United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division
ORDER REJECTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
DENYING PETITIONER'S HABEAS PETITION
J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter before the Court is a habeas corpus petition filed by
Petitioner, Alan Starr Trowbridge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge
Timothy P. Greeley,  who issued a Report and Recommendation (R
& R) on February 28, 2019, recommending that the Court
grant Trowbridge's petition. (ECF No. 30.) Respondent,
Jeffrey Woods, timely filed objections to the R & R. (ECF
receiving objections to an R & R, the district judge
“shall make a de novo determination of those portions
of the report or specified proposed findings or
recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1). This Court may accept, reject, or modify
any or all of the magistrate judge's findings or
recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P.
conducting a de novo review of the R & R, the objections,
and the pertinent portions of the record, the Court concludes
that the R & R should be rejected and Trowbridge's
habeas petition should be denied.
2010, Trowbridge was charged with five counts of first-degree
criminal sexual conduct (CSC-I), in violation of MCL
750.520b(2)(c). On August 12, 2010, a jury convicted
Trowbridge of three counts of CSC-I for having sex with his
six-year-old daughter. At no time prior to trial did the
prosecution, defense counsel, or the court realize that
Trowbridge would be subject to a mandatory minimum of life
imprisonment without the possibility of parole if convicted
of CSC-I because Trowbridge had previously been convicted of
CSC-IV for an incident involving a five-year-old boy.
connection with the 2010 charges, the prosecution made
several plea offers to Trowbridge. In May 2010, the
prosecution offered to allow Trowbridge to plead guilty to
one count of CSC-I. Trowbridge rejected that offer. On July
30, 2010, at the final pretrial conference, the prosecution
offered to allow Trowbridge to plead guilty to two counts of
CSC-III as a habitual offender, with an agreement that his
sentence would be capped at 22 ½ years. Trowbridge
rejected that offer. On August 9, 2010, the first day of
trial, the prosecution offered to allow Trowbridge to plead
no contest to three counts of CSC-III with no habitual
offender enhancement, which would carry a maximum sentence of
15 years. Trowbridge accepted the final offer, but the court
rejected the plea deal because the deal would violate the
court's policies of not accepting plea deals after the
pretrial conference and not accepting no contest pleas
outside of certain circumstances.
proceeded to trial and was convicted. At sentencing, the
trial judge informed Trowbridge that he was subject to the
mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment without
parole, which was when Trowbridge first learned of the
penalty he faced for the crime of which he was charged. The
trial judge sentenced Trowbridge to three terms of life
imprisonment without parole.
appealed his conviction to the Michigan Court of Appeals. The
Michigan Court of Appeals remanded to the trial court for an
evidentiary hearing on Trowbridge's claim that he was
denied effective assistance of counsel when his defense
attorney did not advise him of the mandatory minimum sentence
he faced so that he could adequately evaluate the plea offers
he received. The trial court denied Trowbridge's claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel based on the finding that
Trowbridge suffered no prejudice because Trowbridge had not
shown that it was reasonably probable that he would have
accepted the July 30, 2010, plea offer had he known the
penalty he would face if convicted at trial. Likewise, the
Michigan Court of Appeals concluded that although defense
counsel failed to properly advise Trowbridge that he was
facing mandatory life without parole, Trowbridge suffered no
prejudice because he failed to show that he would have
accepted the July 30, 2010, plea offer if he had known that
he would receive mandatory life without parole if convicted.
The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal.
to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(AEDPA), Trowbridge is not entitled to habeas relief from his
state court conviction with respect to any claim that was
adjudicated on the merits 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
limits the source of law-for the purposes of determining
clearly established federal law-to “holdings, as
opposed to dicta” of Supreme Court decisions “as
of the time of the relevant state-court decision.”
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412, 120 S.Ct.
1495, 1523 (2000). The Supreme Court held that 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 this Court on a
question of law or if the state court decides a case
differently than this Court has on a set of materially
indistinguishable facts.” Id. at 413, 120
S.Ct. at 1523. A state court adjudication is considered an
“unreasonable application” of clearly established
federal law “if the state court identifies the correct
governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's
decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the
facts of the prisoner's case.” Id. A state
court's application of clearly established federal law is
not unreasonable “simply because [the federal] 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.” Id. at 411, 120 S.Ct.
findings of the state court made after a hearing on the
merits are entitled to a presumption of correctness. 28
U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S.
539, 546, 101 S.Ct. 764, 769 (1981). Trowbridge has the
burden of rebutting the presumption ...