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Keckler v. Brewer

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

April 10, 2019

ERNEST KECKLER, Petitioner,
v.
SHAWN BREWER, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S HABEAS PETITION, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL

          HONORABLE STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III

         On April 21, 2017, Petitioner Ernest Keckler filed his pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus. ECF 1. Keckler challenges his conviction for owning or possessing a place or area used to manufacture methamphetamine. Keckler raises two claims: (1) his attorney's ineffectiveness coerced his guilty plea, and (2) he is entitled to resentencing. Respondent maintains that Keckler's claims are meritless. For the reasons below, the Court will deny Keckler habeas corpus relief and will deny him a certificate of appealability.

         BACKGROUND

         On July 26, 2014, Keckler was charged in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court with owning or possessing a place or area used to manufacture methamphetamine, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.7401c(2)(f), and being a fourth habitual offender, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12. See ECF 9-1, PgID 107. On October 3, 2014, Keckler pleaded guilty to the methamphetamine-related charge and the prosecutor dismissed the habitual offender charge. ECF 9-2, PgID 114. The parties further agreed to depart from the guidelines and provide Keckler with a minimum sentence of four years in exchange for his cooperation in the prosecution of several codefendants, truthful testimony at hearings, and compliance with all bond conditions (such as court-ordered events and refraining from drug use). Id. at 115.

         On April 13, 2015, during the sentencing hearing, the state trial court determined that Keckler failed to comply with bond conditions by testing positive multiple times for methamphetamine and failed to appear for court proceedings. ECF 9-3, PgID 129-30. The trial court sentenced Keckler to six to twenty years' imprisonment. Id. at 131.

         Keckler filed a motion to withdraw his plea or for resentencing. See ECF 9-4 (transcript of motion hearing). The trial court denied his motion. Id. at 140.

         On January 22, 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied Keckler's delayed application for leave to appeal "for lack of merit in the grounds presented." ECF 9-5, PgID 141. On September 6, 2016, the Michigan Supreme Court also denied leave to appeal. People v. Keckler, 500 Mich. 855 (2016); see also ECF 9-6, PgID 172.

         On April 21, 2017, Keckler filed his habeas corpus petition raising two claims: (1) he was coerced into pleading guilty because of his attorney's ineffectiveness, and (2) he is entitled to resentencing because the sentencing guidelines are no longer mandatory. ECF 1, PgID 2.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court may not grant habeas relief to a state prisoner unless his claims were adjudicated on the merits and the state court adjudication was "contrary to" or resulted in an "unreasonable application of" clearly established Supreme Court law. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).

         "A state court's decision is 'contrary to' . . . clearly established law if it 'applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court cases]' or if it 'confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [this] precedent." Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)).

         The state court unreasonably applies Supreme Court precedent not when its application of precedent is merely "incorrect or erroneous" but when its application of precedent is "objectively unreasonable." Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520-21 (2003) (internal citations omitted). "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, 654 (2004)).

         A federal court reviews only whether a state court's decision comports with clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision. Greene v. Fisher, 565 U.S. 34, 38 (2011). A state court need not cite to or be aware of Supreme Court cases, "so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of the state-court decision contradicts them." Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002). Decisions by lower federal courts "may be instructive in assessing the reasonableness of a state court's resolution of an issue." Stewart v. Erwin, 503 F.3d 488, 493 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Williams v. Bowersox, 340 F.3d 667, 671 (8th Cir. 2003)).

         Finally, a federal habeas court presumes the correctness of state court factual determinations. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). A petitioner may successfully rebut the ...


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