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Daniels v. Maclaren

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

March 13, 2018

SEAN DANIELS, Petitioner,
v.
DUNCAN MACLAREN, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABLITY

          MARK A. GOLDSMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner Sean Daniels, currently in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections, filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He challenges his convictions for first-degree premeditated murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(a), assault with intent to commit murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.83, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b.

         The petition raises ten claims. For the reasons explained below, the Court denies the petition. The Court denies a certificate of appealability and grants Petitioner leave to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Michigan Court of Appeals provided this overview of the circumstances leading to Petitioner's convictions:

Defendant's convictions arise from the November 4, 2007, shooting death of Deshaun Williams and the nonfatal shooting of Jeanell Land, who was shot in the legs. Land, who had known defendant for approximately three months before the shooting, testified that defendant and Williams were involved in an argument after defendant discovered that his van was missing. During the argument, defendant told Williams, “If you got my van, motherf -----, I'ma shoot you in your face.” Defendant then walked away and started frisking people who were outside to find a gun, and asked if they had a gun. Defendant said he was going to “shoot this motherf ----- in the face. I'ma kill this motherf ----- . He got my van.” Defendant then called someone and asked for a gun. Williams and Land left the house in Land's car, but returned between 15 and 30 minutes later. Land heard defendant walk up to their car and ask, “You got my van, motherf ----- ?” Defendant then shot Williams and Land. Williams was shot three times, including once in the middle of the forehead, and Land was shot twice in the legs.

People v. Daniels, No. 287769, 2010 WL 571841, *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 18, 2010).

         Petitioner was tried by a jury in Wayne County Circuit Court. He was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, assault with intent to commit murder, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and, on July 29, 2008, sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder conviction, twenty to forty years for the assault conviction, and two years' imprisonment for the felony-firearm conviction.

         Petitioner filed an appeal of right in the Michigan Court of Appeals. He claimed that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that insufficient evidence established his identity as the shooter. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction. Id.

         Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court. He raised the claims raised in the Michigan Court of Appeals and an additional claim regarding jury instructions. The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. People v. Daniels, 783 N.W.2d 376 (Mich. 2010).

         Petitioner then filed a habeas corpus petition. He later moved for a stay to allow him to exhaust additional claims in state court (Dkt. 16), which the Court granted (Dkt. 17).

         Petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment in the trial court. He raised six claims for relief: (i) prosecutor's office and police department withheld exculpatory evidence, presented false testimony, and manufactured evidence; (ii) judicial misconduct; (iii) improper jury instructions; (iv) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel; (v) cumulative error denied Petitioner right to a fair trial; and (vi) good cause and prejudice excuse any default. The trial court denied the motion. See 1/23/2013 Opinion (Dkt. 32-3.)

         Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal. People v. Daniels, No. 316725 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 29, 2013). Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, which was also denied. People v. Daniels, 846 N.W.2d 548 (Mich. 2014).

         Petitioner moved to reopen this proceeding and to amend his petition. The Court granted the motion and allowed amendment of the habeas corpus petition. See 10/31/14 Opinion and Order (Dkt. 27). The habeas corpus petition raises these claims:

I. Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial where counsel objected to the admission of autopsy photographs after the medical examiner's testimony and in front of the jury rather than in a motion in limine prior to trial.
II. Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial where counsel had to be repeatedly reprimanded by the trial court for failing to examine witnesses properly and for arguing with the court.
III. Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial where counsel failed to present an opening statement, then refused to continue and complete his closing statement. When he was advised of a time limit, counsel ended his closing without informing the jury of Petitioner's theory of the case.
IV. There was insufficient evidence that Petitioner was the shooter.
V. Daniels was denied his Fifth Amendment rights by the Wayne County Prosecutor's office and Detroit Police Department withholding exculpatory evidence, use of false testimony and manufactured evidence by the prosecutor and medical examiner, Detroit Police, and complaining witness. Daniels is actually and legally innocent.
VI. The trial judge demonstrated judicial misconduct when he openly argued with defense counsel, imposed an exact time limit on defense counsel's closing argument, walking off the bench during defense counsel's closing arguments, and failed to recommend defense counsel continue representing Daniels during closing arguments, denying him a fair trial and his right to counsel.
VII. The trial court abused its discretion in managing the trial, depriving Daniels a fair trial and due process of law by giving improper and erroneous jury instructions as a whole.
VIII. Daniels was denied his right to effective assistance of appellate counsel by his appellate counsel's failure to raise trial counsel issues of error and issues pertaining to the trial judge's abuse of discretion.
IX. Daniels was denied a fair trial by cumulative error.
X. Daniels's conviction must be reversed where the state courts violated his right to equal protection where he demonstrated both good cause and prejudice under Michigan Court Rules and Statutes.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 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 ...

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