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Miller v. Trierweiler

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

May 8, 2019




         Michigan state prisoner Darnell Miller filed a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner, who is presently incarcerated at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan, challenges his convictions for two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520(b); two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.83, one count of unlawful imprisonment, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.349b, one count of felonious assault, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.82, and one count of possession of under 25 grams of a controlled substance, Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.7403(2)(a)(v). Petitioner seeks habeas relief on the ground that the trial court violated his right to present a defense by excluding certain testimony. For the reasons explained below, the Court denies the petition. The Court also denies a certificate of appealability.

         I. Background

         Petitioner’s convictions arise from the sexual assault of his then-26-year-old daughter, DH. D.H. testified that, on the evening of September 14, 2013, she received a call from her stepmother, Jannie Mae Miller, informing D.H. that Petitioner (Mrs. Miller’s husband) had stolen two televisions from the home the couple shared. D.H. arrived at the Miller home shortly after receiving the call. The police were at the home, having been summoned by Mrs. Miller. Port Huron Police Officer Eric Rossow informed Mrs. Miller that he could not take any action because Petitioner and Mrs. Miller were married and shared the home.

         D.H. testified that, at Officer Rossow’s suggestion, she called Petitioner to see if he would return the televisions. Petitioner agreed to meet D.H. a short distance away from the home to return the televisions in exchange for $20. He told D.H. not to bring anyone with her when she met him. D.H. walked up the street to meet her father. Family friend Lori Woodyard followed behind. At the agreed upon meeting place, D.H. entered Petitioner’s car. Petitioner sped off when he saw Woodyard had followed D.H.

         Petitioner drove to a nearby church parking lot. He said he was not going to go back to D.H.’s stepmother and that D.H. should take the car and televisions back home. Petitioner exited the car to smoke crack cocaine. When he was done, D.H. exited the car to hug her father. When she hugged him, D.H. felt a knife pressed against her back. Petitioner ordered her not to run and that if she tried to do so he would stab her to death.

         Petitioner ordered D.H. to take her clothes off as he pushed her into nearby bushes. He told her he planned to rape her “a little bit.” Tr. at 225-26, ECF No. 9-11, Pg. ID 425-26. D.H. testified that her father then proceeded to penetrate her vagina and anus with his fingers, and then penetrated her with his penis. Petitioner became distracted by a noise in the bushes and D.H. ran away as quickly as she could. D.H., who was naked from the waist down, ran to a nearby home. There, Julie Ann Launstein-Bevins’ assisted her and called 911. Police took D.H. to a hospital for a rape kit. Forensic testing found the presence of a single sperm cell taken from a vaginal swab, and saliva from a rectal swab.

         Petitioner could not be excluded as the source of the DNA extracted from those swabs.

         Police later recovered a knife and D.H.’s pants, underwear, and glasses from the woods near the church parking lot.

         Port Huron police detective Karen Brisby testified that, on September 18, 2013, Petitioner’s wife appeared at the police station and requested to speak with Detective Brisby. Mrs. Miller told Detective Brisby that Petitioner confessed to her the day after the assault. Mrs. Miller said that Detective confessed that he had touched D.H. because he was tired of her disrespecting him. Initially, he intended to kill her, but God intervened, convincing him to “degrade” D.H. instead. 5/16/14 Tr. at 15 (ECF No. 9-13, Pg. ID 736). Petitioner then told Mrs. Miller, in detail, what he had done to D.H.

         At trial, Mrs. Miller denied making most of these statements to Detective Brisby. Mrs. Miller acknowledged that she did tell Detective Brisby that Petitioner had confessed, but denied providing Detective Brisby any other details told to her by Petitioner. Mrs. Miller testified that Petitioner did not confess to her. Instead, she fabricated the story because Petitioner was addicted to crack cocaine and she hoped that if she told police this story he would be taken off the streets.

         Petitioner was convicted by a jury in St. Clair County Circuit Court and sentenced to 30 to 50 years’ imprisonment for the criminal sexual conduct and unlawful imprisonment convictions, and 10 to 15 years for the felonious assault and drug possession convictions, all to be served concurrently.

         Petitioner filed an appeal of right in the Michigan Court of Appeals challenging the trial court’s exclusion of evidence. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner’s convictions. People v. Miller, No. 322711, 2015 WL 6965103 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 10, 2015). The Michigan Supreme Court denied ...

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