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Smith v. Hoffner

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

November 28, 2017

Kahri Smith, Petitioner,
v.
Bonita Hoffner, Respondent.

          Anthony P. Patti Mag. Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF

          JUDITH E. LEVY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         APPEALABILITY

         Michigan prisoner Kahri Smith (“Petitioner”) filed this habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner, who is proceeding pro se, was convicted of second-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.317, and sentenced to 20 to 40 years imprisonment. Petitioner seeks habeas relief on the ground that he was denied his right to present a defense and to a fair trial when the trial court barred presentation of a self-defense theory in the case.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court denies the petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Court also denies a certificate of appealability.

         I. Background

         Petitioner's convictions arise from the beating death of Petitioner's uncle, Eric Smith. The Michigan Court of Appeals summarized the evidence adduced at trial leading to Petitioner's convictions as follows:

On August 4, 2010, defendant beat his uncle, Eric Smith, to death. Smith had locked defendant out of his house and defendant was attempting to break in to Smith's house. While Smith was telephoning people requesting help, defendant kicked in a basement window, and then he kicked in a door, entered Smith's house, and beat him in the head and face. When Smith's son and daughter arrived minutes later, they found Smith bleeding from his face and unconscious near an open side door to the house. When Smith's son asked defendant what happened to his dad, defendant answered: “I killed that motherfucker.” Smith was taken to the hospital where he died.
The medical examiner testified that Smith died from several blunt-force head wounds. Smith had two black eyes, abrasions on his forehead, and both ears were bruised and had extensive swelling. He also had bruises on the top of both shoulders and on the backs of both wrists. The mucous membranes in Smith's mouth had multiple tears. An internal examination revealed that Smith had extensive hemorrhagic infiltration of the soft tissues of the scalp, his brain was extensively swollen, and he had a subdural hemorrhage, as well as multiple patches of hemorrhage scattered throughout the surface of his brain. The medical examiner testified that Smith's injuries were consistent with being struck by fists and that Smith “suffered extensive blows throughout the left side of his head.” Defendant's defense to the charge was legal insanity, which the jury rejected. Defendant had requested a self-defense jury instruction, which the trial court denied.

People v. Smith, No. 309407, 2013 WL 6670897, *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec.17, 2013).

         Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, raising claims that the trial court denied him his right to present a defense and that the trial court incorrectly scored several offense variables. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied Petitioner's application for leave to appeal “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” People v. Smith, No. 309407 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 28, 2012). Petitioner then filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court. The Michigan Supreme Court, in lieu of granting leave to appeal, remanded the case to the Michigan Court of Appeals for further consideration. People v Smith, 494 Mich. 874 (2013).

         On remand, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction, but vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. People v. Smith, No. 309407, 2013 WL 6670897 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 17, 2013). Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, raising the claim that he was denied his right to present a defense. The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. People v. Smith, 496 Mich. 859 (2014). On July 30, 2014, Petitioner was resentenced in the trial court. The trial court imposed the same sentence of 20 to 40 years imprisonment.

         Petitioner then filed this habeas corpus petition. He raises a single claim:

The trial court reversibly erred in barring the defense from presenting a self-defense theory in the case, and thus effectively precluding any request for an instruction on that defense theory, contrary to Mr. Smith's ...

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