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Stanton v. Palmer

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

December 12, 2017

CARMEN PALMER, Respondent.




         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner Kendrick Deon Stanton is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections at the Michigan Reformatory (RMI) in Ionia, Michigan. On December 15, 2009, a Saginaw County Circuit Court jury found Petitioner guilty of torture, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.85, unlawful imprisonment, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.349b, felon in possession of a firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224f, and felony firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. On January 12, 2010, the court sentenced Petitioner to concurrent prison terms of 375 months to 50 years for the torture conviction, 150 months to 30 years for the unlawful imprisonment conviction and 43 months to 10 years for the firearm possession conviction. Petitioner was also ordered to serve two years of imprisonment for felony firearm, consecutive to his other sentences.

         Petitioner has filed a habeas corpus petition raising four grounds for relief, as follows:

I. Did the trial court err when it found that the rape-shield statute prevented the admission of any evidence of Ms. Hahn's previous sexual relationships with Mr. Stanton's co-defendants, in violation of his constitutional right to confrontation.
II. Did the trial court err when it overruled the hearsay objection made by trial counsel to testimony from the complainant's mother as to an out-of-court statement by the complainant that corroborated her trial allegations.
III. Mr. Stanton was denied a fair trial by the admission of testimony from a witness who was not qualified to testify as an expert because the defense was not allowed to voir dire the witness, and the jury was not made aware of the witness' qualification to testify as an expert.
IV. Mr. Stanton was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel on appeal in violation of his due process of law here counsel failed to effectively argue issue on appeal that had merit in addition to those that were raised.

         (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.4-8.) Respondent has filed an answer to the petition (ECF No. 10) stating that the grounds should be denied because they all lack merit and habeas issue III has been procedurally defaulted. Upon review and applying the standards of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (AEDPA), I find that the grounds lack merit. Accordingly, I recommend that the petition be denied.


         I. Factual allegations

         A. According to the victim

         On October 22, 2008, Shari Hahn, Petitioner's former girlfriend, went with a group of friends to the home of Petitioner's new girlfriend, Valerie Ruiz, at 409 Saginaw St, Saginaw, Michigan. (Trial Tr. I, ECF No. 11-12, PageID.506-508.) She arrived at Ms. Ruiz's home with Dezarick Henderson, Glenn O'Neal, and Oscar (last name unknown). (Id., PageID.508.) Petitioner, Jennifer Thompson, Kijuan Tolliver, and Valerie Ruiz arrived later. (Id.)

         At some point in the evening, Ms. Hahn stepped in some dog feces in the home. She inadvertently tracked it around the house. (Id., PageID.508-509.) Petitioner was angry at Ms. Hahn for messing up the carpets. (Id., PageID.509.) Later in the evening, Petitioner informed the group that some money and a ring belonging to Ms. Ruiz were missing. (Id.) Petitioner took Ms. Hahn into a different room and directed her to remove her clothing. (Id.) He searched the clothing, but did not discover the money or the ring. (Id., PageID.510.) Ms. Hahn got dressed and returned to the living room. (Id.)

         As Ms. Hahn sat in the living room, Petitioner picked up a telephone book and hit her across the head a few times. (Id.) Ms. Hahn attempted to dial 9-1-1, but Petitioner took her cell phone. (Id.) Ms. Hahn attempted to leave, but she only was a little ways outside the home before O'Neal dragged her back into the house. (Id., PageID.510-511.) Shortly thereafter, Jennifer, Oscar, and Kijuan left, leaving Ms. Hahn with only Petitioner, Henderson, and O'Neal. (Id., PageID.511.)

         Petitioner threw Ms. Hahn to the floor and dragged her by her hair to a bedroom. (Id.) Petitioner again directed Ms. Hahn to disrobe. (Id.) She was struck with a belt and a broomstick and threatened with a steak knife and a gun. (Id., PageID.512-513.) Petitioner poked Ms. Hahn with the knife until she bled. (Id.) Petitioner sprayed a chemical substance, waterproofer for shoes, into her eyes. (Id.) O'Neal and Henderson held Ms. Hahn down as Petitioner penetrated her vagina with the broomstick. (Id., PageID.513.) Later, Petitioner tried to suffocate her with a plastic bag and tried to choke her. (Id., PageID.513-514.)

         When Petitioner was done, he told O'Neal and Henderson they could do what they wanted with Ms. Hahn. (Id., PageID.514-515.) O'Neal penetrated Ms. Hahn orally with his penis while Henderson penetrated her vagina from behind with his penis. (Id., PageID.515.) After a time they switched positions. (Id.)

         Eventually they left Ms. Hahn alone in the room. (Id.) She stayed until about noon the next day. (Id., PageID.516-517, 527.) At that point the men permitted her to leave. (Id., PageID.517) She rode her bicycle to a telephone and called her mother. (Id.) Her mother picked her up and took her home, called the police, and then took Ms. Hahn to the hospital. (Id.)

         B. According to Petitioner

         Petitioner's testimony was consistent with Ms. Hahn's with respect to many of the events of the evening, including Ms. Hahn's claim that Petitioner hit her with the telephone book, the broomstick, and one or more belts. (Trial Tr. III, ECF No. 11-14, PageID.617-624.) Petitioner denied dragging Ms. Hahn into the backroom by her hair, threatening her with a gun or a knife, poking her with a knife, or penetrating her vagina with the broomstick. (Id., PageID.625, 629-630.) Petitioner denied holding her in the house against her will. (Id., Page 628.) Petitioner also claimed that any sexual activity between O'Neal, Henderson, and Ms. Hahn was consensual. (Id., PageID.626-628.)

         C. Other witnesses

         The jury also heard testimony from several other witnesses. Ms. Hahn's mother testified that she picked up Ms. Hahn after her phone call, spoke with her about the events of the prior evening, called the police, and took her to the hospital. (Trial Tr. II, ECF No. 11-13, PageID.556-558.) Several police officers testified. Officer Frederick Mata testified that he was dispatched to the hospital to meet Ms. Hahn. (Id., PageID.559.) Based on what she told him, he obtained and executed a search warrant for the home at 409 Saginaw. (Id.) Other officers testified regarding the search of the home and evidence seized, the CSC kit, and the collection of Petitioner's fingerprints. (Id., PageID.561-569.) The jury heard from a latent print examiner from the Michigan State Police laboratory that Petitioner's prints were on the broomstick. (Id., PageID.570-571.) Michigan State Police laboratory civilian employee Jodi Corsi testified regarding the collection of DNA samples from the CSC kit. (Id., PageID.572-573.) On cross- examination, Petitioner's counsel asked Ms. Corsi whether she tested the knife or gun for the presence of blood. (Id., PageID.573.) She testified that she did not find blood on either item. (Id.) On redirect, Ms. Corsi testified further that washing the knife would decrease the possibility of finding evidence on it. (Id., PageID.574.)

         Michigan State Police laboratory employee Shannon Aho testified regarding the DNA analysis of the evidence collected. (Id., PageID.574-577.) She reported that DNA taken from the threaded end of the broom stick was likely Ms. Hahn's. (Id., PageID.576.) Finally, Registered Nurse Mary Conley testified regarding her examination of Ms. Hahn and her collection of the CSC kit evidence from Ms. Hahn. On cross-examination, Petitioner's counsel asked Ms. Conley to differentiate, in the pictures from her examination of Ms. Hahn, older injuries from recent injuries. (Id., PageId.581) She concluded that the bruising appeared recent. (Id., PageId.581-582.)

         D. The verdict

         With respect to each of the principal charges (torture, first-degree CSC, and kidnapping), the trial court instructed the jury on lesser included offenses as well as the main charge. With respect to torture, the court also provided an instruction on assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.84. (Trial Tr. IV, ECF No. 11-15, PageID.672.) With respect to first degree CSC, the court also provided an instruction on third-degree CSC, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520d. (Id., PageID.673.) With respect to kidnapping, the court also provided an instruction on unlawful imprisonment, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.349b. (Id., PageID.673-674.)

         The jury's verdict suggests that they believed Ms. Hahn at least in part. They found Petitioner guilty of torture, felon in possession of a firearm, and felony firearm. (Id., PageID.676.) But, it appears they believed Petitioner with regard to some of his testimony because they found Petitioner not guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, even though Ms. Hahn's DNA was found on the threaded end of the broomstick, and reduced the kidnapping charge to unlawful imprisonment. (Id.) On January 12, 2010, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to the terms of imprisonment outlined above. (Sentencing Tr., ECF No. 11-16.)

         E. Post-judgment proceedings

         Petitioner, with the assistance of appointed counsel, filed an appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals raising two issues: habeas issues I and II above, regarding the trial court's refusal to permit the admission of evidence regarding Ms. Hahn's previous sexual relationships with O'Neal and Henderson under the Rape-Shield statute, and permitting the admission of hearsay testimony from Ms. Hahn's mother regarding what Ms. Hahn told her mother about the incident. (Appeal Br., ECF No. 11-19, PageID.747.) By unpublished opinion dated November 22, 2011, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court as to both issues. (Mich. Ct. App. Op., ECF No. 11-19, PageID.740-743.) Petitioner raised the same two issues in his application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court. (Appl. for Leave to Appeal, ECF No. 11-20, PageID.802.) That court denied leave by order entered April 23, 2012. (Mich. Ord., ECF No. 11-20, PageID.791.)

         Petitioner did not file a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.3.) Instead, he returned to the trial court and filed a motion for relief from judgment raising two new issues: habeas issues III and IV, regarding the erroneous admission of opinion testimony from a lay witness and the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to raise that issue on direct appeal. (Mot. for Relief from J., ECF No. 11-17, PageID.707.) The trial court denied relief on the merits. (Saginaw Cty. Cir. Ct. Ord., ECF No. 11-18.) Petitioner sought leave to appeal that decision in the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court. (Pro Per Appl. for Leave to Appeal, ECF No. 11-21, PageID.834-840; Pro Per Appl. for Leave to Appeal, ECF No. 11-22, PageID.892-899.) Those courts denied leave by orders entered July 3, 2013 and December 23, 2013, respectively. (Mich. Ct. App. Ord., ECF No. 11-21, PageID.829; Mich. Ord, ECF No. 11-22, PageID.891.)

         Petitioner filed this habeas petition on June 27, 2014. (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.10.)

         II. AEDPA standard

         The AEDPA “prevents federal habeas ‘retrials'” and ensures that state court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under the law. Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693-94 (2002). An application for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person who is incarcerated pursuant to a state conviction cannot be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudication: “(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 upon an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). This standard is “intentionally difficult to meet.” Woods v. Donald, 575 U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 1372');">135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (internal quotation omitted).

         The AEDPA limits the source of law to cases decided by the United States Supreme Court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). This Court may consider only the “clearly established” holdings, and not the dicta, of the Supreme Court. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000); Bailey v. Mitchell, 271 F.3d 652, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). In determining whether federal law is clearly established, the Court may not consider the decisions of lower federal courts. Lopez v. Smith, 135 S.Ct. 1, 3 (2014); Bailey, 271 F.3d at 655. Moreover, “clearly established Federal law” does not include decisions of the Supreme Court announced after the last adjudication of the merits in state court. Greene v. Fisher, 565 U.S. 34 (2011). Thus, the inquiry is limited to an examination of the legal landscape as it would have ...

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