United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
L. MALONEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28
U.S.C. § 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition
for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a preliminary
review of the petition to determine whether “it plainly
appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits
annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief
in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing §
2254 Cases; see 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the
petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see Allen
v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district
court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that
lack merit on their face). A dismissal under Rule 4 includes
those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well
as those containing factual allegations that are palpably
incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434,
436-37 (6th Cir. 1999). After undertaking the review required
by Rule 4, the Court concludes that the petition must be
dismissed because it fails to raise a meritorious federal
William Roy Lee presently is incarcerated with the Michigan
Department of Corrections at the Carson City Correctional
Facility (DRF) in Carson City, Montcalm County, Michigan.
Following a 15-day jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit
Court, Petitioner was convicted of first-degree murder, Mich.
Comp. Laws § 750.316a. On February 6, 2015, the court
sentenced Petitioner to life imprisonment without parole.
appealed his conviction to the Michigan Court of Appeals,
raising a single issue:
[PETITIONER] IS ENTITLED TO A NEW TRIAL WHERE THE TRIAL COURT
ERRED IN THE ADMISSION OF THE ALLEGED STATEMENT BY A
(Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.3.) His two co-defendants also
appealed their convictions and the court of appeals
consolidated the cases into a single appeal. In a lengthy,
unpublished opinion issued on August 9, 2016, the court of
appeals denied Petitioner's appeal and affirmed his
conviction. See People v. Thompkins et al., Nos.
326028, 326094, 326095, 2016 WL 4212142 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug.
9, 2016). Petitioner sought leave to appeal to the Michigan
Supreme Court, raising the same ground. The supreme court
denied leave to appeal on March 7, 2017.
11, 2018, Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition. Under
Sixth Circuit precedent, the application is deemed filed when
handed to prison authorities for mailing to the federal
court. Cook v. Stegall, 295 F.3d 517, 521 (6th Cir.
2002). Petitioner placed his petition in the prison mailing
system on June 25, 2018. (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.15.) The
petition raises the single ground presented to the state
appellate courts. (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.7.)
conviction arises out of a shooting death that occurred in
Detroit on July 31, 2013. Petitioner makes no challenge to
the underlying facts as recited by the Michigan Court of
Appeals. As a consequence, this Court relies on the factual
summary of the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The twenty-five year old victim in this case, Jonathon
Michael Stokes (a/k/a “Slim”), was found shot to
death near a bus stop in the City of Detroit on July 31,
2013. The victim's identification was found next to his
body. His front pockets were turned inside out as though
someone had rummaged through his pockets and his Cartier
glasses were nowhere to be found. The victim had been shot
five times - four times in the legs and once in his head; all
shots were from behind. The four bullets recovered from the
victim's body revealed that all bullets came from the
same barrel of a .38 caliber weapon.
Defendants were charged in the victim's murder and were
tried together. Deseanta and Leander are cousins. Deseanta
was also known as “D, ” “De” or
“Day.” Leander was sometimes referred to as
“Le Le.” Although tried together, there were two
juries - one for Leander and another for Deseanta and Lee. At
trial, it was the prosecutor's theory that defendants
were upset with the victim and thought he was a
“snitch.” In contrast, defendants argued that
this was a case of mistaken identity and that the shooter was
actually Leander's cousin, Dejuan Griffin (Griffin),
whose street name was similar to Deseanta's - “Da
Jeffrey Pursey testified that on the night of the murder he
was on his way to a liquor store on Seven Mile between Grand
River and Telegraph to meet a friend and go to the casino.
Pursey was unable to pull into the driveway of the liquor
store because there were three individuals in the way. One
individual had on dark pants and a black hoody. Another had
on dark pants and a white shirt. Pursey was not entirely sure
what the third individual was wearing, but knew he was
wearing dark clothing. At trial, Pursey identified Lee as the
one in the white t-shirt and Deseanta as the one in the
hoody. Pursey testified that Lee actually waved Pursey into
the parking lot. Pursey's friend arrived within a couple
of minutes. Pursey put his phone and charger on his
friend's front seat and was planning to go into the
liquor store to grab a drink when he heard five gunshots.
Pursey went up to Seven Mile and saw the same three
individuals running toward him. Pursey grabbed his phone from
his friend's car and dialed 911 while driving to the
area. He saw a body lying on the ground. Pursey called 911
and later gave Detective Detrick Mott a written statement and
identified Lee from a photo array as the individual who waved
him into the parking lot and the one he later saw running
towards him. Pursey identified Deseanta from another array as
the individual in the black hoody.
All three defendants attacked the credibility of Pursey's
testimony because the victim's family had given Pursey
$12, 000 before trial as a reward for his cooperation. The
victim's mother, Dorothy Strong-Stokes, testified that
she and her husband had originally put up a $27, 500 reward
with Crime Stoppers, hoping to apprehend their son's
killers. Although Pursey provided critical information in the
case and had testified at several preliminary examinations,
Crime Stoppers informed Strong-Stokes that Pursey did not
qualify to receive the reward because he had not made a tip
directly to them. Crime Stoppers told Strong-Stokes that if
she wanted Pursey to have the money, she would have to do it
herself. They returned the Stokes' money. Strong-Stokes
testified that she felt $12, 000 was a fair reward. She did
not intend the payment as a bribe for Pursey's testimony.
Pursey denied that the $12, 000 influenced his testimony at a
later preliminary examination or at trial. In fact, when
Pursey gave his statement to police and positively identified
Lee and Deseanta, he was unaware that there was a reward
through Crime Stoppers.
The only witness at the bus stop the night of the murder was
Castro Pettway. Pettway saw three individuals approaching
from the east. One had on a black hoody and another was
wearing a white t-shirt. They stopped about 40 feet before
the bus stop and were talking amongst themselves. They
continued to approach the bus stop when the individual
wearing the hoody mentioned something to the victim about a
bus and pulled out a gun. Pettway heard and saw the first
shot fired and then ran. He heard three or four more shots.
Pettway waited approximately five minutes and then went back
to retrieve his bag. Pettway could not identify the shooters
Walter Williams was doing some maintenance in the area where
the murder occurred. He heard four gunshots in the distance.
From a window, Williams could see that there was a man on the
ground and four others around him. Three of the men were
kneeling down and appeared to be going through the man's