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Davis v. Winn

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

June 15, 2018

SAMUEL CHRISTOPHER-NEA DAVIS, Petitioner,
v.
THOMAS WINN, Respondent.

          OPINION

          ROBERT J. JONKER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner Christopher Samuel Nea-Davis is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) in Coldwater, Michigan. On January 16, 2015, Petitioner entered a plea of nolo contendere[1] in the St. Joseph County Circuit Court to two counts of armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529. On March 26, 2015, the court sentenced Petitioner to concurrent terms of imprisonment of 16 years to 60 years.

         Petitioner, with the assistance of counsel, filed an application for leave to appeal his sentences to the Michigan Court of Appeals raising just one issue:

I. IS MR. DAVIS ENTITLED TO A RESENTENCING BASED UPON THE THRESHOLD SHOWING THAT: HIS OV LEVEL WAS CALCULATED USING FACTS BEYOND THOSE FOUND BY THE JURY OR ADMITTED BY HIM; THE REDUCTION IN HIS OV SCORE TO ACCOUNT FOR THE ERROR WOULD CHANGE THE APPLICABLE GUIDELINES MINIMUM SENTENCE RANGE; AND HE WAS NOT SENTENCED TO AN UPWARD DEPARTURE SENTENCE.

(Br. in Supp. of Appl. for Leave to Appeal, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.19.) By order entered November 23, 2015, the court of appeals denied Petitioner's application for lack of merit in the grounds presented. (Mich. Ct. App. Ord., ECF No. 8-5, PageID.183.)[2]

         Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court. (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.2.) Petitioner again raised the single issue from his court of appeals brief and he added several others, paraphrased as follows:

II. Denial of counsel-ineffective assistance of counsel (plus . . . ineffective assistance of appeal counsel). Defense counsel did not meet with Petitioner. Defense counsel was suspended from the practice of law during his representation of Petitioner. Defense counsel advised Petitioner to plead guilty.
III. Investigations of the courts, judge, prosecution, attorney, police reports and appeal attorneys.
IV. Prosecutorial misconduct & maliciousness.
V. Bias & prejudice of courts.
VI. Rules of Professional Conduct were violated.
VII. Illegal transcripts. (Petitioner claims the court made things up and picked and chose what to distribute out in the open and what to cover up).

(Appl. for Leave to Appeal, ECF No. 8-6, PageID.236-301.) By order entered June 28, 2016, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. Petitioner did not file a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.2.)

         On July 7, 2017, Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition.[3] Although he identifies three, or perhaps four, separate habeas grounds, they together simply reiterate the single ground for relief that Petitioner raised in the Michigan Court of Appeals. (Pet. ECF No. 1, PageID.6-10.)

         On April 13, 2018, Petitioner filed a motion to stay this action and hold it in abeyance pending his exhaustion of additional issues in the state courts. (Mot., ECF No. 11.) Petitioner now contends that his plea was involuntary and unknowing because his counsel failed to inform him of the full ramifications of the plea. He also claims that counsel failed to object at sentencing when the trial court added an additional armed robbery count that should have been dismissed under the plea agreement.

         Respondent has filed an answer to the petition (ECF No. 7) stating that the grounds should be denied because they are noncognizable and without merit. Upon review and applying the standards of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (AEDPA), I find that the grounds are meritless. Accordingly, the petition will be denied. Moreover, Petitioner has failed to demonstrate good cause for his failure to previously raise his new issues and those issues, too, are without merit. Therefore, Petitioner's motion to stay will be denied.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         The underlying facts are not critical to the resolution of the issue raised by Petitioner; however, some background is helpful. St. Joseph County Circuit Court Judge Paul Stutesman described the facts as follows:

This is the fourth of four cases that I've had where pleas have been entered. And the basic facts contained in the police report are that police received a 9-1-1 dispatch call on September 22nd 2014, from Hilda Welton and Kenneth Welton who were at the Saint Joseph County fairgrounds where they operated a trailer where they sold merchandise at the fair, indicating that they had just been robbed by four people who had weapons; that they had pistols pointed at them; and they described the people; and it's contained in the police report.
Mr. Howe-Robert Howe, Mr. Corderrius Cook, and Mr. John Gregory have all entered pleas at this point where they established factual [bases] for their involvement and Mr. Davis's involvement in the events on that day.
The four had traveled from Ohio. They had arrived earlier in the day-the day before, at least; that they then obtained outfits with FBI logos, dark clothing.
That they approached the trailer; that one of the gentlemen went in first, and then there's indications that all four went in.
That there were pistols held to the Weltons and that their-they were robbed of over $20, 000 in cash from their safe.
That after leaving the Weltons-the Weltons were zip-tied and bound in the trailer and that they left.
They were able to free themselves and phone the police and sheriff's deputies or state-a sheriff's deputy, I think received and saw a vehicle with four gentlemen inside; made a stop on the vehicle, and all four gentlemen were inside.
Inside the vehicle were weapons and cash and various items which would tie the occupants to the events that occurred at the fairground on September 22nd.
That Mr. Gregory then agreed to cooperate with the police and made statements implicating both himself, Mr. Cook, Mr. Howe, and Mr. Davis, indicating that it had been planned and that they had arrived from Ohio and that they had gone on that date with the intent to commit the armed robbery and did so.

(Plea Tr., ECF No. 8-3, PageID.166-167.)[4]

         At the plea hearing, although he entered a plea of nolo contendere, Petitioner attempted to present mitigating facts to the judge. Petitioner claimed that he had not possessed a firearm. (Id., PageID.162-163.) At sentencing, the court reviewed ...


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