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Abuelazam v. DeAngelo-Kipp

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

January 16, 2018

ELIAS ABUELAZAM, Plaintiff,
v.
JODI DeANGELO-KIPP[1], Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS (ECF #1), (2) DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND (3) GRANTING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          Hon. Matthew F. Leitman, Judge

         Petitioner Elias Abuelazam is a state prisoner currently confined at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights, Mich”)igan. On October 8, 2015, Abuelazam filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (See ECF #1.) In the Petition, Abuelazam challenges his state-court conviction of first-degree premeditated murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(a). For the reasons stated below, the Petition is DENIED.

         I

         On May 22, 2012, a jury convicted Abuelazam of first-degree premeditated murder in the 68th Circuit Court in Flint, Michigan. The Michigan Court of Appeals summarized the facts with respect to Abuelazam's conviction as follows:

During 2010, several stabbings occurred in and around Flint, Michigan, under circumstances that indicated it was the same person committing the attacks. Each of the stabbings occurred on deserted streets during the early morning hours, most of the victims were African American males, and a green/beige SUV was frequently observed alongside the curb near the targeted victims. The driver of the SUV typically would ask the victims for assistance, and when the victims would offer their aid, the driver attacked the victim.
At issue in this case is the last stabbing that occurred on August 2, 2010. A police officer driving near Atherton Road in Flint discovered the victim lying on the ground. The victim had been stabbed twice, once in the lower chest area and once in the abdomen. He was bleeding heavily, but was able to tell the police that his attacker was white. Although the victim was taken to the hospital, he eventually died from his wounds. Video surveillance from a nearby market showed a partially green SUV driving to and leaving from the crime scene.
After the stabbing, a member of the community called a tip hotline and reported that the sketch of the perpetrator, resulting from a previous stabbing, resembled defendant, her father's new coworker at a local supermarket. She also reported that defendant's vehicle fit the description of the green SUV. An officer with the Custom and Border Protection (formerly U.S. Customs) also received defendant's name and information that defendant was linked to stabbings in Virginia and Michigan. The officer learned that defendant had a history of traveling to and from Israel, and discovered that defendant was on his way to Israel. Defendant then was apprehended at the Atlanta airport while his flight to Tel Aviv was boarding.
A forensic scientist testified that she compared DNA samples from defendant and the victim to blood found on shoes and jeans found in defendant's luggage. She determined that the blood on the shoes and jeans came from the victim. She also determined that blood from the car defendant was driving matched the victim's DNA as well as defendant's. A Michigan State Police trooper testified that defendant's phone position correlated with the area where the victim was stabbed, as well as the location of other attacks.
At trial, defendant presented an insanity defense. His expert testified that defendant was a paranoid schizophrenic and at the time of the stabbings he did not understand his conduct was wrong. The expert further opined that defendant experienced bizarre delusions and believed evil forces made him harm others. However, the state's three witnesses-a supervisor manager at a forensic psychiatry center, a psychiatrist, and a psychologist- disagreed with that diagnosis. They explained that defendant's behavior in seeking out solitary victims was indicia of a plan, and was goal directed behavior. They further testified that defendant's behavior was inconsistent with paranoid schizophrenia. As the state's psychiatrist explained, defendant “appreciated that what he was doing was wrong.... He went on dark roads, picked out victims, had weapons available to him, left the scene of his behavior, actually tried to leave the country and but for luck and good police work would've been in Israel. So he knew that his behavior was wrong.” The jury found defendant guilty of first-degree premeditated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

People v. Abuelazam, 2014 WL 2600551, at ** 1-2 (Mich. Ct. App. June 10, 2014).

         The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Abuelazam's conviction. See Id. Abuelazam then sought leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, and that court denied leave. See People v. Abuelazam, 856 N.W.2d 52 (Mich. 2014).

         On October 8, 2015, Abuelazam filed the Petition in this Court. (See ECF #1.) He seeks relief on the following grounds:

I. The trial court deprived Mr. Abuelazam of his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury when it denied his motion for a change of venue despite the extensive and inflammatory publicity of the case that permeated the Flint community and tainted the entire jury pool.
II. The trial court erred by admitting evidence of prior bad acts in a case where the only issue was whether Mr. Abuelazam was criminally responsible for Mr. Minor's death. The minimal probative value of this evidence was substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect. The trial court further erred by refusing to grant a mistrial when witnesses referred to Mr. Abuelazam as a serial killer.

(Id. at Pg. ID 3.)

         II

         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 in 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 ...

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