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Henry v. Warren

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

April 17, 2019




         Travell Nicolas-Alfonzo Henry, (“petitioner”), confined at the Macomb Correctional Facility in New Haven, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in which he challenges his conviction for first-degree felony murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(b). For the reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Petitioner was convicted following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court. This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts regarding petitioner's conviction from the Michigan Court of Appeals's opinion, which are presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See, e.g., Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

Defendant's conviction arises from the shooting death of Ronald Ford III on August 23, 2015. The prosecution's theory at trial was that Ford, a marijuana dealer, was shot and robbed of his marijuana during a transaction that defendant had arranged and attended. Allen Nathaniel Thompson, a 16-year-old juvenile at the time of the offense, was also charged in the matter.[1]
Defendant had arranged marijuana sales in the past between Ford and defendant's acquaintances. Because Ford did not want to sell marijuana to strangers, defendant would accompany new buyers to their meetings with Ford. On the date of Ford's murder, defendant and Thompson were both residential students at the Job Corps campus in Detroit. Thompson asked defendant to arrange a marijuana sale between Ford and Thompson's brother, Tyvair Wilkins. Defendant and Thompson left the campus that day without permission by climbing over a perimeter fence. They traveled by bus to the Dickerson and Promenade area, where they were to meet Wilkins to complete the transaction with Ford. Ford was fatally shot inside his vehicle during the transaction. Defendant and Thompson returned to the Job Corps campus with two backpacks, marijuana, and a scale taken from Ford's vehicle.
Using text messages found on Ford's cellular telephone, the police linked defendant to the shooting as he had arranged to meet with Ford, communicating with Ford by text messaging, regarding quantities of drugs in the hours leading up to the murder. After defendant was charged, he agreed, with the assistance of counsel, to voluntarily give the police a written statement explaining his role in the matter. Defendant admitted that he set up the marijuana sale between Ford and Wilkins, but denied shooting Ford or having any knowledge that Wilkins or Thompson intended to rob or shoot Ford. Defendant testified to this version of events at trial. After defendant was convicted, he filed a motion for a new trial on the basis that trial counsel was ineffective for allowing defendant to give a statement to the police and to testify at trial, and for failing to call as witnesses Thompson, Wilkins, or the unnamed husband of a neighborhood witness, Jonetta Stewart (“Mr. Stewart”). After conducting a Ginther[2] hearing, the trial court denied his motion.

People v. Henry, No. 331326, 2017 WL 4158014, at * 1 (Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 19, 2017). Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id.; lv. den. 910 N.W.2d 288 (Mich. 2018). Petitioner seeks habeas relief on the following ground:

Mr. Henry's trial counsel, Patrick Nyenhuis, failed to provide constitutionally effective assistance of counsel.

         II. Standard of Review

         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), imposes the following standard of review for habeas cases:

         An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

         A decision of a state court is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). An “unreasonable application” occurs when “a state court decision unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner's case.” Id. at 409. 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.” Id. at 411. “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) (citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). To obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state prisoner is required to show that the state court's rejection of 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. ...

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