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Charleston v. Woods

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

January 9, 2018

JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.



         Keith Charleston, (“petitioner”), confined at the Chippewa Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, Michigan, seeks the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his pro se application, petitioner challenges his conviction for first-degree premeditated murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(a), felon in possession of a firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224f, and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. For the reasons stated below, the application for a writ of habeas corpus is DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.


         Petitioner was convicted following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court. This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts regarding petitioner's conviction from the Michigan Court of Appeals' opinion affirming his conviction, which are presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

This case arises from the murder of Charles Wall in Detroit, Michigan. ****************************************************************** We conclude sufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation justified submitting the charge of first-degree premeditated murder to the jury and for the jury to convict defendant. Lawrence Helzer and defendant had a previous relationship: defendant regularly sold cocaine to Helzer. On the day of the shooting death, defendant and another man confronted Helzer regarding money Helzer allegedly owed defendant. Defendant and his companion assaulted Helzer, knocking him to the ground. Wall came out of the apartment and pulled defendant off Helzer; defendant and his companion began to hit Wall. Helzer retrieved a sword from his apartment, and he and Wall chased defendant and the man with him. Wall and Helzer then went back into their apartment building. Defendant later called Helzer and told him that if he did not come outside, he would never be able to go back inside again. Subsequently, Helzer looked out a window and saw defendant riding a bicycle. Defendant was holding what looked like a pistol. Helzer could not see defendant at the moment he heard the first of five gunshots. After the shooting, Helzer looked through the door of the apartment building and saw Wall lying on the ground outside. Helzer testified defendant was no longer present when he found Wall's body.
Karla Nash, who witnessed the shooting, testified the man who did it ran away. Nash saw two men standing outside but did not see anything in either man's hands. She testified that the man who fell to the ground had his hands to his side during the encounter.
According to defendant's statement to the police, defendant retrieved a gun from underneath logs. Defendant went back to the apartment and talked to Helzer on the telephone. Wall came out of the apartment building and started to walk toward defendant. Wall reached “in his back area, ” which made defendant think that Wall had something in his possession. Defendant shot Wall three or four times because he was defending himself.

People v. Charleston, No. 316771, 2015 WL 1119720, at * 1, 5 (Mich. Ct. App. Mar. 12, 2015).

         Petitioner's conviction was affirmed. Id., lv. Den. 498 Mich. 884, 869 N.W.2d 587 (2015). Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:

I. Petitioner's statement was unconstitutionally obtained as his intoxication and lack of sleep prevented a knowing and intelligent waiver of his Miranda rights, and the trial court erred in declining to suppress his statement.
II. Petitioner's conviction for premeditated murder must be reversed where (1) there was insufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation; (2) the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
III. Petitioner's guaranteed federal and state constitutional rights were violated under the United States Constitution 6th and 14th Amendments; the Michigan Constitution of 1963, Article 1 § 17 and 20, when trial counsel was ineffective for (1) failing to do an adequate and thorough investigation; (2) failing to address the illegal warrantless entry into his mother's home to arrest petitioner on outstanding traffic tickets; and (3) failing to challenge the unreasonable delay in providing probable cause hearing where petitioner was arrested without a warrant on December 26, 2012, and wasn't arraigned until December 29, 2012.


         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), imposes the following standard of review for habeas cases:

An 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 Supreme Court of the United States; 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.

         A decision of a state court is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). An “unreasonable application” occurs when “a state court decision unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner's case.” Id. at 409. A federal habeas court may not “issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.” Id. at 410-11. “[A] state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). Therefore, in order to obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state prisoner is required to show that the state court's rejection of his claim “was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. The confession claim

         Petitioner contends that the trial judge erred in denying his motion to suppress because he did not voluntarily speak with the police nor did he knowingly, intelligently, or voluntarily waive his Miranda rights. Petitioner claims that he did not knowingly, intelligently or voluntarily waive his Miranda rights and that his confession was involuntary because he was intoxicated on alcohol and marijuana and was sleep-deprived at the time he made his statement.

         The Court notes that the Michigan Court of Appeals reviewed and rejected the portion of petitioner's claim that he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his Miranda rights for plain error because petitioner failed to preserve this issue in the trial court in that petitioner only argued in his motion to suppress that his statement was involuntary. People v. Charleston, 2015 WL 1119720, at * 1.

         In Fleming v. Metrish, 556 F.3d 520, 532 (6th Cir. 2009), a panel of the Sixth Circuit held that the AEDPA deference applies to any underlying plain-error analysis of a procedurally defaulted claim. In a subsequent decision, the Sixth Circuit held that that plain-error review is not equivalent to adjudication on the merits, so as to trigger AEDPA deference. See Frazier v. Jenkins, 770 F.3d 485, 496 n. 5 (6th Cir. 2014). The Sixth Circuit noted that “the approaches of Fleming and Frazier are in direct conflict.” Trimble v. Bobby, 804 F.3d 767, 777 (6th Cir. 2015). When confronted by conflicting holdings of the Sixth Circuit, this Court must follow the earlier panel's holding until it is overruled by the United States Supreme Court or by the Sixth Circuit sitting en banc. See Darrah v. City of Oak Park, 255 F.3d 301, 310 (6th Cir. 2001). This Court believes that the AEDPA's deferential standard of review applies to the Miranda waiver portion of petitioner's claim even though this portion of the claim was reviewed only for plain error.[1]

         The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected petitioner's claim:

A Walker[2] hearing was held on defendant's motion to suppress on February 22, 2013. Detroit Police Officer Derrick Maye testified that he interviewed defendant on December 26, 2012, at approximately 8:00 p.m. Defendant was not deprived of any food or water, and defendant had a carton of juice with him during the interview. Officer Maye explained that the Second Precinct where the interview occurred had scheduled feeding times. The scheduled feeding time on that day was 6:00 p.m. Defendant did not tell Officer Maye that he was hungry during the interview. Defendant was 29 years old at the time of the interview and had completed the ninth grade. Officer Maye provided defendant with a notice of constitutional rights form, read the form aloud to defendant, and gave defendant the opportunity to read it himself. Defendant did not slur his speech. Defendant did not appear to be drunk or tired. His eyes were not bloodshot. Defendant also did not appear confused or disoriented. Defendant was coherent and was able to understand the conversation. During the interview, defendant told Officer Maye that he was living in Atlanta at the time of the incident. Defendant eventually stated that he lived on the street where the incident occurred.
Defendant also testified at the hearing. According to defendant, he was intoxicated at the time of the incident. Defendant explained that he had consumed six or seven daiquiris, which contain vodka, before the interview. He began drinking at approximately 12:30 a.m. or 1:00 a.m. on December 26, 2012. Defendant also smoked four or five blunts of “Cush, ” which he explained is strong marijuana; however, defendant explained that he smoked one blunt and had two daiquiris during the daytime on December 26, 2012. Defendant smoked the other blunts and drank the other daiquiris during the early morning hours of December 26, 2012. Defendant went to sleep on December 26, 2012, at 2:00 a.m. and woke up at approximately noon. Defendant did not remember the police interview at the time of the motion hearing or Officer Maye's asking him, “[D]o you know who this is?” Defendant also explained that on the day of his arrest, the police came to the house. His girlfriend Lida Love, defendant's niece, and defendant's nephew were in the house. Defendant was trying to find something in the closet when he was arrested. Defendant asked the police officers why they came to the house. The police officers told defendant that they had a warrant based on defendant's outstanding traffic tickets.
Defendant's mother, Linda Moore, also testified at the hearing. Moore explained that on December 26, 2012, police officers entered her home without her invitation. She also testified that the officers did not show her an arrest warrant. But Moore also explained that she was not at home at the time of defendant's arrest because she was at work. Defendant was awake when Moore left for work, and defendant had been drinking vodka, gin, and beer the entire day of his arrest. Defendant also smoked approximately two marijuana cigarettes. Moore explained that defendant was intoxicated at the time of his arrest, and she knew this even though she left for work at 8:00 a.m.
The trial court ruled that there was no indication that defendant was intoxicated during the interview with Officer Maye and based its decision on its observations from watching the first 20 minutes of the videotaped recording of defendant's interview by Officer Maye. The trial court noted that it had considered defendant's answers to Officer Maye's questions, as well as how defendant gave his answers. The court observed that defendant read and initialed the Miranda waiver form. The trial court also noted that defendant appeared to remember certain details of the interrogation while forgetting others. The court also reasoned that defendant had ingested most of the alcohol on the day before he was arrested. The court pointed out that defendant's statement to the police was cogent and that defendant slept several hours on the day of the interview. Finally, the court noted that Moore was not with defendant most of the day and could not have observed whether defendant consumed alcohol. Thus, the court ruled that defendant's statement was voluntary and denied defendant's motion to suppress.
Defendant's waiver of his Miranda rights was knowing and intelligent. According to Officer Maye, defendant did not appear to be drunk or tired at the time of the interrogation. Defendant did not slur his speech. His eyes were not bloodshot. Defendant also did not appear confused or disoriented, and he was coherent and was able to understand the conversation. Officer Maye was able to reason with defendant. Although defendant consumed alcohol and marijuana before the interview, defendant consumed most of the marijuana and alcohol in the early morning hours of the day of the interview. Officer Maye read a constitutional rights form to defendant and gave defendant the opportunity to read it himself. Although Moore testified that defendant was intoxicated, she had not been home for the majority of the day of defendant's arrest. Defendant stated at the hearing that he could not remember the interview, but he later stated that he remembered certain details of the interview. From these facts we conclude as did the trial court that defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his rights.
In addition, although defendant does not raise the issue of whether he voluntarily confessed to shooting Wall and also does not discuss in his brief on appeal whether his waiver of his Miranda rights was voluntary, we hold that defendant's waiver of his Miranda rights and his statement to the police were voluntary based on the totality of the circumstances. At the time of the interview, defendant was 29 years old and had completed the ninth grade. Defendant was not deprived of any food or water during the interview. Defendant had a juice carton in his possession at the time of the interview. The scheduled feeding time on that day would have been 6:00 p.m., and defendant was interviewed around 8:00 p.m. Defendant slept for at least eight hours the night before he was interviewed. As discussed above, although defendant testified at the hearing that he had consumed alcohol and marijuana on the day of his police interview, there is no indication that he was intoxicated when he waived his Miranda rights and provided a statement to the police. There is no indication that there was a prolonged ...

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