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Crawford v. Woods

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

April 2, 2019

JEFFREY WOODS, Respondent.

          Honorable Paul L. Maloney Judge.



         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner Clinton Allen Crawford is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Michigan. Following a six-day jury trial in the Muskegon County Circuit Court, Petitioner was convicted of second-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.317, and possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. On June 28, 2013, the court sentenced Petitioner to a prison term of 26 to 40 years for second-degree murder, consecutive to a sentence of 2 years for the felony firearm violation.

         On July 25, 2016, Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition raising two grounds for relief:

I. Where the prosecutor improperly used witness Deasyia Wyrick's prior inconsistent statement as substantive evidence and the court erred in instructing the jury that it could consider statements used to impeach a witness as substantive evidence, [Petitioner] was deprived of his due process right to a fair trial. Furthermore, trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the prosecutor's use of Wyrick's testimony as substantive evidence, and for failing to object to jury instruction 4.5(2).
II. People v. Houston should be overruled and this case remanded for [Offense Variable] 3 to be re-scored and [Petitioner] to be resentenced.

(Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.2-3, 7.) Respondent has filed an answer to the petition (ECF No. 5) stating that the grounds should be denied because they are without merit or non-cognizable. Upon review and applying the standards of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (AEDPA), I find that the grounds are meritless or not cognizable on habeas review. Accordingly, I recommend that the petition be denied.


         I. Background

         Resolving Petitioner's challenges to his convictions and sentences does not require a detailed recounting of the testimony elicited or the exhibits admitted at trial. The Michigan Court of Appeals summarized the facts as follows:

Jerry Huck and Scott Cooper, the victim, drove to meet defendant to buy cocaine. During the drive, Huck gave Cooper $6, and Cooper put it in his hat. Once the two arrived at the meeting location, defendant walked up to Cooper and handed Cooper cocaine. Huck saw Cooper take something out of his hat to give to defendant. Cooper immediately said, “let's go, ” and Huck drove away. As Huck was driving away, he heard two gunshots hit his vehicle. He looked over and saw that Cooper had been shot in the head. Huck looked into his rearview mirror and saw defendant in the street. Huck did not see defendant fire a gun nor did he see defendant holding a gun. Huck originally denied driving to Muskegon to buy cocaine and originally told the police that a black male ran by his vehicle, pulled out a gun, and started shooting. At trial, nearby security footage related to the incident showed an unidentifiable person walk up to Huck's vehicle. The vehicle then drove away and the man seen in the street walked away from the scene. No. gun or gunfire was present in the video. One of defendant's friends, Deasyia Wyrick, testified that she had only seen defendant with a gun once in the past three years. The prosecution asked Wyrick about her interview with Steve Winston, a police detective. The prosecution asked Wyrick if she told Winston that defendant had a gun on him “all the time.” Wyrick denied making that statement. Winston subsequently testified that Wyrick, in fact, indicated that defendant had a gun on him “all the time.” During its closing rebuttal argument, the prosecutor used Wyrick's prior inconsistent statement to argue that defendant possessed a gun at the time of the shooting because he had a gun on him “all the time.”

(Mich. Ct. App. Op., ECF No. 6-17, PageID.1348.)

         The prosecutor's argument invited the jurors to use Ms. Wyrick's out-of-court statement to Detective Winston-her statement that Petitioner carried a gun all the time-not only for impeachment purposes, but also as substantive evidence that Petitioner, in fact, carried a gun all the time. Typically, inviting substantive use of an out-of-court statement would run afoul of the hearsay rules. The standard Michigan criminal jury instruction on the topic reads:

You have heard evidence that, before the trial, witnesses made statements that may be inconsistent with their testimony here in court.
(1) You may consider an inconsistent statement made before the trial only to help you decide how believable the witnesses' testimony was when testifying here in court.

Mich. Crim. Jury Inst. 4.5. The instruction the trial court read in Petitioner's case, however, was different:

Evidence has been offered that one or more witnesses in this case previously made statements inconsistent with their testimony at this trial. You may consider such earlier statements in deciding whether the testimony at this trial was truthful and in determining the facts of this case.

(Trial Tr. V, ECF No. 6-12, PageID.1241.) The variation given by the trial court is consistent with the Michigan standard instruction; however, it is appropriate in only limited circumstances. For example, the jurors might consider the out-of-court statement as substantive evidence if “the earlier statement was made under oath” or if the out-of-court statement was otherwise admissible as substantive evidence under the Michigan Rules of Evidence hearsay rules. Mich. Crim. Jury Inst. 4.5.

         The trial court instructed the jurors on first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter. (Trial Tr. V, ECF No. 6-12, PageID.1243-1246.) Petitioner's counsel argued that the prosecutor's proofs fell short because there was no credible evidence that showed a gun in Petitioner's hand that night. (Id., PageID.1207, 1213.) To the extent the jurors felt otherwise, however, Petitioner's counsel argued that the crime “proven” was nothing more than voluntary manslaughter because the evidence showed, at most, that Petitioner fired at the truck in a fit of understandable rage after Huck and Cooper ripped him off. (Id., PageID.1218-1220.) The jury adopted the middle ground, finding Petitioner guilty of second-degree murder along with the felony firearm violation. (Trial Tr. VI, ECF No. 6-13, PageID.1279.)

         The trial court initially sentenced Petitioner as set forth above. (Sentencing Tr. I, ECF No. 6-14.) Petitioner's appellate attorneys challenged the guidelines scoring of three variables. (Pet'r's Mot. for Resentencing, ECF No. 6-15.) The court rejected two of the three challenges, but accepted the third. (Id.) Petitioner was ...

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