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Edwards v. Klee

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

July 25, 2018

PAUL KLEE, Respondent.



         I. Introduction

         This is 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.

         II. Facts and Procedural History

         Petitioner's 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 omitted).

         Following 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).

         Petitioner 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.

         Respondent 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 merit.

         III. Standard of Review

         The 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; 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.

28U.S.C. §2254(d)(1996).

         "A 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).

         "[T]he '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)).

         The 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." W ...

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