United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
JAMES L. BLAYLOCK, Petitioner,
RANDEE REWERTS, Respondent,
OPINION & ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY, AND (3) GRANTING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA
HONORABLE MARK A. GOLDSMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
L. Blaylock, (“Petitioner”), confined at the St.
Louis Correctional Facility in St. Louis, Michigan, filed a
petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. In his pro se application, Petitioner
challenges his convictions for first-degree premeditated
murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(a); and possession
of a firearm in the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws
§ 750.227b. For the reasons stated below, the petition
for writ of habeas corpus is denied.
was convicted following a jury trial in the 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. 2009):
fatally shot the victim, Kevin Wheeler, in front of several
According to eyewitness Shayla Pickens, Luther Woortham, and
Greay Perry, defendant walked over to the victim's house,
knocked on the door, and shot the victim. Defendant's
decision to kill the victim was not spur-of-the-moment.
Defendant had previously told Timothy Landrum that he wanted
to use the victim's house to sell drugs and wanted to get
the victim “out of there.” On appeal, defendant
concedes that he told Landrum he wanted to rob and shoot the
victim. After defendant shot and killed the victim, he called
Landrum. Landrum asked defendant what he did, and defendant
replied that he could not take it anymore and that he did
what he had to do.
People v. Blaylock, No. 319302, 2015 WL 1227581, at
* 1 (Mich. Ct. App. Mar. 17, 2015). Petitioner's
conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id., lv.
den 869 N.W.2d 858 (Mich. 2015).
filed a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment,
which the trial court denied. People v. Blaylock,
No. 13-00116-FC (Third Jud. Cir. Ct., May 17, 2016). The
Michigan appellate courts denied Petitioner leave to appeal.
People v. Blaylock, No. 335747 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb.
23, 2017); lv. den. 907 N.W.2d 551 (Mich. 2018).
seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:
I. Insufficient evidence where the prosecution failed to
establish cause of death;
II. Ineffective assistance of counsel where: (1) trial
counsel failed to (a) investigate cell phone records, (b)
move to suppress two in-court eyewitness identifications of
Blaylock, and (c) utilize an investigator to interview
Pickens (an eyewitness); and (2) appellate counsel failed to
raise cause of death issue on appeal;
III. Abuse of discretion where the trial court denied
Blaylock's motion for directed verdict;
IV. Prosecutorial misconduct where the prosecutor: (1)
solicited false testimony; (2) allowed false testimony to go
uncorrected; and (3) argued facts not in evidence in her
V. Juror misconduct where Blaylock's brother observed the
victim's sister speaking with a juror.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)
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, 405-406 (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.
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)). The Supreme Court
has emphasized “that even a strong case for relief does
not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was
unreasonable.” Id. at 102 (citing Lockyer
v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)). Furthermore,
pursuant to § 2254(d), “a habeas court must
determine what arguments or theories supported or . . . could
have supported, the state court's decision; and then it
must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could
disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent
with the holding in a prior decision” of the Supreme
Court. Id. 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.
Claims # 4 and # 5: the procedurally ...