United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS. DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY. AND
DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL
G. EDMUNDS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a pro se habeas case brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Michigan prisoner Sidney Ford Edwards, III
("Petitioner") was convicted of conspiracy to
manufacture methamphetamine, Mich. Comp. Laws §§
333.7401 (2)(b)(1); Mich. Comp. Laws 750.157a, and four
counts of maintaining a controlled substance laboratory
involving methamphetamine, Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.7401
c(2)(f), following a jury trial in the Cheboygan County
Circuit Court. He was sentenced as a fourth habitual
offender, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12, to concurrent terms
of 7 to 40 years imprisonment on those convictions in 2013.
In his petition, he raises claims concerning the jury
instructions, the admission of hearsay, the effectiveness of
trial counsel, and the validity of his sentence. For the
reasons set forth, the Court denies habeas relief. The Court
also denies a certificate of appealability and denies leave
to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.
Facts and Procedural History
convictions arise from his operation of a meth lab with
others in a residential garage in Cheboygan, Michigan in
2013. The Michigan Court of Appeals described the underlying
facts, which are presumed correct on habeas review, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(e)(1); Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410,
413 (6th Cir. 2009), as follows:
Detective Jon Supernault testified that the investigation
that led to Edwards' charges started with a tip from an
informant that Kristopher Ayotte and Sarah Burnett were
gathering materials to manufacture methamphetamine.
Supernault said the investigation into their purchases led
the officers to Ayotte's garage. Detective Steve Seccia
testified that when officers arrived at the site, Ayotte was
actively "cooking" methamphetamine. Seccia said he
observed a green Mountain Dew bottle that Ayotte was using as
a gas generator. They also found other evidence of
methamphetamine production, including cleartubing, household
lye, lithium battery hulls, coffee filter, tinfoil, and
charcoal lighter. Detective Jason Varoni testified that they
found Liquid Lightning drain opener and Morton salt. Varoni
said they also found two different gas generators, indicating
that more than one person cooked methamphetamine.
Burnett testified against Edwards at trial under a plea
agreement. Although she testified that she did not see
Edwards manufacture methamphetamine, Burnett's testimony
implicated Edwards in the manufacture of methamphetamine
along with Ayotte.
People v. Edwards, No. 318023, 2014 WL 7157616, *1
(Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 16, 2014) (unpublished) (footnote
his convictions and sentencing, Petitioner filed an appeal of
right with the Michigan Court of Appeals raising the same
claims presented on habeas review. The court denied relief on
those claims and affirmed Petitioner's convictions and
sentences. Id. At *1-4. Petitioner filed an
application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme
Court, which reversed in part and remanded the case to the
trial court for a sentencing hearing pursuant to People
v. Loc/cndge, 498 Mich. 358, 870 N.W.2d 502 (2015), but
denied leave to appeal in all other respects. People v.
Edwards, 498 Mich. 903, 870 N.W.2d 721 (2015). The State
filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United
States Supreme Court, which was dismissed. Michigan v.
Edwards, U.S., 136 S.Ct. 1731 (2016). On remand, the
state trial court declined to re-sentence Petitioner thereby
reaffirming his sentences. People v. Edwards, No.
13-004860-FC, Register of Actions (Cheboygan Co. Cir. Ct.
March 14, 2016).
thereafter filed his federal habeas petition. He raises the
following claims as grounds for relief:
I. The trial court committed plain error by failing to give
an accomplice cautionary instruction regarding Burnett's
testimony which denied him the right to present a defense and
to a properly-instructed jury.
II. His convictions are based in part on inadmissible hearsay
testimony from the detective.
III. He was denied the effective assistance of trial counsel
by counsel's failure to object to hearsay and for not
demanding a proper accomplice jury instruction.
IV. Re-sentencing is required because his sentences were
increased based on facts that were not found by a jury beyond
a reasonable doubt.
has filed an answer to the habeas petition contending that it
should be denied because the first two habeas claims are
procedurally defaulted and all of the habeas claims lack
Standard of Review
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
("AEDPA"), codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2241 et
seq., sets forth the standard of review that federal
courts must use when considering habeas petitions brought by
prisoners challenging their state court convictions. The
AEDPA provides in relevant part:
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;
(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.
state court's decision is 'contrary to'...
clearly established law if it 'applies a rule that
contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court
cases]' or if it 'confronts a set of facts that are
materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme]
Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from
[that] precedent."' Mitchell v. Esparza,
540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam) (quoting Williams
v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)); see also
Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002).
'unreasonable application' prong of § 2254(d)(1)
permits a federal habeas court to 'grant the writ if the
state court identifies the correct governing legal principle
from [the Supreme] Court but unreasonably applies that
principle to the facts of petitioner's case."
Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003) (quoting
Williams, 529 U.S. at 413); see also Bell,
535 U.S. at 694. However, "[i]n order for a federal
court to find a state court's application of [Supreme
Court] precedent 'unreasonable,' the state
court's decision must have been more than incorrect or
erroneous. The state court's application must have been
'objectively unreasonable.'" Wiggins,
539 U.S. at 520-21 (citations omitted); see also
Williams, 529 U.S. at 409. "AEDPA thus imposes a
'highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court
rulings,' and 'demands that state-court decisions be
given the benefit of the doubt.'" Renico v.
Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (quoting Lindh,
521 U.S. at 333, n. 7; Woodford v. Viscotti, 537
U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam)).
United States Supreme Court has held that "a state
court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes
federal habeas relief so long as 'fairminded jurists
could disagree' on the correctness of the state
court's decision." Harrington v. Richter,562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (citing Yarborough v.
Alvarado,541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). The Supreme Court
has emphasized "that even a strong case for relief does
not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was
unreasonable." Id. (citing Lockyerv.
Andrade,538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)). A habeas court
"must determine what arguments or theories supported or.
. . could have supported, the state court's decision; and
then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists
could disagree that those arguments or theories are
inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision" of
the Supreme Court. Id. Thus, in order to obtain
federal habeas relief, a state prisoner must show that the
state court's rejection of a claim "was so lacking
in justification that there was an error well understood and
comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for
fairminded disagreement." Id.; see also White v.
Woodall, __ U.S. __, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014).
Federal judges "are required to afford state courts due
respect by overturning their decisions only when there could
be no reasonable dispute that they were wrong."