United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS, DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING
PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
BERNARD A. FRIEDMAN SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
a habeas case filed by a Michigan prisoner under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Petitioner was convicted after a jury trial in
Oakland County Circuit Court of unlawful imprisonment, Mich.
Comp. Laws § 750.349b; assault by strangulation, Mich.
Comp. Laws § 750.84(1)(b); and six counts of
first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws §
750.520b(1)(e). Petitioner was sentenced as a fourth-time
habitual felony offender to 15 to 30 years of imprisonment
for the unlawful imprisonment conviction, 12 to 30 years of
imprisonment for the assault conviction, and 50 to 100 years
of imprisonment for each first-degree criminal sexual conduct
conviction. The instant petition raises two claims: (1) the
prosecutor improperly injected religion as an issue at trial,
and (2) petitioner was denied the effective assistance of
trial counsel. The Court shall deny the petition because the
claims are without merit. The Court shall also deny a
certificate of appealability and permission to proceed on
appeal in forma pauperis.
morning of September 12, 2013, a naked, beaten, and
hysterical Alicia Willis appeared at the front door of a home
in Farmington, Michigan. 9-1-1 was called. Willis told
responding officers that the previous night she had been
brutally beaten and raped numerous times by petitioner at his
neighboring house. Petitioner was subsequently charged with
the offenses listed above.
petitioner's trial, Willis testified that at the time of
the incident she was living at a motel in Detroit. Petitioner
contacted Willis through social media ostensibly to show her
a rental property. Willis had dated petitioner for about six
months in 2012, but she had not seen him since the end of the
summer of 2012.
evening of September 11, 2013, petitioner picked up Willis at
the motel. After they drove around for a short time, he took
her to his house, where they ate, drank, and used cocaine.
Petitioner demanded sex from Willis, and when she refused, he
produced a handgun and placed it on a table. Willis then
complied with petitioner's demands. During the sexual
encounter petitioner choked Willis until she passed out. When
she awoke, Willis found herself with her hands and feet tied
together behind her back. Willis described being sexually
assaulted by petitioner repeatedly throughout the night. She
said petitioner inserted a gun into her vagina and hit her
head and face with the gun and with his fist. Petitioner
performed oral sex on her using his teeth, which she said was
painful. Petitioner strangled Willis again until she lost
consciousness. She awoke when petitioner re-inserted the gun
into her vagina. Petitioner then attempted to insert the gun
into her anus, failed, and hit her on the head with the gun.
Petitioner inserted a black object with ridges into her anus.
At one point petitioner forced the gun into Willis' mouth
and she attempted to pull the trigger, believing that he was
eventually going to kill her anyway. At another point
petitioner urinated on the front of Willis' body while
she sat on the toilet. Petitioner told Willis that he would
not be able to take her home because of her injuries and that
he would have to kill her. He told her that he would chop her
body into pieces and spread them around Detroit. In the
morning, petitioner tried to take her into his garage to show
her where he had hidden the body of her friend that he had
killed, but she ran back inside the house. There, petitioner
demanded oral sex. While receiving oral sex from Willis,
petitioner put his head back and Willis fled from the house.
testified that she could not remember with certainty the
order in which each of these instances of sexual assault had
occurred. Willis' description of the events at trial
differed in some respects from what she told the police and
medical personnel, and from her testimony at the preliminary
examination, but prosecution witnesses testified that such
inconsistencies are not uncommon given the circumstances.
Pinkard, who lived down the street from petitioner, testified
that at around 7:00 a.m. on September 12, 2013, Willis
appeared at her front door, naked and crying, “Help me,
help me, he's trying to kill me.” Jury Trial Tr. I
at 23. Pinkard let Willis come inside her house and called
9-1-1. Willis told the 9-1-1 operator that she had been
kidnapped and raped, that she had broken free, and that she
was afraid petitioner would find her and kill her. Pinkard
saw injuries on Willis' face and head. The police
arrived, and Willis and Pinkard directed them to
petitioner's house and gave them petitioner's name
and contact information. Responding paramedics treated Willis
for injuries and transported her to the hospital.
emergency room physician testified that Willis had a split
lip, bruising on her face and neck, and tenderness, swelling,
and bruising on the top and sides of her head. Willis'
lip wound required seven stitches. The neck bruises were
consistent with being strangled. An examination of
Willis' external vaginal area revealed some blood and
swelling in the area between the opening of the vagina and
the opening of the rectum. Willis was given intravenous
morphine for her pain.
scan showed swelling on Willis' facial bones. An
ultrasound revealed bleeding between her uterus and her
placenta - unbeknownst to her, she was eleven weeks pregnant.
This bleeding was consistent with an object being used to
forcibly penetrate her vagina. A subsequent examination at a
sexual assault treatment facility revealed a split lip,
swelling in the cheek and head, and broken blood vessels in
the corners of the eyes, which was consistent with
around 8:00 a.m. on September 12, approximately an hour after
Willis had appeared at Pinkard's front door, a number of
police officers went to petitioner's address. Petitioner
did not answer his phone and did not respond to a command to
exit his house made over a patrol car's PA system. A SWAT
team arrived at around 9:00 a.m. Petitioner finally emerged
and was arrested without incident after the SWAT team pulled
an armored car up to his door and through a loud speaker
demanded that he come out. Inside the house officers smelled
bleach emanating from the kitchen sink, which was filled with
water and rags. Women's clothing was found wrapped in a
towel in the bathroom. A pistol was found concealed between
two box springs in the bedroom. A black rod was found on the
bedroom floor. Willis' phone and other personal
belongings were never found.
analysis showed that Willis was the major donor of genetic
material on the black rod and the barrel of the handgun
retrieved from petitioner's house, as well as on a blood
stain found on petitioner's living room floor. Y-STR
tests showed petitioner as a possible donor of a sample taken
from Willis' vulvar swab.
ex-girlfriend, Courtney Harris, testified about a sexual
assault that occurred in June 2012. Harris testified that
while she was in a car with petitioner he choked her twice
and threatened her with a gun. Harris told police officers at
the scene that petitioner had helped her after she had been
assaulted by someone else. But at petitioner's trial, she
testified that petitioner drove her to his house where he
raped her vaginally and anally, and inserted a bottle into
her vagina and anus. Harris testified that she never reported
the incident to the police.
his conviction and sentence, petitioner appealed.
Petitioner's appellate counsel filed a brief on appeal in
the Michigan Court of Appeals raising one claim, and
petitioner filed a supplemental pro se brief raising three
I. The trial court erred in admitting the testimony of
Courtney Harris regarding alleged past acts for which
defendant was never formally charged, in violation of Rule
404(B), and thereby denied defendant his right to a fair
II. Trial counsel was ineffective for the following:
a. Failing to file a timely motion for investigator.
b. Failing to subpoena defense witnesses.
c. Failing to impeach complainant during ...