United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING PETITIONER LEAVE TO APPEAL IN
HONORABLE VICTORIA A. ROBERTS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jamar Lofland, (“Petitioner”), confined at the
Chippewa Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, Michigan, filed
a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges his
conviction for first-degree felony murder, M.C.L.A.
750.316(1)(b), two counts of carjacking, M.C.L.A. 75.529a,
felon in possession of a firearm, M.C.L.A. 750.224f, and
possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus
convicted Petitioner in Wayne County Circuit Court. This
Court recites verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the
Michigan Court of Appeals, which are presumed correct on
habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir.
Defendant's convictions arise from a crime spree in
Detroit on the night of September 13, 2014, during which he
first carjacked Kevin Foy and took the vehicle Foy was
sitting in, a 2014 red Dodge Charger, and then later
attempted to carjack Quinton Brown, who was driving a
Cadillac Escalade. Brown was shot during the offense and
later died from his injury. The prosecutor's theory at
trial was that between 9:00 and 9:45 p.m., Foy was sitting in
the passenger seat of the running Charger when defendant
ordered him out of the vehicle at gunpoint, and then drove
away in the car. The Charger, which had a pushbutton starter,
could be driven without the key fob if it was already
running, but it could not be restarted once it was stopped.
The prosecution presented video evidence from a gas station
showing the stolen Charger pull up to a gas pump after 10:00
p.m., and the driver ultimately abandoning the vehicle when
he could not restart it after purchasing gas. Defendant's
former girlfriend, Nivra Bracey, identified defendant as the
driver in still photographs obtained from the video. The
video showed defendant walking away from the gas station in
the direction of where Brown was later found. The prosecution
theorized that defendant walked from the gas station in
search of another vehicle, encountered Brown sitting in his
Cadillac, and then shot Brown, planning to take his vehicle.
Brown, who was armed, managed to shoot defendant. At
approximately 11:00 p.m., defendant called Bracey, informed
her that he had been shot in the neck, and asked her to call
911; defendant informed Bracey of his location, but then
later gave her a different location. Ultimately, at 11:18
p.m., police officers responded to a gas station half a mile
away from where Brown had been shot, and found defendant with
gunshot wounds to his throat and cheek. The defense theory at
trial was misidentification.
People v. Lofland, No. 329186, 2017 WL 252242, at *
1 (Mich. Ct. App. Jan. 19, 2017).
conviction was affirmed. Id., lv. den. 500 Mich.
1061, 898 N.W.2d 591 (2017).
seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds: (1)
The evidence was insufficient to establish Petitioner's
identity, (2) the trial court erred in allowing a witness to
identify Petitioner from photographs taken from a security
videotape, and (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing
to present evidence pointing to an alternative suspect.
Standard of Review
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;
(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.
decision of a state court 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. “[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.” Id., at 103. Habeas
relief should be denied 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).
Claim # 1. The sufficiency of evidence claim.
argues that the prosecution presented insufficient evidence
to establish his identity as the perpetrator.
beyond question that “the Due Process Clause protects
the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a
reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the
crime with which he is charged.” In Re
Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970). But the crucial
question on review of the sufficiency of the evidence to
support a criminal conviction is, “whether the record
evidence could reasonably support a finding of guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt.” Jackson v. Virginia, 443
U.S. 307, 318 (1979). A court need not “ask itself
whether it believes that the evidence at the trial
established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead,
the relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence
in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any
rational trier of fact could have found the essential
elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.
at 318-19 (internal citation and footnote omitted)(emphasis
in the original).
considering a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to
convict, the reviewing court must give circumstantial
evidence the same weight as direct evidence. See United
States v. Farley, 2 F.3d 645, 650 (6th Cir. 1993).
“Circumstantial evidence alone is sufficient to sustain
a conviction and such evidence need not remove every
reasonable hypothesis except that of guilt.” United
States v. Kelley, 461 F.3d 817, 825 (6th Cir.
2006)(internal quotation omitted); See also Saxton v.
Sheets, 547 F.3d 597, 606 (6th Cir. 2008)(“A
conviction may be sustained based on nothing more than
circumstantial evidence.”). Moreover,
“[c]ircumstantial evidence is not only sufficient, but
may also be more certain, satisfying and persuasive than
direct evidence.” Desert Palace, Inc. v.
Costa, 539 U.S. 90, 100 (2003)(quoting Rogers v.
Missouri Pacific R. Co., 352 U.S. 500, 508 n.17 (1957));
See also Holland v. United States, 348 U.S. 121, 140
(1954)(circumstantial evidence is “intrinsically no
different from testimonial evidence, ” and “[i]f
the jury is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, we can
require no more”); Harrington, 562 U.S. at 113
(“sufficient conventional circumstantial
evidence” supported the verdict).
federal habeas court cannot overturn a state court decision
that rejects a sufficiency of the evidence claim simply
because the federal court disagrees with the state
court's resolution of that claim. Instead, a federal
court may grant habeas relief only if the state court
decision was an objectively unreasonable application of the
Jackson standard. See Cavazos v. Smith, 565
U.S. 1, 2 (2011). “Because rational people can
sometimes disagree, the inevitable consequence of this
settled law is that judges will sometimes encounter
convictions that they believe to be mistaken, but that they
must nonetheless uphold.” Id. Indeed, for a
federal habeas court reviewing a state court conviction,
“the only question under Jackson is whether
that finding was so insupportable as to fall below the
threshold of bare rationality.” Coleman v.
Johnson, 566 U.S. 650, 656 (2012). A state court's
determination that the evidence does not fall below that
threshold is entitled to “considerable deference under
[the] AEDPA.” Id.
on habeas review, a federal court does not reweigh the
evidence or redetermine the credibility of the witnesses
whose demeanor was observed at trial. Marshall v.
Lonberger, 459 U.S. 422, 434 (1983). It is the province
of the factfinder to weigh the probative value of the
evidence and resolve any conflicts in testimony. Neal v.
Morris, 972 F.2d 675, 679 (6th Cir. 1992). A habeas
court therefore must defer to the fact finder for its
assessment of the credibility of witnesses. Matthews v.
Abramajtys, 319 F.3d 780, 788 (6th Cir. 2003).
Michigan law, “[T]he identity of a defendant as the
perpetrator of the crimes charged is an element of the
offense and must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Byrd v. Tessmer, 82 Fed.Appx. 147, 150 (6th Cir.
2003)(citing People v. Turrell, 25 Mich.App. 646,
181 N.W.2d 655, 656 (1970)). Identity of a defendant can be
inferred through circumstantial evidence. See Dell v.
Straub,194 F.Supp.2d 629, 648 (E.D. Mich. 2002).
Eyewitness identification is not necessary ...