United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND
(3) GRANTING PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
HONORABLE VICTORIA A. ROBERTS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a habeas case filed by a Michigan prisoner under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Petitioner Ronald Fordham was convicted after a
jury trial in the Wayne Circuit Court of second-degree
murder. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.317. Petitioner was
sentenced to a term of 27 to 50 years' imprisonment.
petition raises seven claims: (1) insufficient evidence at
trial to sustain Petitioner's conviction, (2)
Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective for failing to
object to the misconduct of the prosecutor, (3) the
prosecutor improperly vouched for the credibility of two
witnesses, (4) Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective
for failing to present a substantial defense, failing to
request a jury instruction on manslaughter, and failing to
have Petitioner testify in his own defense, (5) the trial
court erred in failing to instruct the jury on its own
initiative on the lesser offense of manslaughter, (6) trial
counsel was ineffective for failing to subject the
prosecutor's case to meaningful adversarial testing, and
(7) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to advise
Petitioner to accept a favorable plea bargain.
Court finds that Petitioner's claims are without merit or
barred by his state court procedural default. Therefore, the
petition will be denied. The Court also denies a certificate
of appealability, but it will grant permission to appeal in
was originally charged with first-degree murder along with
co-defendants Shameka Shamily and Tinga Harvey as a result of
the May 3, 2012, stabbing death of Kiewone Watkins at a
Detroit apartment building. Harvey and Shamily pled guilty to
manslaughter, and before trial the charge against Petitioner
was reduced to second-degree murder.
trial, the medical examiner testified that Watkins died as
the result of multiple stab wounds. The most serious wounds
penetrated the right chest cavity and injured both of his
lungs and heart. The medical examiner noted a defensive stab
wound on the victim's forearm and a laceration to the
back of the head.
incident occurred after a fight erupted at Watkins'
apartment building. The two-story “U” shaped
building had an outdoor walkway on the second floor and
outdoor staircases. The fight initially involved Shamily and
Harvey arguing with Shamily's step-sister, Shana Granger.
Harvey is the mother of Petitioner's child, and Granger
was Watkins' boyfriend. Granger and Watkins lived at the
same building but in different apartments.
testified at trial that she and Harvey went to the apartment
building after drinking heavily. Multiple intoxicated people
were arguing. Shamily and Harvey got involved in the
argument; they argued with Watkins. At some point Shamily and
Harvey left the building, got Petitioner, and returned with
the intention of continuing the fight.
they returned, Shamily and Harvey engaged in a physical fight
with the victim on the second-floor walkway. During the
fight, Shamily saw Petitioner hit the victim in the chest and
stomach, but she did not see a knife. Petitioner then started
running away and told Shamily and Harvey that they had to go.
Meanwhile, Shamily saw the victim lying on the ground.
Shamily testified that she was charged with second-degree
murder, but she pled guilty to manslaughter with a 4 to 15
year sentence and an agreement to testify truthfully at
testified that she is the mother of Petitioner's
daughter. She was also charged with second-degree murder but
pled guilty to manslaughter with a 4 to 15 year sentence and
an agreement to testify truthfully. She described how on the
date of the incident, Granger called Harvey and Shamily over
to her building. When they arrived, Harvey argued with
Watkins, who pushed her and threatened to punch her. In
response, Harvey broke a bottle and prepared to use it as a
weapon. Watkins spit on her. When other individuals came out
of Watkins' apartment, Harvey and Shamily left to get
testified that they returned with Petitioner, another man
named Ralph, Paris Simpkins, and her boyfriend. Harvey and
Shamily went back to Watkins' apartment, and the three
began to fight on the walkway. During the fight, Petitioner
intervened and stabbed the victim several times. The victim
fell to the floor. As they fled, Petitioner told Harvey that
he stabbed the victim but that he did not kill him.
Granger testified that Harvey and Shamily arrived at her
apartment building sometime after midnight on the date of the
incident. The women started to argue with each other, leading
Watkins to argue with Harvey and Shamily. The two women left,
but they returned with Petitioner who accused the victim of
spitting on Harvey. Harvey and Shamily then started fighting
with Watkins, and during the fight Granger thought she saw
Petitioner strike the victim in the chest with his fist. The
victim fell to the ground. Petitioner, Shamily, and Harvey
then ran from the scene. Granger never saw a knife.
Simpkins testified she was also at the scene during the
fight. She saw Shamily and Harvey fighting with the victim.
She then saw Petitioner punch the victim in the stomach and
pull him to the ground. Her boyfriend also kicked the victim.
Petitioner then yelled at the women that they had to go, and
they all left the building. She never saw anyone with a
Detroit Police Officers arrived at the scene aroud 2:45 a.m.,
they found the victim in a pool of blood on the second-floor
walkway near the stairwell. The area was well-lit by street
lights and a light on the building. He had no vital signs.
Police found Granger hiding in a closet in her apartment. She
was visibly shaken, but she was able to provide the names of
Police Homicide Detective Johnell White testified that he
obtained several statements, including statements from
Petitioner, Granger, Harvey, and Shamily. The statements were
recorded on video, and Petitioner's statement was played
for the jury. Petitioner denied in his statement that he was
present at the scene of the fight.
jury found Petitioner guilty of second-degree murder.
sentencing, Petitioner filed an application for delayed
appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals, raising what now
form his first two habeas claims. The Michigan Court of
Appeals denied Fordham's delayed application “for
lack of merit in the grounds presented.” People v.
Fordham, No. 317522 (Mich. Ct. App. Jan. 21, 2014).
then filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan
Supreme Court, raising the same claims he raised in the
Michigan Court of Appeals, as well as additional claims of
prosecutorial misconduct, erroneous jury instructions, and
additional allegations of ineffective assistance of trial
counsel. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the application
because it was not persuaded that the questions presented
should be reviewed by the Court. People v. Fordham,
849 N.W.2d 355 (Mich. 2014) (Table).
September 2014, Petitioner filed his first habeas petition
with this Court, raising all the claims he presented to the
Michigan Supreme Court. The petition was dismissed without
prejudice for Petitioner to exhaust state court remedies with
respect to the claims he did not present to the Michigan
Court of Appeals. Fordham v. McKee, No. 14-cv-13713
(May 28, 2015).
returned to the trial court and filed a motion for relief
from judgment on October 9, 2015, raising all seven of the
claims that he presents in his habeas petition, along with a
claim this his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing
to raise his third through seventh claims on direct appeal.
The trial court denied the motion for relief from ...