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Buford v. Balcarcel

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

May 28, 2019

TRINITY FRANKLIN BUFORD, Petitioner,
v.
ERICK BALCARCEL, 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 PAUPERIS

          MARK A. GOLDSMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Trinity Franklin Buford, (“Petitioner”), confined at the St. Louis Correctional Facility in St. Louis, Michigan, seeks the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his pro se application, Petitioner challenges his conviction for armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529; carrying a weapon with unlawful intent, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.226; felon in possession of a firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224f; and three counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony (felony-firearm), Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. For the reasons stated below, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was convicted by a jury in the Saginaw County Circuit Court. Sharon Jackson asked her friend, Charles Byrd, to drive her to the credit union, where she withdrew $500.00. The two then ended up at the Food Basket. Jackson went into the Food Basket while Byrd waited outside in his car. 1/6/2016 Tr., Ex. 2 to Rule 5 Filing, at 83-85 (Dkt. 9-2).

         While Byrd was sitting in his car, he saw a man that he knew from the neighborhood. Byrd knew this man only by his nickname, “Black.” Byrd positively identified Petitioner as being this individual “Black” at trial. 1/6/2016 Tr. at 119, 121, 128. Byrd testified that Petitioner approached him and asked if he had a cigarette. Byrd replied that he did not. Petitioner asked if he could get a ride and to sit in the car to warm up. Byrd agreed. Byrd indicated that he had no problem allowing Petitioner to sit in the car behind him, because Byrd knew Petitioner. Although Petitioner was wearing a scarf that day, Byrd testified that Petitioner pulled the scarf down to talk to him, both outside and inside the car, so Byrd was able to identify the person he was talking to as being Petitioner. Byrd knew the person he was talking to was Petitioner. Id. at 120-122.

         Jackson exited the store and approached the vehicle. Jackson saw a man sitting in the backseat of Byrd's car. Jackson was able to get a better look at the man as she approached the vehicle and thought better of putting her items in the backseat with a stranger. Id. at 85-86. Although Petitioner's face was partially covered with a scarf, Jackson testified that she could see Petitioner's eyes, eyebrows, and a scar on his forehead. Jackson positively identified Petitioner as the person in the backseat. Id. at 89.

         Byrd drove the car for a short distance before stopping the car to let Petitioner out. But when they stopped, Petitioner placed a pistol at Jackson's head and demanded her purse. Id. at 86, 124-125. Jackson testified that she knew that the weapon was a pistol because it was right next to her head and looked like her uncle's nine-millimeter semiautomatic handgun. Jackson also testified that she had taken criminal-justice courses at Delta College. Byrd also identified the weapon as a pistol, possibly a Glock. Id. at 88-89, 126.

         Jackson initially refused to relinquish her purse, so Petitioner hit her in the head with the pistol and again demanded the purse. When Jackson again refused, Petitioner struck her in the head a second time. Jackson finally gave up her purse, because she feared for her life. Petitioner fled on foot. Id. at 87-88, 125-126. Jackson and Byrd later positively identified Petitioner to police from a photographic lineup. Id. at 93-95, 128-129.

         Two witnesses testified for Petitioner. Rebecca Howard testified that she picked Petitioner up and dropped him off at his mother's house the morning of the robbery, around 11 a.m. 1/7/2016 Tr., Ex. 3 to Rule 5 Filing, at 9-12 (Dkt. 9-3). Gary Jones, Sr. testified that he was at the Food Basket on the morning of the robbery, knew Byrd and Jackson, and saw the person described as “Black” by Byrd's car, but that this person was not Petitioner. Id. at 18-19, 24, 28.

         Petitioner's conviction was affirmed. People v. Buford, No. 333768 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 17, 2016); lv. den. 895 N.W.2d 530 (Mich. 2017).

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

I. Mr. Buford was denied his state and federal constitutional rights to due process of law where the prosecution failed to produce legally sufficient evidence to identify Appellant as a perpetrator beyond a reasonable doubt[.]
II. Mr. Buford was denied his state and federal constitutional rights to due process of law and a fair trial guaranteed him through the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments when the convictions of carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, felon in possession of a firearm and three counts of felony firearm must be reversed where the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to prove those charges beyond a reasonable doubt[.]
III. Mr. Buford was denied his state and federal constitutional rights to due process of law and a fair trial guaranteed him through the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments where trial counsel was ineffective for not conducting a full investigation of possible exculpatory factors and not calling alibi witnesses for the Defendant and the trial court abused its discretion by not allowing an adjournment to retrieve discovery materials from the prosecution[.]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Title 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 ...

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