United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
M. LAWSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Margo Milton was convicted by an Oakland County, Michigan
jury of armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
She has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2254 challenging those convictions and her
prison sentences on the grounds of ineffective assistance of
trial counsel for the failure to assert a duress defense, and
because trial counsel failed to call two witnesses in her
defense. The respondent urges the Court to deny the petition
because the petitioner did not exhaust her state remedies by
presenting her claims to the Michigan Supreme Court. The
warden also argues that the claims lack merit. Because Milton
was not denied the effective assistance of counsel, the Court
will deny her petition.
charges against Milton stem from a February 22, 2011 robbery
of a CVS drugstore in Southfield, Michigan. Milton was a
supervisor at the store. The prosecutor's theory was that
Milton helped plan and facilitate the robbery with Treymayne
Thompson, Maharayah “Roger” Brown, and Roosevelt
Rogers testified at trial that she worked as a cashier at the
CVS drugstore. Approximately ten minutes before closing on
the date of the robbery, a man walked into the store and
pointed a gun at her. Rogers identified the man as Thompson.
Thompson directed the other cashier, Rizwana Jaffri, to stand
near Rogers. Thompson then led the two cashiers to the back
office, and told them to call out for their supervisor.
testified that Milton (the supervisor) cracked the office
door open and looked out. Thompson then pushed the door open
and told Milton to open the safe. Milton emptied the money
from the safe and gave it to Thompson. Thompson ordered the
three women to lay on the floor. After it appeared on the
security monitor that Thompson was gone, Jaffri called 9-1-1.
Milton called the store manager.
testified that she was working at a register next to Rogers
when Thompson entered the store. After he pointed the gun at
Rogers, Thompson told them to take him to the office. Jaffri
testified that Milton was in and out of the store an unusual
No. of times on the date of the robbery. She also testified
that Milton normally would have been in the front of the
store before closing to help with the closing tasks, but she
was not there at closing on the date of the robbery.
Cahill, the regional manager for CVS, testified that he
investigated the robbery. He said that the surveillance video
of the incident (which was played for the jury) showed a
couple noteworthy things about Milton's behavior. For
one, it was unusual for Milton to pull the cash out of the
front registers and put it in the safe prior to the store
closing, as shown in the video. Also, it appeared from the
video that Milton watched the security monitors while
Thompson pointed the gun at the cashiers and led them to the
office, without taking any action. Cahill also noted that
Milton had done a lot of texting on her telephone immediately
before the robbery.
Tremayne Thompson testified that he knew Milton from the
neighborhood. About two days before the robbery, Thompson had
a conversation with Roger Brown, Milton's boyfriend.
Brown told Thompson that he and his step-father had talked
with Milton about robbing the drugstore. Thompson agreed to
participate in the robbery.
day of the robbery, Brown picked up Thompson and drove him to
Brown's house. Brown indicated that Milton had told him
that it was a good day to commit the robbery. Brown told
Thompson that he did not want to be the one to go inside the
store because he had identifiable dreadlocks. At about 9:00
p.m., Thompson, Brown, and Tolbert drove to the drugstore.
Milton came out of the store and got into the car. Milton
told the men about a parking spot that was out of the view of
the security cameras, and she described the placement of
cameras near the front counter and the office.
the discussion, Milton went back into the store and the three
men returned to Brown's house. The men decided that
Thompson would go into the store. Thompson testified that
Brown gave him a .45 caliber handgun. The men returned to the
store. Thompson went inside and saw a few customers, so he
walked around for a couple minutes. He saw Milton at a
register, and he waited for her to take the cash drawer to
the back office. Thompson then approached the two cashiers
with the handgun.
directed the cashiers to the back office, and after going
inside, he told Milton to open the safe. Milton opened the
safe and put what amounted to approximately $37, 000 into a
plastic bag. The three men went back to Brown's house and
counted the money. Milton called and told Brown what happened
after the police came. Thompson spent the night at
Brown's house. Milton came over the next morning and
received her share of about $10, 000.
testified that he was arrested a few months later, and he
ultimately pled guilty to armed robbery, conspiracy to commit
armed robbery, and possession of a firearm during the
commission of a felony. On cross-examination, Thompson
admitted that at some point during his case he decided to cut
a deal, and he wrote a letter to the prosecution. He
described his understanding of his potential sentencing
exposure, told the jury that he was given a sentence that was
substantially shorter, and acknowledged that he would not
have received the reduction in sentence without volunteering
to testify against Milton. Thompson also admitted on
cross-examination that he wrote letters to Milton from prison
calling her names, and stating that he used her to get time
off of his sentence.
closing arguments and deliberations, the jury found Milton
guilty of armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery,
and commission of a felony with a firearm. She was sentenced
to concurrent eight-to-twenty year prison terms on the
sentencing hearing, Milton stated that at the time of the
offense, “I was in fear for my life, for my
parents' lives and the safety of my co-workers.”
Sent. Tr [dkt. 5-6] at 14 (Pg ID 396). When she was
interviewed for the presentence report, Milton contended that
she participated in the crime because she had been threatened
by Thompson. Milton stated that her father owed Thompson
money for drugs. The trial court responded to these
allegation before imposing sentence:
I know that her proffered excuse was that she was threatened.
The court's view is that that's without merit. The
record suggests she got a cut on this recovery, that her cut
was ten grand. And that's not a person that as she's
alleging in advance was coerced into all of this. It just
simply isn't. And her conduct on the night of viewed on
the videotape suggests and corroborates not what Ms. Milton
advances but what her co-defendant and ...