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Smith v. Stewart

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

June 12, 2018

KEITH BERNARD SMITH, Petitioner,
v.
KEVIN LINDSEY, Respondent,

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND GRANTING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY AND LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          HON. ARTHUR J. TARNOW SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Keith Bernard Smith, (“Petitioner”), confined at the Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[1] In his pro se application, petitioner challenges his convictions for first-degree felony murder, M.C.L.A. 750.316(b), and assault with intent to rob while armed, M.C.L.A. 750.89. For the reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Petitioner was convicted of the above offenses following a jury trial in the Wayne County County Circuit Court. This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which are presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

Defendant's convictions arose as the result of the death of Annette Ralston. An autopsy revealed Ralston died of a combination of multiple stab, incised, and blunt force wounds, with the most immediate cause of death likely being a severing of her left carotid artery. Defendant had been acquainted with the victim for a period of a few weeks prior to her death and he was often seen at her residence. The victim's 15-year-old son and the victim's roommate both testified that defendant was present in the victim's home the evening before her body was discovered.
At trial, two witnesses familiar with defendant testified that he had arrived at their home a few days after the murder. At some point during their conversation, defendant told both witnesses that he had done a very bad thing and eventually admitted that he had killed a woman as part of a robbery attempt. Both witnesses testified that defendant provided details of the murder, including that he had used a knife and had driven the victim's son to his foster home prior to the murder. The latter assertion was confirmed by the son at trial.

People v. Smith, No. 286701, 2009 WL 3837414, at * 1 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 17, 2009).

         Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id., lv. den. 485 Mich. 1130, 779 N.W.2d 813 (2010).

         Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, which was held in abeyance so that petitioner could return to the state courts to exhaust additional claims.

         A post-conviction motion for relief from judgment was filed on petitioner's behalf in the Wayne County Circuit Court. The motion was denied by the trial court. People v. Smith, No. 08-003328-01-FC (Wayne Cty.Cir.Ct., Nov. 12, 2012).

         Petitioner then filed a second motion for relief from judgment, which was denied as an impermissibly filed successive motion for relief from judgment pursuant to M.C.R. 6.502(G). People v. Smith, No. 08-003328-01-FC (Wayne Cty.Cir.Ct., June 14, 2013).

         Petitioner filed a motion for the state trial court to vacate its order denying the first motion for relief from judgment and reissuing its opinion denying his second motion for relief from judgment. The judge denied the motion. People v. Smith, No. 08-003328-01-FC (Wayne Cty.Cir.Ct., Nov. 2, 2015).

         The Michigan appellate courts denied petitioner leave to appeal. People v. Smith, No. 331894 (Mich.Ct.App. June 27, 2016); lv. den. 501 Mich. 901, 902 N.W.2d 419 (2017).

         On January 10, 2018, the Court granted petitioner's motion to lift the stay and granted his motion to amend the petition. Petitioner seeks habeas relief on the following grounds:

I. Petitioner was denied his federal and state constitutional right to a fair trial by jury when the jurors were affected by extraneous information.
II. The state trial judge deprived Petitioner of his federal and state constitutional right to a properly instructed jury.
III. There was insufficient evidence to support Petitioner's convictions for felony-murder and assault with intent to rob while armed.
IV. The state trial judge deprived Petitioner of his rights to due process and an impartial jury when she allowed the jurors to submit questions for witnesses during the course of trial.
V. The suppression of impeachment evidence favorable to Petitioner's defense violated due process.
VI. Based on newly discovered evidence, there was insufficient evidence to sustain Petitioner's convictions for felony-murder and assault with intent to rob while armed.
VII. Habeas issues V & VI were not raised during Petitioner's direct appeal because he had ineffective ...

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