United States District Court, E.D. Michigan
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS, DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, GRANTING
PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS, AND DENYING MOTION
L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge
7, 2014, Michigan Department of Corrections Inmate Paul
Pozniak filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF No. 1. Petitioner
Pozniak, was convicted after a jury trial in the Macomb
Circuit Court of first-degree murder. Mich. Comp. Laws §
750.316. Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment.
petition, Pozniak asserts eight grounds for relief: (1)
insufficient evidence was presented at Petitioner's trial
to establish his identity as the perpetrator, (2)
Petitioner's counsel was ineffective for failing to
object to the admission of testimony, (3) Petitioner was
denied his right to counsel at a photographic line-up
identification procedure, (4) the police and prosecutor
committed misconduct by misrepresenting the physical
evidence, (5) the trial court lacked subject matter
jurisdiction to try Petitioner, (6) Petitioner was abandoned
by his trial counsel for failing to raise a jurisdictional
challenge, (7) Petitioner was denied the effective assistance
of appellate counsel, and (8) the prosecutor failed to
protect Petitioner's constitutional rights by proceeding
to trial in a court without jurisdiction. Petitioner's
claims are without merit or barred by procedural defaults
which occurred in state court. Therefore, the petition will
be denied. For similar reasons, Petitioner's request for
a certificate of appealability, permission to appeal in forma
pauperis, and motion for discovery will be denied.
relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals
are presumed to be correct, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1), and will be recited verbatim. See Wagner v.
Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009).
Defendant's conviction arises from the February 23, 2010,
strangulation of 84-year-old Charles Taylor in his home in
Warren, Michigan. The prosecution's theory was that
defendant, the estranged son of Taylor's long-time
friend, knew that Taylor had money, attacked him in his home,
ransacked his home looking for valuables, and stole his
wallet. Defendant's DNA was discovered on Taylor's
left and right hands, as well as the inside of Taylor's
right rear pants pocket, where Taylor kept his wallet. At
trial, the defense argued that defendant's DNA was on
Taylor's hands because Taylor shook defendant's hand
and hugged him during a prior visit, and that a secondary
transfer from that contact caused the presence of
defendant's DNA inside Taylor's pants pocket. The
defense presented an alibi defense, and defendant and his
girlfriend both testified that they were together on the day
of Taylor's death.
People v. Pozniak, No. 306405, 2013 WL 331564, at *1
(Mich. Ct. App. Jan. 29, 2013).
his conviction, Petitioner filed an appeal of right. His
appointed appellate counsel filed a brief on appeal raising
the following two claims:
I. Defendant's conviction for first-degree murder should
be reversed because the prosecution failed to present
constitutionally sufficient evidence to sustain his
conviction, where the only credible evidence in the case
seeking to identify Mr. Pozniak as the offender was the
circumstantial evidence of the presence of his skin cells at
the scene, and the prosecution did not prove that those cells
could only have been left at the house during the alleged
commission of the homicide.
II. Paul Pozniak received constitutionally ineffective
assistance of counsel when his trial counsel did not timely
object to inadmissible testimony, under Michigan Rules of
Evidence 701 and 801, concerning Alphonse Pozniak's
reaction to his son's arrest in connection with the death
of Charles Taylor, testimony which should have resulted in
multiple objections and a request for a curative jury
Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's
conviction in an unpublished opinion. Id. Petitioner
then filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan
Supreme Court, raising the same two claims that he raised in
the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court
denied the application because it was “not persuaded
that the questions presented should be reviewed.”
People v. Pozniak, 833 N.W.2d 918 (Mich. 2013)
initiated the present action by filing a petition for writ of
habeas corpus raising the two claims he presented to the
state courts in his direct appeal. Petitioner also filed a
motion to stay the case so that he could return to the state
courts and pursue relief with respect to what now form his
third through eighth habeas claims. The Court granted the
motion, ECF No. 6, and Petitioner filed a motion for relief
from judgment in the state trial court, raising his new
claims. The trial court denied the motion for relief from
judgment, finding that each of the new claims lacked merit.
ECF No. 18, Ex. 13.
then filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan
Court of Appeals which raised the same claims. The Michigan
Court of Appeals denied the delayed application for leave to
appeal, finding that
defendant has failed to meet the burden of establishing
entitlement to relief under MCR 6.508(D). The defendant
alleges grounds for relief that could have been raised
previously and he has failed to establish both good cause for
failing to previously raise the issues and actual prejudice
from the irregularities alleged, and ha[d] not established
that good cause should be waived. MCR 6.508(D)(3)(a) and (b).
ECF No. 18, Ex. 14 at 1.
filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan
Supreme Court, but it was denied with citation to Rule
6.508(D). People v. Pozniak, 884 N.W.2d 790 (Mich.
then returned to this Court and filed an amended petition,
raising his third through eighth claims, along with a motion
to lift the stay and reopen the case. The motion was granted.
ECF No. 12. Respondent subsequently filed a responsive
pleading, and Petitioner filed a reply brief indicating that
he wished to raise both the claims presented on direct appeal
and on state post-conviction review in this proceeding.
Petitioner also filed a motion for discovery, ECF No. 21,
seeking information to support his claim that the prosecutor
misrepresented the physical evidence.
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 that there was
an error well understood and comprehended in existing law
beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.”
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103 (internal quotation
first claim challenges the sufficiency of the evidence
presented at trial to sustain his conviction. He asserts that
there was insufficient evidence admitted at trial to prove
beyond a ...