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Martin v. Woods

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

July 30, 2018

FREDRICK MARTEZ MARTIN, #338567, Petitioner,
JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.



         Petitioner Fredrick Martez Martin filed a pro se amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which challenges his convictions for armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529, felon in possession of a firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224f, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (“felony firearm”), Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. Petitioner alleges as grounds for relief that his pre-trial identification was unnecessarily suggestive, that the police and prosecutor engaged in misconduct, and that his trial and appellate attorneys were ineffective. None of these claims warrant habeas corpus relief. Accordingly, the Court shall deny the amended petition and the pending motions for appointment of counsel, an evidentiary hearing, and oral argument.

         I. Background

         The charges against petitioner arose from the robbery of an individual at Harding's Market near East Warren Avenue and St. Clair Street in Detroit, Michigan, on August 24, 2009, shortly after 10:00 a.m. The complaining witness, William Freeman, testified at petitioner's jury trial in Wayne County Circuit Court that a man dressed in black clothing robbed him of $575 at gunpoint after he cashed his paycheck at the market. Following the robbery, the robber instructed him to walk to the corner and go straight down the street.

         Later that day, at approximately 2:20 p.m., police officers Gregory Robson, Lawrence Mitchell, and Richard Whitehead heard three gunshots on St. Clair Street near Mack Avenue in Detroit. Shortly afterward, they noticed petitioner riding a bicycle at a fast pace in front of them. One of the officers observed the handle of a gun in petitioner's pants pocket. The officers drove ahead of petitioner and blocked his path. When one of the officers jumped out of the squad car, petitioner hit the door of the vehicle and fell off his bicycle. The gun fell out of petitioner's pocket, and after he admitted that he was on parole and did not have a permit for a concealed weapon, he was arrested. At the police station, the police found narcotics and $555 in cash on petitioner.[1]

         Meanwhile, Freeman walked home from Harding's Market. He later returned to the market to obtain a videotape of the robbery. He then went to the police station to report the robbery. One of the officers at the station approached him and stated that he (the officer) had recently arrested a person in the area where the robbery occurred. The officer wondered whether Freeman would be able to identify the person. When Freeman indicated that he would be able to identify the robber, the officer went to the prisoner processing area where petitioner was seated on a bench. The officer asked petitioner to stand up and take a few steps. Freeman identified petitioner as the man who had robbed him. Freeman also identified petitioner at a photographic show-up several days after the robbery, at the preliminary examination, and at trial.

         Petitioner testified at trial and admitted that he possessed a gun, narcotics, and $555 when he was arrested. He claimed, however, that he carried a gun for protection, that he sold narcotics for a living, and that he had received the money from family and friends for his birthday. He denied committing the armed robbery and maintained that he was on his way to a rehabilitation facility at the time of the robbery. His trial attorney reinforced the alibi defense by arguing to the jury that the person in the videotape resembled petitioner, but was not him.

         On October 21, 2010, the jury found petitioner guilty, as charged, of armed robbery, felon in possession of a firearm, and felony firearm. The trial court sentenced petitioner as a habitual offender to twenty to forty years in prison for the robbery conviction, a concurrent term of three to ten years in prison for the felon-in-possession conviction, and a consecutive term of two years for the felony-firearm conviction.

         Petitioner appealed his convictions as of right, arguing through counsel that the trial court erred by failing to suppress Freeman's identification of him. In a pro se supplemental brief, petitioner argued that the trial court erred by denying his motion to consolidate his two cases, making biased remarks at a pretrial hearing, and shifting the burden of proof in its jury instruction on the alibi defense. He also argued that his trial attorney was ineffective for failing to investigate and call certain witnesses. The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected these claims and affirmed petitioner's convictions in an unpublished, per curiam opinion. See People v. Martin, No. 302405 (Mich. Ct. App. July 19, 2012). The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal because it was not persuaded to review the questions presented to it. See People v. Martin, 493 Mich. 919; 823 N.W.2d 583 (2012).

         On December 12, 2013, petitioner commenced this action by filing a pro se habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (docket entry 1) and a motion to stay the federal proceeding while he pursued additional state remedies (docket entry 3). On February 6, 2014, the Court granted petitioner's motion for a stay and closed this case for administrative purposes (docket entry 6).

         Petitioner subsequently returned to state court and filed a motion for relief from judgment which raised issues about his trial and appellate attorneys, the police, the trial judge, the prosecutor, and the cumulative effect of individual errors. The state trial court denied petitioner's motion on the grounds that the court was precluded from adjudicating the claims that petitioner raised on appeal and that petitioner's remaining claims were not supported by the record or an affidavit and lacked merit. The trial court also stated that petitioner's trial and appellate attorneys' representation was not deficient, that petitioner had failed to show “good cause” under Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D)(3) for not having raised the issues earlier, and that there was no error meriting reversal of the jury's verdict. See People v. Martin, No. 09-023095-01-FC (Wayne Cty. Cir. Ct. June 6, 2014). Petitioner appealed the trial court's decision, but the Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal for failure to establish entitlement to relief under Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D). See People v. Martin, No. 325070 (Mich. Ct. App. June 22, 2015). On June 28, 2016, the Michigan Supreme Court likewise denied leave to appeal for failure to establish entitlement to relief under Rule 6.508(D). See People v. Martin, 499 Mich. 967; 880 N.W.2d 568 (2016).

         On September 15, 2016, petitioner returned to this Court and filed his amended habeas corpus petition (docket entry 9) and a motion to lift the stay (docket entry 8). The amended petition raises five claims regarding the pretrial identification procedure, trial counsel, the police officers' conduct, the prosecutor's conduct, and appellate counsel. The Court granted petitioner's motion to re-open this case (docket entry 10), and the State filed an answer to the amended petition (docket entry 13). Petitioner filed a reply to the State's answer (docket entry 15), a supplemental petition (docket entry 16), a motion for appointment of counsel (docket entry 17), a motion for an evidentiary hearing (docket entry 18), and a motion for oral argument (docket entry 19).

         In his motion for appointment of counsel, petitioner states that he is unable to retain counsel and that he has become overwhelmed with the Court's procedures and requirements. In his motion for an evidentiary hearing, petitioner alleges that the state court prevented him from developing a factual record for his claims. Finally, petitioner alleges that oral argument would assist the Court in deciding the questions presented in his petition.

         The State urges the Court to deny the petition and any other relief requested by petitioner. According to the State, petitioner's claims about the police and the prosecutor's conduct are procedurally defaulted, and the state courts' rejection of petitioner's claims did not result in decisions that were contrary to federal law, unreasonable applications of federal law, or unreasonable determinations of the facts.

         In the habeas context, a procedural default is “a critical failure to comply with state procedural law.” Trest v. Cain, 522 U.S. 87, 89 (1997). Ordinarily, it is not a jurisdictional matter, Johnson v. Lee, 136 S.Ct. 1802, 1806 (2016) (citing Trest, 522 U.S. at 89), and “‘[j]udicial economy might counsel' bypassing a procedural-default question if the merits ‘were easily resolvable against the habeas petitioner.'” Id. (quoting Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U.S. 518, 525 (1997)). Here, none of petitioner's claims warrant habeas relief, and the Court finds it more efficient to address the substantive merits of petitioner's claims than to determine whether any of the claims are procedurally defaulted. The Court, therefore, bypasses the procedural-default analysis and proceeds to address petitioner's claims on the merits.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) requires habeas petitioners who challenge “a matter ‘adjudicated on the merits in State court' to show that the relevant state court ‘decision' (1) ‘was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law,' or (2) ‘was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceedings.'” Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1192 (2018) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)). “[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 411 (2000). “AEDPA thus imposes a ‘highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings,' Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333, n.7 (1997), and ‘demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt,' Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam).” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010).

         “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) (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). To obtain a writ of habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on 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.” Id. at 103. A state court's factual determinations are presumed correct on federal habeas review, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1), and review is “limited to the record that was before the state court.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).

         III. Discussion

         A. The Pretrial Identification

         Petitioner alleges that he was denied his right to due process because the police used an unnecessarily suggestive pretrial identification procedure that was conducive to irreparable misidentification. As noted, the initial identification occurred at the police station where petitioner was being held following his arrest for the gun and drug charges. Freeman also identified petitioner at a photographic show-up several days later, at the preliminary examination, and at trial. Petitioner claims that the initial pretrial identification procedure at the police station was unnecessarily suggestive because he was confined in a detention cell, surrounded by police officers, and singled out by an officer. He also points out that no attorney was present.

         Petitioner moved to suppress the pretrial identification before trial. At an evidentiary hearing on the motion, Freeman testified that when he went to the police station to report the robbery, an officer approached him and said that he had recently arrested somebody in the area where Freeman had been robbed. The officer wanted to know whether Freeman could identity the person. (10/18/10 Trial Tr., at 17-18.) Freeman was sitting by the front desk at the time, but he could see prisoners sitting on a bench in the lock-up area about forty feet away. Id. at 18-20. The officer then went to the lock-up area and asked the person to stand up and walk toward Freeman. Id. at 19-21. At that point, Freeman looked at the person and said, “Yes, that's him.” Id. at 21.

         The trial court denied petitioner's motion to suppress the pretrial identification after concluding that, although the pretrial procedure was improper, there was an independent basis for the identification. Id. at 45-46. Petitioner raised the issue again on direct appeal. The Michigan Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not clearly err in finding that the initial identification of petitioner was not unduly suggestive and that there was an independent basis for the suggestive initial identification.

         1. Clearly Established Federal Law

         “The Constitution . . . protects a defendant against a conviction based on evidence of questionable reliability . . . .” Perry v. New Hampshire, 565 U.S. 228, 237 (2012). “Most eyewitness identifications involve some element of suggestion, ” id. at 244, but an identification procedure violates due process of law only if the confrontation was “‘unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to irreparable mistaken identification.'” Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188, 196 (1972) (quoting Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, 302 (1967)). The Supreme Court has held that

[a]n identification infected by improper police influence . . . is not automatically excluded. Instead, the trial judge must screen the evidence for reliability pretrial. If there is “a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification, ” Simmons v. United States, 390 U.S. 377, 384, 88 S.Ct. 967, 19 L.Ed.2d 1247 (1968), the judge must disallow presentation of the evidence at trial. But if the indicia of reliability are strong enough to outweigh the corrupting effect of the police-arranged suggestive circumstances, the identification evidence ordinarily will be admitted, and the jury will ultimately determine its worth.

Perry, 565 U.S. at 231. The Sixth Circuit follows a two-part analysis when evaluating whether an identification procedure was unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to irreparable mistaken identification:

The court first considers whether the procedure was unduly suggestive. Wilson v. Mitchell, 250 F.3d 388, 397 (6th Cir. 2001); Ledbetter v. Edwards, 35 F.3d 1062, 1070-71 (6th Cir. 1994). The court must decide if the procedure itself steered the witness to one suspect or another, independent of the witness's honest recollection. Wilson, 250 F.3d at 397. “The defendant bears the burden of proving this element.” Ledbetter, 35 F.3d at 1071 (citation omitted). If the procedure was suggestive, the court then determines whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the identification was nonetheless reliable and therefore admissible. Wilson, 250 F.3d at 397 (citation omitted); Ledbetter, 35 F.3d at 1071.

Cornwell v. Bradshaw, 559 F.3d 398, 413 (6th Cir. 2009).

         2. Application

         The record in this case indicates that a police officer (1) told Freeman that he had recently arrested someone in the area where the robbery occurred; (2) asked Freeman whether he would be able to identify the person; and (3) then singled out petitioner in the lock-up area of the police station by asking petitioner, and no one else, [2] to stand up and walk a few inches toward Freeman. (10/18/10 Trial Tr., at 17-21, 33.) By focusing Freeman's attention on a single individual who was in police custody and had recently been arrested in the area of the robbery, the police steered Freeman to petitioner and indirectly suggested that petitioner was the man who robbed him. The Court finds that the identification of petitioner at the police station was unnecessarily suggestive.

         The next question is whether there was an independent basis for Freeman's pretrial identification of petitioner. The following five factors must be considered when determining whether an identification was reliable despite its suggestiveness: (1) the witness's opportunity to view the criminal at the time of the crime; (2) the witness's degree of attention; (3) the accuracy of the witness's prior description of the criminal; (4) the witness's level of certainty at the time of the identification; and (5) the length of time between the crime and the identification. Biggers, 409 U.S. at 199-200.

         Freeman testified at the evidentiary hearing that he was robbed outdoors at 10:00 a.m. when it was light and he could see everything. He stood face-to-face with petitioner at a distance of about eighteen inches. (10/18/10 Trial Tr., at 10-11.) His degree of attention apparently was good because he looked at the man when the man demanded his money and wallet. He noticed that the robber walked with a limp, and after the robbery he was able to describe the robber's clothing, build, and gun. Id. at 11-13.

         Freeman's description of the robber was fairly accurate, although he underestimated petitioner's weight and height and failed to notice petitioner's facial hair. He described petitioner as a light-skinned black male in his mid-twenties with short hair and a cleanshaven face. He stated that petitioner was 160 pounds and five feet, ten inches tall. He also stated that petitioner walked with a limp and that he was wearing a black tee shirt, black pants, and black gym shoes. Id. at 25-27. An officer at the police station described petitioner as a black male, 27 years old, six feet and one inch tall, 190 pounds, light complexion, and wearing a crewcut, beard, and mustache. See Pet'r's Reply to the State's Answer, Ex.1 (docket entry 15, Page ID 2702).

         Freeman was certain of his identification at the police station, and he said at the evidentiary hearing that nothing the police officers did affected his identification. (10/18/10 Trial Tr., at 22.) He identified petitioner because he knew petitioner was the person who had robbed him and he remembered petitioner's face. Id. at 22, 34. ...

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