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Rhines v. Burton

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

May 8, 2018

CHAD RHINES, Petitioner,



         Petitioner Chad Rhines (“Petitioner”) is a state prisoner in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections. On June 18, 2014, Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus challenging his state-court conviction of voluntary manslaughter, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.321 (the “Petition”.) (See ECF # 1.) The Petitioner raises eight claims for relief, all related to the alleged ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. Petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief. For the reasons stated below, the Petition is therefore DENIED. The Court also DENIES Petitioner a certificate of appealability and GRANTS permission to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.


         Petitioner and Jamie Rhines were married in December 2003. They had a daughter, K.R., who was born with cerebral palsy. K.R. is unable to speak and communicates largely through sounds and gestures. On November 2, 2008, Petitioner discovered Jamie and K.R. in bed with another man, LaVern Daniels. Petitioner then grabbed a knife and engaged in a scuffle with Daniels. Petitioner stabbed Daniels several times, and Daniels later died as a result of the wounds Petitioner inflicted. At Petitioner's trial, Jamie and Petitioner told somewhat conflicting stories about the history of their relationship and about the altercation that led to Daniels' death.


         Jamie's version of events is as follows. Jamie testified that she and Petitioner separated in 2005 after Petitioner pointed a knife at her and threatened to kill her. (See ECF #8-12 at 94, Pg. ID 928.) Shortly after that incident, Jamie moved out of a home that she and Petitioner shared into a home on Michelle Drive in Owosso, Michigan. (See id.) Jamie said that she paid the rent for the home on Michelle Drive, and while Petitioner would occasionally stay there, he did not have a key to the home. (See Id. at 95, Pg. ID 929.)

         Jamie testified that in the fall of 2008, Petitioner came to her home uninvited almost every day for two months. (See Id. at 99-100, Pg. ID 933-34.) Jamie called the police several times, but Petitioner would leave before authorities arrived. (See Id. at 103, Pg. ID 937.) On November 1, 2008, Petitioner left thirty-four voice mail messages on Jamie's phone. (See Id. at 143, Pg. ID 977.) Later that day, she changed her phone number.

         On November 2, 2008, the victim, Daniels, visited Jamie at her home. Jamie testified that after K.R., who was about five years old at that time, went to bed, she and Daniels had sex in her bed. (See Id. at 119, 121, Pg. ID 953, 955.) When they finished having sex, Daniels fell asleep in the bed wearing only his t-shirt (and not wearing any pants.) (See Id. at 122, Pg. ID 956.) Jamie also fell asleep in the bed. (See id.)

         Later that evening, K.R. woke up and came into Jamie's bedroom. (See Id. at 123, Pg. ID 957.) K.R. was upset and laid down in the bed next to her mother. (See Id. at 123-24, Pg. ID 957-58.) Jamie testified that she was lying in between K.R. and Daniels and that K.R. was never next to Daniels in the bed. (See Id. at 123, Pg. ID 957.) At that time, Daniels was still wearing a t-shirt, but nothing else. (See Id. at 123-24, Pg. ID 957-58.) Jamie said that she asked Daniels to put pants on, but he declined. (See Id. at 124, Pg. ID 958.)

         Just as Jamie was falling back asleep, Jamie heard a loud noise and saw Petitioner kick down the door to her bedroom. (See Id. at 131-32, Pg. ID 965-66.) She testified that when Petitioner saw Daniels in the bed, he left the room, went to the kitchen, and returned. (See id.) At that time, Daniels was still asleep. (See Id. at 134, Pg. ID 968.) When Petitioner returned from the kitchen, Daniels began to wake up. (See id.) Petitioner then “pulled the covers off of [Daniels]” and Daniels “leaped over the end of [the] bed.” (Id. at 134-35, 180-81 Pg. ID 968-69, 1014-15.) Petitioner and Daniels then got into a fistfight. (See Id. at 133, Pg. ID 967.) At around that same time, Jamie jumped out of bed, reached for her cell phone, and called 911. (See id.)

         Jamie did not see a knife when the men were scuffling in the bedroom. (See Id. at 136-37, Pg. ID 970-71.) She testified that Daniels held Petitioner to the side so that she and K.R. could escape to the bedroom across the hall. (See id.) When she later emerged from that additional bedroom, neither Petitioner nor Daniels remained in the house. (See id.) Jamie found a knife (absent a handle) on the kitchen floor and placed it on the kitchen counter. (See Id. at 109-10, Pg. ID 943-44.) She also found a knife handle behind her bedroom door. (See Id. at 116, Pg. ID 950.) As described below, Petitioner admitted that he stabbed Daniels with a knife as they fought one another, and Daniels died from those wounds.[1]


         Petitioner testified in his own defense at trial and told a somewhat different version of events from Jamie. According to Petitioner, he lived in the home on Michelle Drive and paid the rent for that home. (See ECF #8-15 at 30, Pg. ID 1495.) In September 2007, Petitioner began staying at his mother's home during the week to shorten his commute to work. (See Id. at 34-35, Pg. ID 1499-1500.) On days when he did not have to work, he stayed at the Michelle Drive home.[2] (See id.)

         Petitioner acknowledged that his marriage to Jamie was tumultuous. He testified that his wife was known to use drugs and drink to excess when he was not home. (See Id. at 50-51, Pg. ID 1515-16.) Petitioner said that on the night of the murder, he went to the Michelle Drive home and saw an unfamiliar truck parked outside the home. (See Id. at 72, Pg. ID 1537.) He approached the door and heard what sounded like someone engaged in sexual intercourse. (See 73, Pg. ID 1537.) He also heard sounds from K.R. (See Id. at 73-74, Pg. ID 1538-39.) Petitioner was accustomed to interpreting K.R.'s mood from sounds that she made and the sounds he heard indicated she was not happy. (See id.) Petitioner testified that he became concerned and so he forced his way into the home. (See Id. at 76, Pg. ID 1541.)

         Once inside, Petitioner headed to the bedroom. There, he found three people lying in Jamie's bed: Jamie, K.R., and Daniels. (See Id. at 77-78., Pg. ID 1541-42.) Petitioner testified that Daniels' genitals were about six inches from K.R.'s face. (See Id. at 78-79, Pg. ID 1542-43.) Petitioner then ran to the kitchen to grab a knife. (See Id. at 80, Pg. ID 1544.) He testified that he felt he needed a knife because he believed that K.R. was being sexually assaulted. (See Id. at 81, Pg. ID 1545.) Petitioner wanted to use the knife to “get [Daniels] away from [K.R.].” (Id. at 80, Pg. ID 1544.) After Petitioner re-entered the bedroom, Daniels “hopped up” over Jamie and “locked up” with Petitioner. (See id.) The two men then began fighting at the end of the bed. During the fight, Daniels punched Petitioner, and Petitioner stabbed Daniels several times. (See Id. at 80-81, Pg. ID 1544-45.)

         The fight then shifted down the hall into the kitchen. (See id.) Petitioner grabbed another knife when they entered the kitchen, and he stabbed Daniels again. (See Id. 83-43, Pg. ID 1547-48.) He testified that Daniels also had a knife and was attempting to stab him (Petitioner). (See id.) At one point, Petitioner pushed Daniels up against the refrigerator and believed that that caused a knife to become embedded in Daniels' back. (See Id. at 84, Pg. ID 1548.) Petitioner denied that he stabbed Daniels when Daniels' back was turned to ...

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