United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS AND DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
H. CLELAND UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Young, (“Petitioner”), a Michigan prisoner, filed
this action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. After a bench trial
in the Wayne Circuit Court, Petitioner was convicted of
felonious assault, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.82, being a
felon in possession of a firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws §
750.224f, and possession of a firearm during the commission
of a felony. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. Petitioner was
sentenced as a third-time habitual felony offender to two
months' probation for the assault and felon-in-possession
convictions and ten years' imprisonment for the
instant petition, Petitioner raises four claims: (1)
ineffective assistance of trial counsel, (2) ineffective
assistance of appellate counsel, (3) illegality of
Petitioner's ten-year sentence, and (4) sufficiency of
the evidence. For the reasons explained below, the court will
deny the petition because Petitioner's claims are without
merit or barred by state court procedural default. The court
will also decline to issue a certificate of appealability.
convictions stem from an incident that occurred in a hotel
parking lot. A bench trial was held at which several
individuals present at the hotel incident testified. The
court summarizes the relevant witness testimony below.
Santti, the victim, testified that sometime after midnight on
October 13, 2012, she and her husband, Joshua Santti, were
with Petitioner at the hotel for a birthday party. Petitioner
was a life-long family friend of Jamie. The party occurred in
a hotel room, but the attendees were asked to leave after
arguments broke out. The attendees moved to the hotel parking
lot, where the arguments continued. One attendee, Jimmy Rapp,
began to argue with Joshua Santti. Jamie testified that she
tried to calm Rapp and that while she attempted to do so,
Petitioner exited his car, pointed a gun at her, and then
fired a shot into the air. After the shot, Petitioner and
Rapp got into the same car and left. Jamie and Joshua drove
off and called the police. A tape of the 9-1-1 call was
played for the trial court. Jamie made a written statement at
the Farmington Hills Police Department later that day. She
admitted that after the incident, Petitioner's mother
approached Jamie and asked her to sign a statement recanting
her earlier testimony to police. Jamie admitted to signing
the recanting statement but claimed she did so to get
Petitioner's mother to leave her alone and not because
her statement to police was false.
Santti, the victim's husband, offered testimony that
largely corroborated Jamie's testimony. He testified that
he left the hotel on the night in question with Jamie. Joshua
described how Petitioner and Jimmy Rapp drove up to him in
the parking lot, and how he began to argue with Rapp. Joshua
stated that Petitioner got out of the car, pointed a pistol
at Jamie, then aimed the gun over Jamie's head and fired.
Afterward, Petitioner and Rapp got back into their car and
drove away. Joshua testified that Petitioner was standing
between five and ten feet away from Jamie when he fired the
shot. Joshua was certain that Petitioner fired the gun.
Joshua also spoke with police officers the next day and made
a written statement. Like Jamie, Joshua admitted that he
later signed a statement recanting his earlier testimony at
the request of Petitioner's mother. He explained,
however, that the recanting statement was false and that he
only signed it because he was pestered to change his earlier
Police Officer Justin Thompson testified that he took the
statements from Jamie and Joshua Santti. Both individuals
were “nervous, ” “scared, ” and
“shooken up” (sic) (ECF No. 9-3, PageID 1039-41)
when he spoke with them, and they identified Petitioner as
the shooter. Officer Thompson also spoke with Candace Polka
who stated that she was in the parking lot when the incident
occurred. Polka stated that she heard the argument, heard the
shot fired, and saw Petitioner drive away in his car, but
that she did not see who fired the shot.
trial counsel called a number of witnesses. First, Lauren
James testified. She was friends with Petitioner and was
Rapp's girlfriend at the time. James arrived at the party
with Rapp, Petitioner, and Petitioner's girlfriend,
Tiffany Groves, in a car driven by Groves. While in the
hotel, an argument erupted that spilled into the parking lot.
James got into the backseat of Groves's car to leave and
saw Petitioner standing outside a few feet away. She heard a
loud sound but did not see anyone with a gun. When Petitioner
entered the car, James did not see him with a gun, nor did
she see Rapp with a gun. James never made a statement to the
police regarding the incident.
Herren-Wilder, Jamie Santti's sister, testified that she
was present at the hotel during the incident. She described
the arguments inside the hotel and how they spilled into the
parking lot and testified that she discussed the incident
with her sister. Herren-Wilder testified that Jamie told her
that she was extremely intoxicated at the time of the
incident and that she could not recall exactly what happened.
Herren-Wilder also testified that Jamie told her on at least
ten to fifteen occasions that she did not see Petitioner with
a gun. Herren-Wilder also described preexisting tensions
between the Santtis and Petitioner.
girlfriend at the time, Tiffany Groves, also testified for
the defense. She described leaving the hotel room and getting
into her car along with Petitioner, who sat in the passenger
seat. As Groves began to drive out of the parking lot, Groves
saw a crowd of about a dozen people arguing outside the
hotel. Petitioner got out of the car to ask what was
happening, and then Groves heard a shot. Groves testified
that she was looking at Petitioner at the time she heard the
shot, but she did not see him with a gun. After the shot,
Petitioner jumped in the car and told Groves to drive away.
Groves drove away with Rapp, Petitioner, and James. Groves
gave a statement to police consistent with her testimony.
testified in his own defense. He described the events inside
and outside of the hotel and the preexisting tensions between
himself and the Santtis. Petitioner estimated that there were
about fifteen people arguing in the parking lot when he left
the hotel. He entered Groves's car and began to leave
when he saw Rapp fighting with Joshua. Petitioner testified
that he got out of the car to help break up the fight. He
then heard a loud noise so he got back into the car and
Groves drove away.
denied possessing or firing a gun.
closing arguments, the trial court made the following
[T]he testimony of the two complaining witnesses, Jamie
Santti and Joshua Santti was very definitive and very
definite that they saw the defendant point the gun at Jamie
Santti, and then pull the gun up in the air and shoot in the
air, above her head.
The witnesses presented by the Defense, the first one being
Lauren James, said that she was in the back seat of the car
at the time that his incident happened. And she did not see
who shot the gun.
She said she didn't see the defendant with a gun. But it
was not clear that she could actually see the defendant.
She also was a friend of the defendant's. And they
exchanged phone numbers on the day they met, which I found
I didn't find her testimony very credible, and it
didn't seem that she had a good vantage point from inside
the car. Whereas Jamie and Joshua Santti were right outside,
in front of the defendant.
The next witness that testified was Misty Herren-Wilder. And
she wasn't even at this incident.
And while she did testify that her sister told her, and her
sister being Jamie Santti, told her that she didn't
remember the incident, and that Stephen didn't have a
gun, I don't find her testimony to be credible.
She admitted she has had an incident with her sister where
her sister had her locked up. And she admitted that she is