United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS, DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING
LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
L. LUDINGTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Terrence Jamal Williams, has filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF No. 1.
Petitioner is incarcerated at the Muskegon Correctional
Facility in Muskegon, Michigan. He challenges his convictions
for first-degree premeditated murder and assault with intent
to murder. Respondent, through the Attorney General's
Office, has filed an answer in opposition to the petition.
For the reasons set forth below, the petition will be denied,
as will a certificate of appealability and leave to appeal in
convictions arise from a May 15, 2007 shooting, which
resulted in life-threatening injuries to Jerrance Lewis
(“Lewis”) and in the death of Carl Hairston
(“Hairston”), outside of the Perfect Beat
nightclub on Fort Street in Detroit (“Perfect Beat
shooting”). That evening, Hairston drove his
mother's Chevy Tahoe to the Perfect Beat Night Club,
along with his friends Lewis and Thomas Cook
(“Cook”). The Michigan Court of Appeals described
the underlying facts, which are presumed to be correct on
habeas review, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1);
Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009),
[Hairston, Lewis, and Cook] left the [Perfect Beat] shortly
before closing, reentered their vehicle and traversed Fort
Street in front of the club for several minutes while
listening to loud music. Williams (then age 20) approached
the Tahoe from behind while driving a light blue minivan.
Williams pulled parallel to the driver's side of the
Tahoe. The rear, passenger-side sliding door of the minivan
opened and Green (then age 22) fired more than 20 shots from
an AK-47 at the Tahoe. The minivan collided with the Tahoe
and the minivan's door was torn off in the fray. Hairston
was struck with several bullets and was pronounced dead on
arrival at the hospital. Lewis was shot numerous times in the
abdomen and side, required three surgeries to repair internal
damage, and was hospitalized for a month. Cook escaped
unharmed. He fled the scene and was only secured as a trial
witness through the significant efforts of the prosecutor and
law enforcement officers.
Investigating officers soon received an anonymous tip that
“Joe Green” was involved in the shooting, but
they were unable to locate any suspects on that information
alone. Investigators then discovered a burned minivan,
missing its sliding rear door, abandoned in a field. The door
recovered on Fort Street perfectly matched the minivan. The
officers traced the vehicle's identification number and
learned that it was registered to Juanita Williams, the
mother of [Petitioner] and defendant “Joe Green.”
When Lewis recovered sufficiently to speak to the officers,
he specifically identified defendants by name as his
attackers. Lewis indicated that he had seen defendants
driving the minivan in the past and clearly saw their faces
during the shooting. Lewis then confirmed defendants'
identities through a photographic line-up.
Green and Williams had a long-standing feud with Hairston and
Lewis. Lewis admitted that the two groups fought each time
they met, sometimes with weapons. The parties stipulated that
Williams had previously shot Lewis in the hand. Cornelius
Wade, a jailhouse informant, testified that Williams
confessed to the drive-by shooting while housed in the Wayne
County Jail. According to Wade, a man name[d] Armond hired
Williams and Green to kill Lewis and Hairston to avenge the
robbery of Armond's carwash (which served as a front for
a drug-dealing and gambling operation). Wade alleged that a
man named Aaron Campbell was at the Perfect Beat on the night
of the shooting and contacted defendants by telephone to
alert them of Hairston's and Lewis's presence. The
prosecution also presented evidence that someone threw a
firebomb into and fired a barrage of bullets at Lewis's
home the night before defendants' preliminary
People v. Williams, No. 286097, 2011 WL 6004067, at
*1-2 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 1, 2011). The Detroit Police Crime
Lab analyzed the ballistics evidence in the case. At the
trial, Detroit Police Officer David Pouch testified as an
expert of firearms and tool mark identification. He explained
that five of the shell casings found at the scene of the
Perfect Beat shooting were fired from the same weapon and two
were fired from another weapon. ECF No. 17-31 at 63. Those
shell casings were also compared to the shell casings
recovered from the firebombing and shooting of Lewis's
home. Officer Pouch testified that five of the shell casings
were fired from the same weapon as the Perfect Beat shooting.
and Green were tried jointly at ¶ 24-day jury trial in
Wayne County in 2008. They both asserted alibi defenses.
Additionally, Petitioner “presented evidence from his
friends Jamaal and Jameel Croft, who claimed to have been
standing outside the Perfect Beat at the time of the
shooting, and asserted that the minivan's occupants were
heavy-set Mexican or Caucasian men.” Id. at 2.
Petitioner and Green also attempted to establish that the
minivan had been stolen before the shooting. The jury
convicted Petitioner of first-degree premeditated murder and
assault with intent to murder (“AWIM”).
Thereafter, the Court sentenced Petitioner to life in prison
without parole for the murder conviction and 20 to 30
years' imprisonment for AWIM.
2010, Petitioner, through counsel, filed an appeal raising
two issues: 1) that he was entitled to a retrial based on
newly discovered evidence; and 2) that the trial court
violated his rights by closing the courtroom during the
testimony of key witnesses. The Michigan Court of Appeals
remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing to determine if
retrial was necessary due to the newly discovered evidence.
Specifically, the Detroit Police Crime Lab was closed in 2008
due to an unacceptable error rate, leading to an audit by the
Michigan Department of State Police. Sergeant Reinhard Pope,
a firearms and tool marks examiner at the Michigan Department
of State Police Forensics Laboratory, testified at the
evidentiary hearing. As part of the audit of the Detroit
Police Crime Lab, he examined the ballistics evidence from
the Perfect Beat shooting and from the shots fired at
Lewis's home. Sergeant Pope's analysis revealed that
only three of the bullets had been fired from the same
firearm at the Perfect Beat shooting. When he compared those
bullets to those found at Lewis's home, he concluded that
he could not “identify or eliminate them as having been
fired from the same firearm, ” as the Perfect Beat
shooting, thus contradicting Officer Pauch's testimony at
the original trial. ECF No. 17-42 at 33. The trial court
denied Petitioner's motion, concluding that the
discrepant ballistic evidence would not make a different
result probable on retrial.
Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's
convictions. Williams, 2011 WL 6004067 at 14.
Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the
Michigan Supreme Court, raising the same claims raised in the
Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court denied
leave to appeal. People v. Williams, 491 Mich. 921
(2012). The Michigan Supreme Court later denied a motion for
reconsideration. People v. Williams, 492 Mich. 859
(2012). Petitioner then filed a motion for relief from
judgment, which was also denied. People v. Williams,
No. 07-010617-02-FC, Wayne Cir. Ct. Opinion and Order (July
23, 2013). Thereafter, Petitioner filed the instant petition
for habeas relief, and obtained a stay to exhaust additional
issues in the state courts. He filed an amended petition on
December 15, 2014, raising the following claims:
I. A new trial is warranted due to newly discovered evidence;
II. The trial court violated his Sixth Amendment rights by
closing the trial to the public and allowing witnesses to
face away from him as they testified;
III. Trial counsel was ineffective;
IV. The trial court lacked jurisdiction; and
V. Appellate counsel was ineffective.
petitioner's claims are reviewed against the standards
established by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214
(“AEDPA”). 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 proceedings.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
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
[this] precedent.'” Mitchell v. Esparza,
540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam) (quoting Williams
v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)). “[T]he
‘unreasonable application' prong of the statute
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). 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. “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),
quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664
Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a
guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal
justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error
correction through appeal . . . . As a condition for
obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state
prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the
claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in
justification that there was an error well understood and
comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for
Id. at 786-87 (internal quotation omitted).
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. See Williams, 529 U.S. at 412. Section
2254(d) “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).
“[W]hile the principles of “clearly established
law” are to be determined solely by resort to Supreme
Court rulings, the decisions of lower federal courts may be
instructive in assessing the reasonableness of a 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.2d 354, 359 (E.D. Mich.
a federal habeas court must presume the correctness of state
court factual determinations. See 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1). A petitioner may rebut this presumption only with
clear and convincing evidence. Warren v. Smith, 161
F.3d 358, 360-61 (6th Cir. 1998).
first argues that he is entitled to a new trial on the basis
of newly discovered evidence as a result of the Michigan
State Police Crime Lab's re-examination of the ballistics
evidence. The Michigan Court of Appeals addressed this issue
We agree with the trial court's conclusion that the
reanalysis of the ballistic evidence was newly discovered,
noncumulative evidence that could not have been discovered
before the first trial. We also agree with the trial court
that the new ballistic evidence would not make a different
result probable on retrial. Williams inaccurately argues that
the debunked ballistics evidence was a cornerstone of the
prosecutor's closing argument. In reality, the
prosecutor's reference to the shell casings'
commonality was a brief portion of her 47-page closing
argument. The thrust of the prosecutor's argument was
that the witnesses supporting the prosecution theory
testified consistently regarding the details of the crime and
their testimonies were corroborated by the physical evidence.
The physical evidence was not limited to the debunked
ballistic analysis; it included the location and number of
shell casings found at the scene, the trajectory of the
bullets compared to the position of the victims' bodies,
the minivan door left in the middle of Fort Street, and
defendants' mother's burned minivan found abandoned
in a field. The witnesses supporting the defense theory, on
the other hand, could not agree on the details surrounding
the shooting and gave incredible, fluctuating accounts.
Moreover, the prosecution did not need to conclusively prove
that the shell casings found at the Perfect Beat and
Lewis's home were fired from a single weapon to make its
point. The jury could reasonably infer that the timing of the
firebombing was not a coincidence and was orchestrated to
prevent Lewis from testifying at the preliminary examination.
Given Lewis's consistent identification of defendants as
the perpetrators from the moment he awoke after surgery,
Ware's testimony regarding Williams' jailhouse
confession,  defendants' undeniable connection to
the van, the timing of the firebombing, and the incredibility
of the testimony given by Tracey George and the Croft
brothers, a different result on retrial is improbable.
Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in
denying Williams' motion.
Williams, 2011 WL 6004067 at 4 (internal citation
and quotation omitted).
argument that he is actually innocent based upon the newly
analyzed evidence is not cognizable on federal habeas review.
Hence v. Smith, 37 F.Supp.2d 970, 980 (E.D. Mich.
1999). “A claim that a habeas petitioner is entitled to
relief based upon the failure of a state trial judge to grant
him a trial on the basis of newly discovered evidence is not
cognizable in a habeas proceeding.” Monroe v.
Smith, 197 F.Supp.2d 753, 763 (E.D. Mich. 2001) (citing
J.C. Dickey v. Dutton, 595 F.Supp. 1, 2 (M.D. Tenn.
1983)). Accordingly, Petitioner does not state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.
the claim were cognizable, the Michigan Court of Appeals'
analysis of this issue was reasonable. Motions for a new
trial based upon newly discovered evidence, even on direct
appeal, “are disfavored and should be granted with
caution.” United States v. Turns, 198 F.3d
584, 586 (6th Cir. 2000). When a defendant moves for a new
trial based on newly discovered evidence, he or she must show
that the evidence: 1) was discovered after the trial; could
not have been discovered earlier with due diligence; 3) is
material and not merely cumulative or impeaching; and 4)
would likely produce an acquittal if the case were retried.
United States v. Turns, 198 F.3d 584, 587 (6th Cir.
2000). Here, the trial court reasonably concluded that
Petitioner failed to meet the fourth prong of the test
because of the ample, non-ballistic evidence against him,