United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
JAMES M. PRYOR, Petitioner,
TONY TRIERWEILER, Respondent.
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 APPEAL
Honorable Paul D. Borman United States District Judge
prisoner James M. Pryor (“Petitioner”) has filed
a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 alleging that he is being held in violation of
his constitutional rights. Petitioner was convicted of
assault with intent to commit murder, Mich. Comp. Laws §
750.83, three counts of unlawful imprisonment, Mich. Comp.
Laws § 750.349b, two counts of felonious assault, Mich.
Comp. Laws § 750.82, and possession of a firearm during
the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b,
following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court. He
was sentenced to 25 to 50 years imprisonment on the assault
with intent to commit murder conviction, concurrent terms of
five to 15 years imprisonment on the unlawful imprisonment
convictions, concurrent terms of two to four years
imprisonment on the felonious assault convictions, and a
consecutive term of two years imprisonment on the felony
firearm conviction. In his pleadings, Petitioner raises
claims concerning the conduct of the prosecutor, the
effectiveness of trial counsel, and cumulative error. For the
reasons that follow, the Court denies with prejudice the
habeas petition. The Court also denies a certificate of
appealability and denies leave to proceed in forma pauperis
Facts and Procedural History
convictions arise from a shooting incident at a residence in
Detroit, Michigan on January 29, 2012. The Michigan Court of
Appeals described the relevant facts, which are presumed
correct on habeas review, see 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1); Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th
Cir. 2009), as follows:
Defendant's convictions arose out of a shooting that
occurred in the early morning hours at a home in the city of
Detroit. Earlier in the evening, Marlon Raines attended a
nightclub in Livonia. While there, he saw defendant and the
two exchanged greetings and shook hands. Raines left the
nightclub at around 1:40 a.m. and headed to his home in
Detroit, where an acquaintance of his, Michael Baker, was
staying. When Raines arrived home, he called Kateisha Mason
over, and shortly after she arrived, they went to sleep in
Raines's bedroom. Defendant and Albert Hughes arrived
unannounced at Raines's home. Raines and Mason were
asleep in Raines's bed when Baker came into the bedroom
calling Raines's name. When Raines awoke, he saw
defendant and Hughes standing at the doorway of his bedroom.
Hughes was holding a gun and defendant would not allow Baker
or Raines to leave the bedroom. Raines and defendant began
conversing about an incident involving Raines and
Raines's brother. Raines pled with defendant and begged
for his life. There was a knock at the front door, and
defendant went to answer it while Hughes continued to hold
Raines, Mason and Baker at gunpoint. When defendant returned,
he told Hughes, “Come on man, we got to go. Do this
nigger.” Hughes then told Raines to sit on the bed and
look the other way so that Raines would not see Hughes shoot
him. Raines sat on the bed and defendant repeatedly told
Hughes to “go on and do it.” Hughes hesitated and
defendant told him, “give me the gun I'll do
it.” Hughes then shot Raines in the back of the neck.
After being shot, Raines was able to get up and attack
Hughes, and they tussled for the gun out into the hallway.
When Raines and Hughes fell to the floor while wrestling for
the gun, defendant and Baker both bolted for the front door.
Raines was able to grab the gun while they were wrestling and
fired three shots. The first shot struck his own wrist and
the second two shots struck Hughes in the chest. After being
shot in the chest twice, Hughes got up off the floor and ran
towards the front door. Raines chased him and beat him in the
back of the head with the pistol. Hughes fell into the corner
of the living room up against the television and eventually
died. Mason called the police and tended to Raines's
wounds. The police eventually found defendant lying in the
backseat of a car located approximately a mile away from the
People v. Pryor, No. 313118, 2014 WL 1118023, *1
(Mich. Ct. App. March 20, 2014) (unpublished).
his convictions and sentencing, Petitioner filed an appeal of
right with the Michigan Court of Appeals raising several
claims, including those raised on habeas review. The court
denied relief on those claims and affirmed his convictions.
Id. at *2-11. Petitioner then filed an application
for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which
was denied in a standard order. People v. Pryor, 497
Mich. 869, 853 N.W.2d 374 (2014).
through counsel, thereafter filed his federal habeas petition
raising the following claims:
I. His Fifth Amendment rights to a fair trial and due process
of law were violated due to prosecutorial misconduct when the
prosecutor improperly made multiple references before the
jury of an alleged criminal incident involving the alleged
rape by the victim's brother of Petitioner's daughter
when the trial court had previously determined that the
details of the incident (which Petitioner contends did not
occur) were more prejudicial than probative and had ruled
that any details were inadmissible.
II. His Sixth Amendment rights to effective counsel were
violated as trial counsel failed to ensure that the jury was
properly sworn, failed to object to the prosecution's
attempt to improperly shift the burden of proof, failed to
sufficiently challenge the prosecution's theory of the
case, and failed to request necessary jury instructions.
has filed an answer to the petition contending that it should
be denied because the prosecutorial misconduct claims are
barred by procedural default and all of the claims lack
merit. Petitioner has filed a reply to that answer.
Standard of Review
provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), codified at 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241 et seq., govern this case because
Petitioner filed his habeas petition after the AEDPA's
effective date. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336
(1997). The AEDPA provides:
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;
(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.
U.S.C. §2254(d) (1996).
state court's decision is ‘contrary to' . . .
clearly established law if it ‘applies a rule that
contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court
cases]' or if it ‘confronts a set of facts that are
materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme]
Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from
[that] precedent.'” Mitchell v. Esparza,
540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam) (quoting Williams
v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)); see also
Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002).
‘unreasonable application' prong of §
2254(d)(1) permits a federal habeas court to ‘grant the
writ if the state court identifies the correct governing
legal principle from [the Supreme] Court but unreasonably
applies that principle to the facts of petitioner's
case.” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520
(2003) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 413); see
also Bell, 535 U.S. at 694. However, “[i]n order
for a federal court to find a state court's application
of [Supreme Court] precedent ‘unreasonable, ' the
state court's decision must have been more than incorrect
or erroneous. The state court's application must have
been ‘objectively unreasonable.'”
Wiggins, 539 U.S. at 520-21 (citations omitted);
see also Williams, 529 U.S. at 409. “AEDPA
thus imposes a ‘highly deferential standard for
evaluating state-court rulings, ' and ‘demands that
state-court decisions be given the benefit of the
doubt.'” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773
(2010) (quoting Lindh, 521 U.S. at 333, n. 7;
Woodford v. Viscotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per
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)). The Supreme Court has emphasized “that even a
strong case for relief does not mean the state court's
contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id.
(citing Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)).
Pursuant to § 2254(d), “a habeas court must
determine what arguments or theories supported or ... could
have supported, the state court's decision; and then it
must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could
disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent
with the holding in a prior decision” of the Supreme
Court. Id. Thus, in order to obtain habeas relief in
federal court, a state prisoner must 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.; see also
White v. Woodall, U.S., 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014).
Federal judges “are required to afford state courts due
respect by overturning their decisions only when there could
be no reasonable dispute that they were wrong.”
Woods v. Donald, U.S., 135 S.Ct. 1372');">135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015).
A habeas petitioner cannot prevail as long as it is within
the “realm of possibility” that fairminded
jurists could find the state court decision to be reasonable.
Woods v. Etherton, U.S., 136 S.Ct. 1149, 1152
2254(d)(1) limits a federal habeas court's review to a
determination of whether the state court's decision
comports with clearly established federal law as determined
by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its
decision. Williams, 529 U.S. at 412; see also
Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111, 122 (2009) (noting
that the Supreme Court “has held on numerous occasions
that it is not ‘an unreasonable application of clearly
established Federal law' for a state court to decline to
apply a specific legal rule that has not been squarely
established by this Court”) (quoting Wright v. Van
Patten, 552 U.S. 120, 125-26 (2008) (per curiam));
Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 71-72. Section 2254(d)
“does not require a state court to give reasons before
its decision can be deemed to have been ‘adjudicated on
the merits.'” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 100.
Furthermore, it “does not require citation of [Supreme
Court] cases-indeed, it does not even require awareness of
[Supreme Court] cases, so long as neither the reasoning nor
the result of the state-court decision contradicts
them.” Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002);
see also Mitchell, 540 U.S. at 16.
requirements of clearly established law are to be determined
solely by Supreme Court precedent. Thus, “circuit
precedent does not constitute ‘clearly established
Federal law as determined by the Supreme Court'”
and it cannot provide the basis for federal habeas relief.
Parker v. Matthews, 567 U.S. 37, 48-49 (2012) (per
curiam); see also Lopez v. Smith, U.S. 135 S.Ct. 1,
2 (2014) (per curiam). The decisions of lower federal courts,
however, may be useful in assessing the reasonableness of the
state court's resolution of an issue. Stewart v.
Erwin, 503 F.3d 488, 493 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing
Williams v. Bowersox, 340 F.3d 667, 671 (8th Cir.
2003)); Dickens v. Jones, 203 F.Supp. 354, 359 (E.D.
court's factual determinations are presumed correct on
federal habeas review. See 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1). A petitioner may rebut this presumption with
clear and convincing evidence. Warren v. Smith, 161
F.3d 358, 360-61 (6th Cir. 1998). Lastly, habeas review is
“limited to the record that was before the state
court.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170,