United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
M. LAWSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lamarr Franklin Murphy-Ellerson has filed a pro se
petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §
2254, challenging his assault and firearms convictions and
sentences. He alleges a variety of claims, none of which
persuades the Court that he is in custody in violation of the
Constitution or laws of the United States. Therefore, the
petition will be denied.
Washtenaw County, Michigan jury convicted the petitioner of
two counts of assault with intent to commit murder, two
counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less
than murder, possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle,
discharge of a firearm from a motor vehicle, discharge of a
firearm toward a dwelling or occupied structure, carrying a
concealed weapon, and possession of a firearm in the
commission of a felony (felony firearm). The facts of the
case were summarized by the Michigan Court of Appeals on
direct appeal as follows:
In December 2011, someone fired shots at home where several
people had gathered for a party. The shooter fired at the
home while driving past it. Matthew Lewis was hit in the leg
as he was standing outside the home. Lewis was not able to
identify the shooter or the car, but Amber King, another
guest at the party, testified that she was in the kitchen
when she saw Murphy-Ellerson pull up in a silver car, roll
his window down, point a gun in her direction, and fire
multiple shots. King stated that she had earlier had a
confrontation with Murphy-Ellerson at a convenience store.
Murphy-Ellerson initially denied that he knew King and denied
knowing about or being involved in the shooting. In a
subsequent statement, he told a detective that he was in the
car during the shooting, but was not the shooter. He later
recanted and claimed that he was not in the car during the
jury found that Murphy-Ellerson was the shooter and convicted
him accordingly. People v. Murphy-Ellerson, No.
312651, 2014 WL 2158171, at * 1 (Mich. Ct. App. May 22,
petitioner was sentenced to concurrent prison terms totaling
twenty to forty years, except that his conviction for felony
firearm earned him an additional two-year consecutive
sentence. The petitioner's conviction was affirmed on
appeal. Ibid.; lv. den. 497 Mich. 947, 857
N.W.2d 37 (2014) (Table). However, the court of appeals
vacated his convictions of assault with intent to do great
bodily harm, as duplicative of the more serious offenses.
petitioner filed a timely petition for habeas corpus,
alleging the following grounds for relief:
I. Right to present defense witness testimony was denied.
II. Double Jeopardy violation.
III. Fair trial denied by allegations of threats and payment
offers by other parties.
IV. Trial counsel was ineffective in failing to investigate
and question a defense witness.
V. Prosecutorial misconduct.
VI. Erroneously scored state sentencing guidelines claims
(offense variables 3, 4, and 13) are not reviewed on federal
petitions for habeas corpus relief, and petitioner does not
belabor the Court by presenting the same here after
sentencing guideline issues were exhausted before the
Michigan Supreme Court.
2. These are the same grounds raised by his attorney on
direct appeal. The warden opposes the petition on the merits,
and also raises certain procedural defenses, which need not
be addressed here. See Hudson v. Jones, 351 F.3d
212, 215 (6th Cir. 2003) (holding that “federal courts
are not required to address a procedural-default issue before
deciding against the petitioner on the merits”) (citing
Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U.S. 518, 525 (1997)).
provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214
(Apr. 24, 1996), which govern this case,
“circumscribe[d]” the standard of review federal
courts must apply when considering an application for a writ
of habeas corpus raising constitutional claims, including
claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. See Wiggins
v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003). Because
Murphy-Ellerson filed his petition after the AEDPA's
effective date, its standard of review applies. Under that
statute, if a claim was adjudicated on the merits in state
court, a federal court may grant relief only if the state
court's adjudication “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 if the adjudication
“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). “Clearly established
Federal law for purposes of § 2254(d)(1) includes only
the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the
Supreme] Court's decisions.” White v.
Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, ___, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “As a
condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a
state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on
the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in
justification that there was an error well understood and
comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for
fairminded disagreement.” Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011).
distinction between mere error and an objectively
unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent creates a
substantially higher threshold for obtaining relief than
de novo review. The 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) (finding that the state court's
rapid declaration of a mistrial on grounds of jury deadlock
was not unreasonable even where “the jury only
deliberated for four hours, its notes were arguably
ambiguous, the trial judge's initial question to the
foreperson was imprecise, and the judge neither asked for
elaboration of the foreperson's answers nor took any
other measures to confirm the foreperson's prediction
that a unanimous verdict would not be reached”
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted)); see
also Leonard v. Warden, Ohio State Penitentiary, 846
F.3d 832, 841 (6th Cir. 2017); Dewald v.
Wriggelsworth, 748 F.3d 295, 298-99 (6th Cir. 2014);
Bray v. Andrews, 640 F.3d 731, 737-39 (6th Cir.
2011); Phillips v. Bradshaw, 607 F.3d 199, 205 (6th
Cir. 2010); Murphy v. Ohio, 551 F.3d 485, 493-94
(6th Cir. 2009); Rockwell v. Yukins, 341 F.3d 507,
511 (6th Cir. 2003) (en banc). Moreover, habeas review is
“limited to the record that was before the state
court.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170,
though the state appellate courts did not give full
consideration to the petitioner's federal claims on
appeal, AEDPA's highly deferential standard for reviewing
a habeas petitioner's constitutional claims applies here.
The petitioner must show that “the state court decision
was ‘contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established Federal law' or
involved an ‘unreasonable determination of the
facts.'” Kelly v. Lazaroff, 846 F.3d 819,
831 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)). That
standard applies “even when a state court does not
explain the reasoning behind its denial of relief.”
Carter v. Mitchell, 829 F.3d 455, 468 (6th Cir.
2016). “Under [Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S.
86 (2011)], ‘[w]hen a federal claim has been presented
to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it
may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on
its merits in the absence of any indication or state-law
procedural principles to the contrary.'” Barton
v. Warden, S. Ohio Corr. Facility, 786 F.3d 450, 460
(6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Harrington, 562 U.S. at
99). There is nothing in this record that suggests a basis
for rebutting that presumption. See Johnson v.
Williams, 568 U.S. 289, 133 S.Ct. 1088, 1097 (2013).
petitioner contends that the trial court trenched upon his
right to present a defense by excluding testimony from the
petitioner's stepfather that the state's sole
eyewitness, Amber King, attempted to solicit or extort money
from him in exchange for giving favorable testimony for the
petitioner. His attorney objected to the exclusion of that
testimony at trial on evidentiary grounds, but his appellate
attorney couched the issue as a constitutional claim. The
Michigan Court of Appeals reviewed and rejected the
petitioner's claim so stated under a plain error standard
because the petitioner did not characterize it in that way at
the trial court. People v. Murphy-Ellerson, 2014 WL
2158171, at * 1-2. The court determined that the trial judge
mishandled the evidentiary issue, but concluded that the
error was harmless. It reasoned as follows:
Here, the primary issue at trial was the shooter's
identity and King was the only witness who could positively
identify Murphy-Ellerson as the shooter. For that reason,
this case largely turned on her credibility.
Murphy-Ellerson's lawyer impeached King with
inconsistencies in her trial testimony, preliminary
examination testimony, and her statements to officers. His
lawyer also solicited testimony from her that she ...