United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING AMENDED PETITION FOR
WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS [#16], (2) DENYING CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY, AND (3) DENYING PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN, United States District Judge
a habeas case brought by a Michigan prisoner under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Troy Jones, (“Petitioner”), was
convicted after a jury trial in the Allegan Circuit Court of
assault with intent to do great bodily harm, Mich. Comp. Laws
§ 750.84, and witness tampering. Mich. Comp. Laws §
750.122(7)(b). Petitioner was sentenced as a fourth-time
habitual felony offender to consecutive terms of 10 to 20
years for the assault conviction and 28 months to 6 years for
the witness tampering conviction.
amended petition asserts three grounds for relief: (1)
Petitioner's right to counsel was violated when jail
authorities intercepted, copied, and disbursed to the
prosecutor legal mail sent to and received by Petitioner in
jail, (2) Petitioner's trial testimony was erroneously
impeached with the use of prior convictions obtained when
Petitioner was not represented by counsel, and (3) Petitioner
was denied the effective assistance of counsel when his
counsel failed to challenge the prosecutor's use of the
prior uncounseled convictions. Dkt. No. 20.
Court finds that Petitioner's claims are without merit.
Therefore, the petition will be denied. The Court will also
deny Petitioner a certificate of appealability and deny
permission to appeal in forma pauperis.
Court recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the
Michigan Court of Appeals, which are presumed correct
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Wagner v.
Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):
Defendant was convicted of assaulting Tanya Rogers during the
early morning hours of October 11, 2008, at defendant's
house. Defendant was acquitted of a separate assault charge
involving his sister, Debra Jones. The witness tampering
conviction arose from defendant's offer to pay Rogers $1,
000 for either refusing to testify or for testifying in a
People v. Jones, No. 292793 & 292794, 2011 WL
4467686, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 27, 2011).
procedural history of the case is lengthy and convoluted.
Petitioner first filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan
Court of Appeals. His brief on appeal filed by appointed
appellate counsel raised three claims: (1) Petitioner's
right to counsel was violated when jail authorities
intercepted, copied, and disbursed to the prosecutor legal
mail sent from him from jail, (2) Petitioner was denied the
effective assistance of counsel, and (3) the sentencing
guidelines were scored incorrectly. Petitioner also filed a
supplemental pro se brief that raised six additional claims:
(4) Petitioner's trial testimony was erroneously
impeached with the use of prior convictions obtained when
Petitioner was not represented by counsel, (5) the trial
court erred in failing to adjourn trial and order Petitioner
to undergo a forensic examination, (6) Petitioner was denied
the effective assistance of counsel, (7) Petitioner was
charged under the wrong statute, (8) the prosecutor and trial
court erroneously amended the statutory language to fit the
facts of the offense, and (9) the sentencing guidelines were
Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's
convictions, but it remanded the case to the trial court for
resentencing. Jones, 2011 WL 4467686.
Petitioner was awaiting resentencing in the trial court, he
filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan
Supreme Court raising the same claims that he raised in the
Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court denied
the application by form order. People v. Jones, 801
N.W.2d 583 (Mich. 2012).
trial court resentenced Petitioner on November 26, 2012.
Petitioner filed a claim of appeal from his new sentence,
raising claims challenging his sentence as well as new claims
challenging his conviction.
Petitioner filed the present case on September 11, 2013,
raising the three claims eventually raised in his amended
petition. Dkt. No. 1. On December 26, 2013, Respondent filed
an answer, arguing in part that the petition was filed
prematurely as Petitioner was still pursuing appellate relief
in the state courts. Dkt. No. 8. In response, Petitioner
filed a motion to stay his habeas case while he completed
state court review on February 13, 2014. Dkt. No. 11. The
Court granted the motion on April 22, 2014, and ordered that
the case be stayed and held in abeyance while Petitioner
completed state appellate review. Dkt. No. 14.
31, 2012, Petitioner filed a pro se motion for relief from
judgment in the trial court and several supplemental
pleadings, apparently re-raising what now form his three
habeas claims. Dkt. Nos. 24-2 through 24-6. The trial court
denied the motions and supplemental pleadings in orders dated
December 1, 2014, and February 18, 2015. Dkt. 24-7, 24-8.
filed a delayed application for leave to appeal with the
Michigan Court of Appeals, appealing the denial of his motion
for relief from judgment. On August 20, 2015, the Michigan
Court of Appeals denied the application with citation to
Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D). People v. Jones, No.
327288 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. 20, 2015). Petitioner filed an
application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme
Court, but it was also denied under Rule 6.508(D). People
v. Jones, 876 N.W.2d 884 (Mich. 2016).
the Michigan Court of Appeals had affirmed Petitioner's
appeal from his resentencing while his motion for relief from
judgment was still pending. People v. Jones, Mich.
Ct. App. No. 315582 & 315713, 2014 WL 4723595, at *1
(Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 23, 2014). Petitioner filed an
application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme
Court, and the court remanded the case back to the trial
court for a second resentencing. People v. Jones,
876 N.W.2d 532 (Mich. 2016). Petitioner was resentenced on
June 20, 2016. Dkt. No. 30-18.
April 18, 2016, Petitioner moved to reopen this case, and he
filed an amended petition for writ of habeas corpus that
raised the same three claims he raised in his initial
petition. Dkt. Nos. 18, 20. On May 2, 2016, the Court ordered
the case to be reopened. Dkt. No. 21. On August 1, 2016,
Respondent filed the relevant part of the state court record.
Dkt. Nos. 24, 30. On August 26, 2016 Petitioner filed a
Motion to Extend the Filing Deadline to file his reply brief,
with his reply brief attached. Dkt. No. 25. The Court granted
Petitioner's Motion to Extend on September 12, 2016. Dkt.
No. 26. The matter is now ready for review.
Standard of Review
U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) curtails a federal court's
review of constitutional claims raised by a state prisoner in
a habeas action if the claims were adjudicated on the merits
by the state courts. Relief is barred under this section
unless the state court adjudication was “contrary
to” or resulted in an “unreasonable application
of” clearly established Supreme Court law.
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) (quoting Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)).
‘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).
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 (2004)). “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 ...