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Julian v. Huss

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

June 26, 2018

ERICA HUSS[1], Respondent.



         Petitioner Jeffrey Julian is a state prisoner in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections. On July 6, 2017, Julian filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (See ECF #1.) In the petition, Julian challenges his conviction for first-degree premeditated murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316; and moving or carrying away a dead body, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.160.

         Julian raises four claims in his petition: (1) the state trial court denied him due process of law when it permitted the admission of a recorded conversation between himself and witness Dustin Pirl because Pirl was acting as an agent for the police during that conversation, (2) the state trial court denied him due process of law when it refused to allow him to obtain a second independent psychological evaluation, (3) his trial counsel was ineffective when counsel failed to discover and investigate Julian's history of head trauma and marijuana abuse and failed to obtain all of Julian's medical records before scheduling a psychological evaluation, and (4) he was deprived of the presumption of innocence and the effective assistance of trial counsel when his trial counsel, prior to the prosecutor presenting his proofs, conceded Julian's guilt and agreed that there was no dispute as to the facts of the case. (See id.)

         The Court has reviewed Julian's claims and concludes that he is not entitled to federal habeas relief. Accordingly, the Court will DENY his petition. The Court also declines to issue Julian a certificate of appealability. But it will grant him permission to appeal in forma pauperis.


         Julian appeared before the Bay County Circuit Court for a bench trial on June 12, 2012. (See Trial Tr., ECF #5-14.) The trial court convicted Julian as charged. (See Id. at Pg. ID 515.) The Michigan Court of Appeals described the relevant facts as follows:

On August 27, 2010, defendant contacted the Bay City Police Department to report that his girlfriend was missing. He subsequently told Dustin Pirl that he had killed her. At the request of the police, Pirl agreed to wear a recording device and record a conversation with defendant. During the conversation, defendant again confessed.

People v. Julian, 2013 WL 6244705, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 3, 2013).

         Julian appealed his conviction the Michigan Court of Appeals, and that court affirmed. See Id. Julian then filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court, and that court denied leave. See People v. Julian, 846 N.W.2d 399 (Mich. 2014).

         Julian thereafter filed a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment in the state trial court pursuant to Michigan Court Rule 6.500, et. seq. (See ECF #5-20.) The trial court denied that motion. See People v. Julian, 10-10985-FC (Bay Cty. Cir. Ct., Oct. 2, 2015); reconsideration den. Oct. 27, 2015. (See ECF ## 21, 23.) Julian sought leave to appeal the trial court's ruling in the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court, and those courts denied leave. See People v. Julian, No. 332575 (Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 27, 2016); lv. den. 895 N.W.2d 195 (2017).


         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) imposes the following standard of review for habeas cases:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2).

         A decision of a state court is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). An “unreasonable application” of clearly established federal law occurs when “a state court decision unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner's case.” Id. at 409. To obtain habeas relief, a state prisoner must show that the state court's rejection of his or her claim “was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Harrington, Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011).



         Julian first claims that the state trial court violated his Fifth Amendment rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), when it refused to suppress a tape recorded confession that Julian made to a prosecution witness (Pirl) who Julian says was an agent for the police. The Michigan Court of Appeals reviewed this claim on direct appeal and rejected it:

Defendant first argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the statements to Pirl and the recording. Specifically, defendant maintains that, instead of using Pirl to record the conversation with defendant, the police should have invited defendant to come to the police station for questioning. According to defendant, not doing so “was tantamount to a custodial interrogation” and necessitated Miranda warnings. We disagree. [….]
Defendant's position is entirely without merit. First, defendant offers no authority for his position that criminal suspects have a constitutional right to be asked to come to the police station for questioning, and we have located no such authority. This is not surprising since there is no such right. Second, defendant's Miranda rights were not violated, let alone implicated, because his recorded conversation with Pirl was not the equivalent of a custodial interrogation.
It is well settled that Miranda warnings need only be given when a person is subject to custodial interrogation. Whether a defendant is in custody for purposes of Miranda at the time of an interrogation is determined by looking at the totality of the circumstances, with the key question being whether the accused reasonably could have believed that he or she was free to leave.
Here, it is undisputed that the recorded conversation occurred when defendant voluntarily went to Pirl's home and freely confessed to the killing. There simply is no evidence that defendant was ever taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom at any time during this visit. The fact that Pirl may have been acting as an agent of the police has no bearing on whether defendant was deprived of any freedom. Therefore, the trial court did not err by denying defendant's motion to suppress the recording.

People v. Julian, 2013 WL 6244705, at *1 (internal punctuation and citations omitted). The Michigan Court of Appeals' ruling was not unreasonable.[2]

         In Illinois v. Perkins, 496 U.S. 292, 300 (1990), the United States Supreme Court held that an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a fellow inmate was not required to give Miranda warnings to an incarcerated suspect before asking questions that may elicit an incriminating response. The Supreme Court reasoned that “[c]onversations between suspects and undercover agents do not implicate the concerns underlying Miranda. The essential ingredients of a police-dominated atmosphere and compulsion are not present when an incarcerated person speaks freely to someone whom he believes to be a fellow inmate.” Id., at 296 (internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover, “[p]loys to mislead a suspect or lull him into a false sense of security that do not rise to the level of compulsion or coercion to speak are not within Miranda's concerns.” Id. at 297.

         In this case, Julian was neither in custody or a “police-dominated atmosphere” when he made the tape recorded confession to Pirl nor was there any evidence that his statement was coerced. Id. at 296. The fact that Pirl was wearing a wire and acting as an undercover agent for the police, or that Julian may have been “lull[ed] into a false sense of security, ” does not implicate Miranda. Id. at 297. The Michigan Court of Appeals therefore did not unreasonably reject Julian's claim. Nor was that court's decision contrary to clearly established federal law. Accordingly, Julian is not entitled to federal habeas relief on this claim.


         Julian next argues that the state trial court violated his right to due process and to present a defense when the court did not allow him to obtain a second independent psychiatric evaluation before trial. At the time Julian made that request, he had already obtained an independent evaluation that concluded he was not insane or mentally ill at the time of the alleged crime. That independent clinician, Dr. Jeffrey Wendt, met with Julian twice at the Bay County Jail for a total of 7 ½ hours. Dr. Wendt interviewed Julian and Julian's trial counsel and administered several psychological tests. In addition, Dr. Wendt reviewed a report from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry which concluded that Julian was criminally responsible. Dr. Wendt also reviewed the police reports, reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the autopsy report, the transcript of an interview with co-defendant Craig Julian, search warrants, crime scene photographs, records relating to Julian's service in the United States Marine Corps, a transcript of an interview conducted by defense counsel with Amy Julian, the recordings of Julian's telephone calls while at the Bay County Jail, an interview of Julian by the police, the recording of the police interview with Pirl, Pirl's covert recording of Julian, and two Wal-Mart Security videotapes. After conducting this testing and reviewing all of this information, Dr. Wendt concluded that Julian did not meet the criteria to be considered insane or mentally ill at the time of the crime. (See ECF #5-18 at Pg. ID 786-88.)

         Before trial, Julian requested a second independent psychiatric evaluation. He argued that he needed a second expert to evaluate his claim that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and that the disorder rose to the level of a mental illness that he could present as a defense. The state trial judge denied ...

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