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Hogan v. Rivard

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

April 5, 2019

Paul Hogan, Petitioner,
v.
Steven Rivard, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE HABEAS CORPUS PETITION, DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          Gershwin A. Drain United States District Court Judge

         This matter has come before the Court on petitioner Paul Hogan's pro se Habeas Corpus Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges his Wayne County conviction for carjacking, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529a, on the basis that there was insufficient evidence at his trial to sustain the conviction. The warden urges the Court to deny the petition because the state appellate court's adjudication of Petitioner's claim was not an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court law. The Court agrees. Accordingly, the Petition will be denied.

         I. Background

         Petitioner was charged with carjacking, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He waived his right to a jury trial and was tried before a judge in Wayne County Circuit Court where the trial testimony established that,

[o]n October 20, 2013, Jinni Terry arrived at a gas station in Detroit, Michigan. As soon as she exited her car, defendant and Steven Heard approached her and asked if they could pump her gas. Terry informed the men that she was not getting gas, and proceeded to enter the gas station to make a purchase. As Terry exited and walked away from the gas station, she saw defendant standing by the gas station door, and saw Heard standing near her car by the gas pump. Terry testified that as she approached her car, she stopped walking because she was afraid. Heard then pulled out a gun, stated, “Don't run, don't move, don't scream, ” and demanded Terry's keys. Terry refused and began running toward the gas station with Heard in pursuit. Terry testified that as she opened the gas station door, she felt defendant grab her arm, but she was able to break free and enter the building. Once inside the gas station, Terry saw defendant and Heard running together from the scene.

People v. Heard, No. 321214, 2015 WL 1214502, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Mar. 17, 2015), (unpublished).

         Terry and one of the officers involved in arresting Petitioner and Heard shortly after the crime were the only prosecution witnesses. Petitioner did not testify or present any witnesses. His defense was that he was merely present during the incident at the gas station and that he lent no assistance to Heard.

         At the conclusion of the bench trial, the trial court acquitted Petitioner of the robbery and firearm charges and found him guilty of carjacking. On March 26, 2014, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to prison for ten to twenty-five years with 157 days of credit for time served.

         Petitioner challenged his conviction in an appeal of right, but the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected his arguments and affirmed his conviction. See id. On October 28, 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal because it was not persuaded to review the issue. See People v. Hogan, 498 Mich. 906; 870 N.W.2d 905 (2015). On September 13, 2016, Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition.

         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.

         III. Analysis

         Petitioner's sole ground for relief is that there was insufficient evidence at trial to support his carjacking conviction. Petitioner contends that he did not know Heard had a gun and planned to commit a robbery or carjacking. Petitioner also contends that, according to Terry, he never asked her for anything, and he never chased her, blocked her path, or tried to grab her. He asserts that he ran from the scene for fear of being blamed for the crime due to his association with Heard. The Michigan Court of Appeals adjudicated ...


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