was brewing, asked everyone to leave. (R. 17, PID 957-58.) Carr and his two friends left the house first. (R. 17, PID 462-63.) Wallace called his father, Shaun, for a ride home, and Fitzpatrick walked across the street to her grandfather's house. (R. 17, PID 959-60.)

         As Fitzpatrick went across the street, she saw Carr and his two friends walking down the block. The three men reached the end of the block and remained there. (R.17, PID 549.) Wallace's father arrived and Wallace and Fitzpatrick got into his car. As Wallace's father pulled away, Wallace was shot in the head, and he died three days later. (R. 17, PID 584-85, 588.)

         The state charged Carr with killing Wallace. A jury convicted Carr of first-degree murder, two counts of assault with intent to murder, and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. (R. 1, PID 1.) He is currently serving a life sentence without the opportunity for parole.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Carr's convictions. People v. Carr, No. 302370, 2012 Mich.App. LEXIS 1850 (Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 25, 2012). The Michigan Supreme Court denied Carr's application for leave to appeal. (R. 17, PID 1432.)

         Carr then filed, pro se, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (R. 1.) Carr attacks the constitutionality of his sentence on five grounds. He raises three instances of ineffective assistance of counsel and contends two structural errors occurred during his trial. The state responded to Carr's petition (R. 16), and through counsel, Carr filed a reply (R. 21). The Court will address each of Carr's claims, though, to ease the analysis, not in the order he presents them.

         II.

         The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) restricts a federal court's power to grant habeas corpus relief to state prisoners. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). AEDPA “demonstrates Congress's intent to channel prisoners' claims first into state courts.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011). And for that reason, where a state court adjudicates a petitioner's claims “on the merits” relief shall not be granted unless the adjudication “(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, ” 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). AEDPA's “difficult to meet” standard allows a federal court to grant relief only “in cases where there is no possibility fair minded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [Supreme Court] precedents.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011).

         III.

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