United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA
CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter has come before the Court on petitioner Samuel Dreall
Caston's petition for the writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2254. The pro se petition challenges
petitioner's convictions for felonious assault, Mich.
Comp. Laws §750.82, possession of marijuana, second
offense, Mich. Comp. Laws, § 333.7403(2)(d); Mich. Comp.
Laws § 333.7413(2), and domestic violence, Mich. Comp.
Laws § 750.812. The convictions arose from an
altercation between petitioner and his former girlfriend,
LaShawna Hubbard, in 2014. Petitioner's sole ground for
habeas relief is that the trial court erred when it ruled
that Hubbard was unavailable at trial and that the prosecutor
could admit in evidence Hubbard's testimony from
petitioner's preliminary examination.
State asserts in an answer to the petition that
petitioner's claim is procedurally defaulted and that
most of his claim is not cognizable on habeas review. The
State also contends that the state appellate court's
decision was reasonable and not contrary to Supreme Court
Court agrees that petitioner's claim does not warrant
habeas corpus relief. Accordingly, the petition will be
waived his right to a jury and was tried before a circuit
court judge in Oakland County, Michigan on March 23, 2015.
The Michigan Court of Appeals summarized the trial
proceedings and facts as follows:
This appeal arises from an incident which occurred between
defendant and his then girlfriend, LaShawna Hubbard, at an
apartment complex in Oak Park, Michigan. At 9:00 p.m. that
evening, a resident of the apartment complex heard an
altercation between a man and a woman outside of her
apartment, prompting the resident to telephone the police.
When Oak Park Public Safety officer Anthony Carignan first
arrived at the apartment complex he heard Hubbard screaming,
“[h]e just assaulted me.” Hubbard was seen
running from a silver Mercedes, and as the vehicle attempted
to drive out of the parking lot of the apartment building,
Officer Carignan positioned his police vehicle at a slant so
the Mercedes could not leave the parking lot. When ordered by
Officer Carignan to keep his hands on the steering wheel of
the Mercedes, defendant screamed out, “[m]y hands are
right here mother f* * * * * * n* * * *.” Describing
defendant as “belligerent and argumentative and yelling
[, ]” Officer Carignan also noted that Hubbard was
“very upset and distraught and screaming.” When
Oak Park Public Safety officer Donald Hoffman arrived at the
apartment complex, Hubbard told him that she and defendant
had had an altercation, and according to Officer Hoffman,
Hubbard gave the following recitation of the relevant events:
She told me that [defendant] came over to [his] sister's
house-his sister's house to pick her up. [Defendant] was
carrying a baseball bat with him, a miniature baseball bat
and she didn't want to go with him. Instead of getting
assaulted she decided that she would just go with [defendant]
and she told me that she got in the car, they drove around to
one of the side parking lots, he hit her with an open-hand,
so slapped her in the face, and then after that she told me
that she-he specifically told her he was going in to the
parking lot to fight her. So, they pulled into a parking lot
nearby where he struck her again with a closed fist this time
and then he open-hand- slapped her again actually, there was
a couple times where he hit her and then he got out of the
car, exited the car with the baseball in-bat in hand, and
when he went up to swing at her she said that she lifted her
right leg up like to kind of block the strike of the baseball
bat and he hit her twice with the baseball bat in her right
leg. Then [defendant]-I guess he saw the police lights and
sirens and threw the baseball bat. She exited the car and he
got in the car and took off and that's when she ran into
the field and that's when I arrived.
Officers retrieved Hubbard's cellphone that defendant had
taken from her as well as the baseball bat defendant
allegedly wielded during the assault. Photographs of Hubbard
and more specifically, her knee, were admitted into evidence
at trial with testimony from Officer Hoffman noting that
Hubbard incurred “slight bruising” to her knee
but that he did not see any “obvious injuries[ ]”
to her face. Officer Hoffman also recalled that Hubbard told
him that she was scared for her life and that she had not
wanted to go anywhere with defendant.
When Officer Carignan performed a consent search of
defendant's vehicle following defendant's arrest, the
search yielded two bags of suspected marijuana which
subsequent testing confirmed to be marijuana. Defendant told
Officer Carignan that he and Hubbard had argued, but
defendant denied assaulting Hubbard. In a later statement to
police, defendant reiterated that he did not assault Hubbard,
denied possessing the baseball bat, but he did admit to
possessing marijuana. At the close of the prosecution's
case, the prosecutor requested that the trial court admit
Hubbard's preliminary examination testimony pursuant to
MRE 804(b)(1) and MRE 804(b)(6) as Hubbard was an unavailable
witness as contemplated by MRE 804(a)(5). Following defense
counsel's responding arguments, the trial court
ultimately determined that Hubbard's preliminary
examination testimony would be admitted into evidence.
the close of proofs, the trial court issued a ruling from the
bench holding, in pertinent part:
The Court has-recognizes and finds beyond a reasonable doubt
that the victim and the defendant had a dating relationship
or a romantic relationship. And, the Court finds from the
testimony of the victim that there was a fight going on
between the two of them over a phone, over suspected
cheating, and that the defendant did put the victim in fear.
She felt threatened. Whether he actually pulled her into the
car or she walked on her own, it was clear that the
defendant's sister did not want them to remain. And, it
was clear from the victim's testimony that she didn't
want to have a scene out front of the defendant's
sister's home, so she did get into the car. And, then the
Court did find based on the testimony of the victim and the
officers that the defendant did pull over into a different
spot, got out of the car, and with a bat intentionally struck
the victim two times in the legs. And, yes the injury
wasn't terribly serious but it could have been if the
police had not been called.
The Court also finds very-it weighs heavily on the Court that
the victim, the testimony was, that she was slightly over
five feet. The Court takes judicial notice that the defendant
is larger than five feet. So, she was in a vulnerable
position to feel threatened by the size of the defendant and
knowing that he had a bat....
People v. Caston, No. 327623, 2016 WL 6992179, at
*1-*2 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 29, 2016) (alterations and
footnote in original).
did not testify or present any witnesses. His defense was
that he argued with Hubbard, but did not hit her. He also
maintained that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over him
and that he was not guilty of anything.
trial court found petitioner guilty, as charged, of felonious
assault, possession of marijuana, and domestic violence. On
April 29, 2015, the trial court sentenced petitioner as a
fourth habitual offender to concurrent terms of two to
fifteen years in prison for the felonious assault, 163 days
in jail for possession of marijuana, second offense, and 93
days in jail for domestic violence, with jail credit of 163
days for each of the three offenses.
raised his current claim in the Michigan Court of Appeals in
an appeal as of right. The Court of Appeals affirmed his
convictions and sentences, see Caston, 2016 WL
6992179, and on May 31, 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court
denied leave to appeal because it was not persuaded to review
the issue. See People v. Caston, 500 Mich. 1002; 895
N.W.2d 520 (2017). On August 16, 2017, petitioner filed his
habeas corpus petition.
Standard of Review
statutory authority of federal courts to issue habeas corpus
relief for persons in state custody is provided by 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA).” Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 97 (2011). Pursuant to §
2254, the Court may not grant a state prisoner's
application for the writ of habeas corpus unless the state
court's adjudication of the prisoner's claims on the
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the ...