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Hollman v. Woods

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

April 26, 2019

Lashon Terrel Hollman, Petitioner,
Jeffrey Woods, Respondent.

          David R. Grand Mag. Judge.



         Petitioner Lashon Terrel Hollman filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He challenges his convictions for first-degree murder, torture, and carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent. Hollman raises three claims in his petition: (1) it was objectively unreasonable for the state courts to conclude that his involuntary statement to the police did not contribute to his convictions, (2) his confrontation rights were violated by the state's failure to produce Quamay Henne for trial and by the admission of Henne's prior testimony, and (3) his trial attorney was ineffective for not objecting to the failure to produce Henne at trial.

         I. Background

         Hollman was charged in Saginaw County, Michigan, with premeditated murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(a); felony murder, § 750.316(1)(b); torture, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.85; and carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.226. (Dkt. 6-18 at 1.) The Court recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which are presumed correct on habeas review. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); see Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009).

Sometime between January 31 and February 2, 2012, Cassandra Nelson was killed in her apartment. She was stabbed 54 times in the back and neck. Her body also had slicing wounds on one cheek and on the hands. Nelson appeared to have been struck on the head with a television.
Defendant [Hollman] lived with his mother next door to Nelson and had gone with Nelson on January 30, 2012, when Nelson purchased a new smart phone with a slide-out keypad. Later that day, defendant's friend, Quamay Henne, witnessed defendant purchase a handful of Xanax pills from a woman who came to defendant's house. Afterward, Henne's girlfriend, Candice Parish, and her mother, Cynthia Parish, gave Henne and defendant a ride to Cynthia's apartment. Both Henne and defendant were high and drunk. Cynthia told Candice that the two men had to leave. Cynthia drove defendant to his house around midnight.
Shortly after midnight and before 1:00 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday, January 31, Nelson told her friend, Margaret Torres, that she needed $20 to help an acquaintance avoid going to prison.[1] Torres refused. Around noon, Torres sent Nelson a text message and received no response. Torres attempted to call Nelson at 8:00 p.m. that evening and received a recorded message that the phone was either turned off or the No. had been changed.
That same evening, defendant, Henne, Candice, and Cynthia, gathered at Cynthia's home. Cynthia stated that defendant “looked like he saw a ghost.” Defendant privately told Henne that he had “got into it with somebody or whatever and I did some bullshit.” Henne testified, “He told me that umm-that shit-he went to umm this chick house the chick was all drunk or high or some shit, started chasing him through the house, shit and he turned around, shit stabbed or something, whatever he said.” Henne then indicated that defendant told him that he “stabbed the shit out of her.” After this conversation, Cynthia overheard them talking about someone being killed. Also, Henne and Candice noticed that defendant had a cell phone with a slide-out key pad. When they saw him with it, defendant said that he “shouldn't have it, ” and that he should take the battery out. Candice also testified that defendant showed her scratches on his arm and told her he had gotten into a fight with a girl the night before.
Torres continued trying to contact Nelson and went to Nelson's apartment to check on her on Thursday, February 2, 2012. She knew Nelson took Xanax for seizures and was concerned that she might have had a seizure and been injured.[2] When Nelson did not respond, Torres called the police. Officers then discovered Nelson's body face down, clothed only from the waist up, with a large amount of blood around her. They also observed a television on the floor close to her head. Investigators found pillows, quilts, and a stuffed animal in Nelson's bedroom soaked with blood, indicating that Nelson had been lying on top of these items bleeding for some time. Investigators also observed “impact splatter” on the bedroom walls, indicating that a bloody object had been struck with some amount of force. Investigators discovered several bloody footprints, which were later identified as prints from a Nike “Swoosh” sneaker.[3] Investigators discovered a breadknife and a black-handled steak knife both covered in blood. A single Budweiser beer can was also found at the scene. Investigators could not locate Nelson's cell phone, her Bridge Card, or any Xanax pills in her apartment. Later DNA testing revealed that defendant was the sole source of DNA on the beer can and a likely source of male DNA on the handle of the breadknife. The DNA of Lionell Beckom, the other primary suspect in the case, was not found on any of the items tested by the crime lab.
Detectives Joseph Grigg and Ryan Oberle interviewed defendant on February 6, 2012, and asked him to come back the next day. Defendant did not appear for his second interview. When Cynthia Parish heard that Nelson had been killed, she called the police and told them about the conversation she had overheard. Cynthia, Candice, and Henne gave statements to the police on February 7, 2012. Based on these statements, and the fact that defendant had not showed up for his second interview, defendant was located and brought to the police station for questioning.
At the beginning of the second interview, defendant was given his Miranda warnings and agreed to waive them and talk to the police. After the detectives told defendant that they knew he had killed Nelson, defendant stated, “I didn't do nothin'. No. I did not, I want a lawyer. I really do, I want a lawyer, because you just told me what I did and I didn't do nothin'. I want a lawyer.” The detectives then began photographing defendant's hands and defendant voluntarily told the detectives about his various injuries. Detective Grigg then said, “Lashon, you asked for an attorney and that's fine, you can get an attorney. If you don't wanna talk to us anymore, that's fine.” Defendant responded, “but I told you I wanted to go home, you're telling me I did something that I didn't do.” Detective Grigg then stated, “Well you know, you told [Quamay Henne] what you did, ” and “You even told the girl how you got the scratches.” Defendant denied this, and Detective Grigg asked, “So they're lying?” Detective Grigg then stated, “LaShon, this is-this is the way it is. If you want an attorney and you wanna tell me that you're done talkin' to me right now, I'm gonna walk out that room, that's fine . . . . But, I'm gonna tell you this, [Henne] came down here and he told us what you told him.” Detective Grigg told defendant, “you said, ‘Quamay man, I fucked up. I killed that girl. I stabbed her.' Exactly what you told him.” Defendant denied saying this, and Detective Grigg began questioning defendant about whether Henne was with defendant “when it happened.”
The questioning continued, and the detectives eventually informed defendant that he was not going to be released and that he would go to jail after the interrogation was over. Defendant asked, “How can I go to jail?” to which Detective Oberle responded, “LaShon, because you haven't been honest with me . . . .” Defendant asked how long he would “have to sit in jail, pending for the investigation, ” and Detective Grigg answered, “Might be tonight, might be tomorrow, might be the rest of your life.” The detectives began handcuffing defendant and defendant said, “He said I could finish talking to him.” Detective Grigg then said, “What, you don't want a lawyer now?” Defendant stated, “Can I please call my mom right now, I'll keep talking to you, I don't want a lawyer, I'll keep talking to you. I will keep talking to you, can you please just let me call my mom right now?”
Detective Oberle then told defendant that he was “100% positive” that defendant had killed Nelson and he only wanted to find out how it happened. Detective Oberle told defendant that he “had nothing to lose by telling the truth” and that he was “not tricking” defendant. Detective Oberle continued questioning defendant, and eventually defendant stated that he was at Nelson's apartment when she was killed. Defendant denied involvement in the murder, and stated that Lionell Beckom was the person who stabbed Nelson.

(Dkt. 6-18 at 1-4 (footnotes in original and footnote four omitted).)

         According to the transcripts of Hollman's interview with Detectives Grigg and Oberle, Hollman stated that he and “LB” were at the victim's house on the night in question and that he went home for about fifteen minutes to get some cigarettes. (Dkt. 6-2 at 114-16.) When he returned to the victim's home, he saw “LB” with a knife and the victim lying on the floor. (Id. at 116.) Then LB ran away with a trash bag (id. at 120), and Hollman held the victim until she passed away. (Id. at 115-16.) He claimed that he did not call the police because he was afraid of being implicated in the murder. (See Id. at 115, 117.)

         At trial,

[d]efendant moved to suppress his statements, arguing that the police continued to interrogate him after he unequivocally requested a lawyer, in violation of his constitutional rights under Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed. 378 (1981). The trial court suppressed a portion of the February 6, 2012 interview and a portion of the February 8, 2012 interview. It reasoned that the statements made after defendant stated that “he does not want a lawyer and will keep talking” should not be suppressed because they were made after waiving his right to an attorney. In closing argument, the prosecution argued that defendant's story was a fabrication and that the more reasonable explanation was that defendant himself had killed Nelson.

         (Dkt. 6-18 at 4.) And in the defense's closing argument, Hollman's defense was that, at most, he was merely present during the incident and that Henne could have committed the crime. (E.g., Dkt. 6-15 at 21.)

         The jury found Hollman guilty on all counts, and he was sentenced to concurrent terms of life imprisonment for the murder conviction, twenty-five to thirty-five years in prison for the torture conviction, and three to five years in prison for the weapons conviction. (Dkt. 6-18 at 1, 13.) The trial court merged the two life sentences for the single murder, noting that the conviction was for one count of first-degree murder, supported by two theories: premeditated murder and felony murder. (Dkt. 6-17 at 5; Dkt. 6-18 at 13.)

         Hollman appealed his convictions, raising the same claims that he presents in his habeas petition, and the Michigan Court of Appeals adjudicated those claims on the merits and affirmed his convictions. (Dkt. 6-18 at 1, 7, 9-10.) On May 28, 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court summarily denied leave to appeal. People v. Hollman, 497 Mich. 1028 ...

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