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Adams v. Davis

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

May 2, 2019

JOHN DAVIS, Respondent,



         Kevin Donald Adams, (“Petitioner”), confined at the Ionia Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges his conviction for three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, M.C.L.A. 750.520b; and two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, M.C.L.A. 750.520c. For the reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. Background

         Petitioner was convicted following a jury trial in the Livingston County Circuit Court. This Court recites verbatim the relevant facts regarding petitioner's conviction from the Michigan Court of Appeals' opinion affirming his conviction, since they are presumed correct on habeas review. See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

At most times relevant to this case, defendant was the live-in boyfriend of the victim's mother. Although defendant is not the victim's father, he is the father of the victim's half-brother and, according to witnesses, defendant acted as “father figure” to the victim. Defendant moved out of that house sometime around December 2012, but the victim continued to have some contact with defendant thereafter. At trial, the victim testified that defendant had sexually abused her on numerous occasions, beginning when she was 9 or 10 years old. She testified to five specific sexual acts, each of which occurred before the victim reached the age of 13.
The victim told her mother about the sexual abuse sometime in the summer of 2014, when she wrote her mother a note explaining what had occurred. At the time that she made this disclosure, the victim feared that she had contracted a sexually transmitted disease from defendant.[1] When asked why she had waited to report the abuse, the victim provided multiple reasons. She testified that she was scared that defendant would be “mad” if she told and that she feared he would hurt her because he was bigger than her and had been in the Army. However, she also testified that she did not think that her mother would believe her because she was only a child and that she did not want her mother to be mad and discontinue her brother's contact with defendant, adding that “I know what it's like not to be able to see my dad.”
After the victim disclosed the sexual abuse, her mother filed a police report and the victim participated in a forensic interview. In addition, after the victim made her allegations, Matthew Adolph, a friend of defendant's, confronted the victim, telling her that she was “about to ruin a man's life” and that she needed “to come forward and say to me right now exactly the truth.” Adolph indicated that, despite this pressure, the victim “didn't back down” from her allegations.
Defendant did not testify at trial. Defense counsel attempted to rebut the victim's testimony by presenting the testimony of defendant's father and two family friends, each of whom testified that, based upon their observations, defendant and the victim enjoyed an appropriate relationship in which defendant acted as the victim's father figure. All three testified that the victim did not appear to be scared of defendant. Defense counsel also cross-examined the victim and her mother about trips the victim took with defendant and presented photographs of these trips as evidence to show that the victim was comfortable around defendant. In closing, defense counsel argued that the victim was lying for some unknown reason, stating “[i]t's not my job to prove why she's lying just that she is.” To support the assertion that the victim had lied about being sexually abused by defendant, defense counsel pointed out inconsistencies in the victim's testimony, questioned her delay in reporting the incidents, and indicated that, had the incidents actually occurred, the victim would not have been so comfortable around defendant. The jury convicted defendant as noted above, and defendant now appeals as of right.

People v. Adams, No. 328028, 2017 WL 694692, at * 1 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 21, 2017).

         The conviction was affirmed. Id., lv. den. 501 Mich. 863, 900 N.W.2d 649 (2017).

         Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:

I. Prosecutorial misconduct based on statements the prosecutor made during closing and rebuttal argument that allegedly shifted the burden of proof onto Adams;
II. Newly discovered evidence entitling Adams to a new trial or evidentiary hearing; and
III. Ineffective assistance of counsel where Adams' trial counsel failed to present the evidence Adams now claims is newly discovered at trial.


         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 state court's decision 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 410-11.

         The Supreme Court explained that “[A] federal court's collateral review of a state-court decision must be consistent with the respect due state courts in our federal system.” Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003). The “AEDPA thus imposes a ‘highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings,' and ‘demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.'” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010)((quoting Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333, n. 7 (1997); Woodford v. Viscotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002)(per curiam)). “[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.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103. A habeas petitioner should be denied relief as long as it is within the “realm of possibility” that fairminded jurists could find the state court decision to be reasonable. See Woods v. Etherton, 136 S.Ct. 1149, 1152 (2016).

         The Michigan Court of Appeals reviewed and rejected a portion of petitioner's prosecutorial misconduct claim under a plain error standard because petitioner failed to preserve a portion of his claim as a constitutional issue at the trial court level. The AEDPA deference applies to any underlying plain-error analysis of a procedurally defaulted claim. See Stewart v. Trierweiler, 867 F.3d 633, 638(6th Cir. 2017); cert. den. 138 S.Ct. 1998 (2018).[2]

         III. ...

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