United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND
DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
prisoner Deshawn Starks seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the
grounds that he is being held in violation of his
constitutional rights. He pleaded no contest to three counts
of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in the Wayne County
Circuit Court and in 2014 he was sentenced to concurrent
terms of 45 to 90 years imprisonment. In his petition, he
challenges the voluntariness of his plea and the
effectiveness of trial counsel. For the reasons below, the
Court will deny the petition for a writ of habeas corpus,
deny a certificate of appealability, and deny leave to
proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.
Facts and Procedural History
convictions arise from his sexual assaults upon three
different women in Detroit, Michigan in 2003. DNA evidence
linked Starks to all three crimes. He was charged with
multiple offenses arising from the incidents, as well as a
fourth incident, and the case was assigned to Wayne County
Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny. During a pre-trial conference
before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway on
February 18, 2014, the prosecution offered Starks a plea
bargain: he would plead guilty to three counts of
first-degree criminal sexual conduct in exchange for the
dismissal of the other charges and a sentencing agreement of
28 to 50 years imprisonment. Starks declined the offer and
confirmed his decision on the record. See 2/18/14
Pre-Trial Hrg. Tr., pp. 4-6 (ECF 10-6, PgID 114-16). Defense
counsel stated on the record that Starks had previously
declined a plea bargain before Judge Kenny in which he would
plead guilty to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual
conduct in exchange for dismissal of the other charges and a
sentencing agreement of 30 to 50 years imprisonment.
Id. at 6 (PgID 116). On February 19, 2014, the day
set for trial, Starks pleaded no contest to three counts of
first-degree criminal sexual conduct in exchange for the
dismissal of the other charges, but with no sentencing
agreement. See 2/19/14 Plea Hrg. Tr., pp. 3-17 (ECF
10-7, PgID 120-134). During those proceedings, the trial
court advised Starks that the first-degree criminal sexual
conduct convictions could result in a life sentence and that
he was subject to a habitual-offender enhancement which might
increase the guideline range for his minimum sentence.
Id. at 5 (PgID 122). The trial court advised Starks
about the details of the plea agreement. Starks confirmed
that he understood the terms of the agreement and that no
other promises had been made to him. Id. at 6-8
(PgID 123-25). Starks acknowledged that it was his decision
to tender the plea and that no one had coerced him into doing
so. Id. at 10-11 (PgID 127-28).
March 10, 2014, the trial court conducted a sentencing
hearing. At that hearing, the trial court determined that the
minimum sentence guideline range was 270 to 675 months for
one count and 270 to 900 months for the other two counts.
See 3/10/14 Sent. Hrg. Tr., pp. 13-14, 16 (ECF 10-8,
PgID 150-51, 153). The prosecution requested a minimum
sentence at the top of the guideline range (75 years).
Id. at 17-18 (PgID 154-55). Defense counsel
requested a minimum sentence near the bottom of the guideline
range (30 years). Id. at 20 (PgID 157). Starks had
the opportunity to speak on his own behalf, but declined to
do so. Id. The trial court then sentenced Starks to
concurrent terms of 45 to 90 years imprisonment. Id.
at 22-23 (PgID 159-60). No objections were made.
months later, Starks moved for re-sentencing and an
evidentiary hearing asking, in relevant part, that he be
given the 28-year minimum sentence that he had rejected and
asserting that defense counsel was ineffective for advising
him to reject that offer. The trial court denied the motions
as to this claim finding that Starks had rejected the plea
offers with the sentencing agreements, that he had stated
under oath that he understood the terms of his actual plea
agreement, and that he had confirmed that no other promises
or threats had induced him to tender his plea. See
10/3/14 Motion Hrg. Tr., pp. 18-20 (ECF 10-9, PgID
filed a delayed application for leave to appeal with the
Michigan Court of Appeals, which was denied for lack of merit
in the grounds presented as to his habeas claim. People
v. Starks, No. 324220 (Mich. Ct. App. March 19, 2015)
(unpublished). Starks also filed an application for leave to
appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which the court
denied as to his habeas claim. People v. Starks, 499
Mich. 878, 876 N.W.2d 536 (2016).
thereafter filed his federal habeas petition. He raises the
Due process requires reinstating a favorable plea offer with
a 28 to 50-year sentencing agreement where defense counsel
advised him that he would receive a better deal in front of
the assigned trial judge; he rejected the offer and pleaded
no contest the following day before the trial judge, and
thereafter received a 45 to 90-year sentence.
PgID 5-6. Respondent has filed an answer to the petition
contending that it should be denied for lack of merit. ECF 9.
Standard of Review
law imposes the following standard of review for habeas
application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person
in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall
not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated
on the merits in State court proceedings unless the
adjudication of the claim -
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the ...