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Taylor v. McCullick

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

March 31, 2018

MARK McCULLICK, Respondent.



         Petitioner Donald Randolph Taylor was convicted by jury in the Wayne Circuit Court of first-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316; two counts of armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529; and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to life imprisonment for the murder conviction, 60-to-100 years for the armed robbery convictions, and a consecutive 2-year term for the felony-firearm conviction. He now petitions this court for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Dkt. #1.)

         The petition raises two claims: (1) there was insufficient evidence presented at trial to establish beyond a reasonable doubt Petitioner's identity as the perpetrator of the crimes, and (2) the trial court erroneously sentenced Petitioner to 60-to-100 years for the armed robbery convictions. The court will deny the petition because Petitioner's claims are without merit. The court will also deny a certificate of appealability.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The charges against Petitioner stem from the robbery and shooting death of Demetri Green.

         At Petitioner's trial, Cazaraza Archer testified that on the evening of January 4, 2013, he and Green parked their vehicle near a store at the intersection of East Warren and Nottingham in Detroit. An SUV pulled up; a person Archer later identified as Petitioner exited the passenger side. Petitioner pulled out an assault rifle and told the two men to lie down. Green complied, but Archer ran across the street when he saw the gun. Archer reached the other side of the street, and when he turned around he saw Petitioner fire the rifle at Green's head. Archer returned fire with his own 9mm handgun, but Petitioner escaped in the SUV. Three days after the shooting, Archer went to the police station and identified Petitioner from an array of photographs.

         Detroit Police Officers dispatched to the scene found Green lying dead in a pool of blood and loose cash. The officers spoke to Archer and took his handgun. A police evidence technician recovered a fired casing found near the location of the body. The medical examiner subsequently determined that the victim died from a single perforating gunshot wound that passed through his brain and exited his cheek.

         Four days after the murder, another Detroit Police Officer was assigned to apprehend Petitioner. When the officer located Petitioner, he attempted to run away. The officer saw Petitioner remove an assault rifle from his pants leg and throw it over a fence as he ran. The weapon was recovered, and Petitioner was caught and arrested.

         A Michigan State Police firearm expert testified that the rifle recovered during the chase was the weapon that discharged the casing found near Green's body. Expert testimony also indicated that the bullet hole found on the left side of Green's hood was likely caused by a shot fired from four feet away or less.

         Rochelle Adams, Petitioner's aunt, testified against him at trial. Adams testified that in January of 2013, Petitioner came to her house and asked her if she had watched the news because he may have shot someone. They later saw a woman on television talking about her son's murder. Petitioner told Adams that he and another man were robbing two men, and that he would not have shot the victim if he had not been running his mouth. Petitioner also told Adams that he enjoyed seeing people begging for their lives and taking their last breath. After Petitioner left, Adams contacted the Detroit Police Homicide unit.

         Petitioner testified in his own defense. Petitioner claimed that on the date of his arrest he was with two other men. It was one of these other men and not Petitioner who threw the rifle over the fence. Petitioner ran because he was being chased. He denied telling his aunt that he was involved in the shooting. Petitioner claimed that he was drunk at the time, and that it was his friend Darnell who killed Green.

         The jury found Petitioner guilty as charged, and he was subsequently sentenced as indicated above. Following his conviction and sentence, Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, raising the following two claims:

I. The prosecution failed to produce legally sufficient evidence to identify Appellant as the perpetrator or prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
II. The trial court abused its discretion in imposing sentences of 60 to 100 years imprisonment for armed robbery which exceeded the sentencing guidelines range of 135 to 255 months without acknowledging it was departing above the guidelines or articulating any ...

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