United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
L. Maloney, United States District Judge.
a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28
U.S.C. § 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition
for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a preliminary
review of the petition to determine whether “it plainly
appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits
annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief
in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing §
2254 Cases; see 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the
petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see Allen
v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district
court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that
lack merit on their face). A dismissal under Rule 4 includes
those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well
as those containing factual allegations that are palpably
incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434,
436-37 (6th Cir. 1999). After undertaking the review required
by Rule 4, the Court concludes that the petition must be
dismissed because it fails to raise a meritorious federal
Jermaine Leon Jones is incarcerated with the Michigan
Department of Corrections at the Bellamy Creek Correctional
Facility (IBC) in Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. Following a
jury trial in the Calhoun County Circuit Court, Petitioner
was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, Mich.
Comp. Laws § 750.316. On July 7, 2016, the court
sentenced Petitioner to life imprisonment.
April 29, 2019, Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition.
Under Sixth Circuit precedent, the application is deemed
filed when handed to prison authorities for mailing to the
federal court. Cook v. Stegall, 295 F.3d 517, 521
(6th Cir. 2002). Petitioner signed his application on April
29, 2019. (Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.14.) The petition was
received by the Court on May 2, 2019. The petition raises
three grounds for relief, as follows:
I. Insufficient evidence
II. Impartial Jury
III. Ineffective assistance [of] counsel
(Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.5, 7, 8.)
following facts are taken from the introductory section of
the Michigan Court of Appeals' opinion denying
Petitioner's direct appeal:
Defendant was convicted for the August 9, 2015, shooting of
Breon Williams in the Park Hill neighborhood of Battle Creek.
On August 8, 2015, defendant went with Jlin Cannon, Dezmen
Jones, and Kyle Epps to a local nightclub, where he had a
short, unfriendly interaction with Williams. The atmosphere
made Epps uncomfortable, and Epps left. Defendant later left
the nightclub with Dezmen and Cannon and drove his Chevy
Tahoe to Epps's apartment, where he asked Epps if he
could borrow Epps's tan Bonneville so that the men could
search for Williams unrecognized. Defendant told Epps that he
had a gun1 and stated that “it would be one of theirs
before it's one of his family members.” Epps
allowed defendant to borrow his car, and Cannon drove the
four men to the Park Hill neighborhood. Initially, the search
for Williams was unsuccessful, so Cannon parked the car and
the men sat in the car for 10 to 15 minutes. During this
time, defendant said, “If we can't find Breon, we
find somebody that's close to him.” When the men
resumed their search, Cannon spotted Williams near the
sidewalk, leaning over a car and speaking through the
passenger-side window. Cannon pulled up to Williams's
location, and Dezmen fired five or six shots at Williams from
the rear passenger side of Epps's car. Williams died from
a single gunshot wound to the chest.
1 Epps testified that defendant told him that he
“had a gun” and later stated that “he had a
gun in the car . . . .”
People v. Jones, No. 333919, 2017 WL 4699751 (Oct.
appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals, Petitioner raised
the same three claims as he presents in his habeas petition.
In its unpublished opinion issued on October 19, 2017, the
court of appeals denied all appellate grounds and affirmed
the conviction. Petitioner sought leave to appeal to the
Michigan Supreme Court, again raising the claims presented on
habeas review. The supreme court denied leave to appeal on
May 1, 2018.
action is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (AEDPA).
The AEDPA “prevents federal habeas
‘retrials'” and ensures that state court
convictions are given effect to the extent possible under the
law. Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693-94 (2002). An
application for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person
who is incarcerated pursuant to a state conviction cannot be
granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the
merits in state court unless the adjudication: “(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 upon an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in the state court proceeding.” 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d). This standard is “intentionally
difficult to meet.” Woods v. Donald, 575 U.S.
__, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (internal quotation omitted).
AEDPA limits the source of law to cases decided by the United
States Supreme Court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). This Court
may consider only the holdings, and not the dicta, of the
Supreme Court. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412
(2000); Bailey v. Mitchell, 271 F.3d 652, 655 (6th
Cir. 2001). In determining whether federal law is clearly
established, the Court may not consider the decisions of
lower federal courts. Lopez v. Smith, 574 U.S. 1, 4
(2014); Marshall v Rodgers, 569 U.S. 58, 64 (2013);
Parker v Matthews, 567 U.S. 37, 48-49 (2012);
Williams, 529 U.S. at 381-82; Miller v.
Straub, 299 F.3d 570, 578-79 (6th Cir. 2002). Moreover,
“clearly established Federal law” does not
include decisions of the Supreme Court announced after the
last adjudication of the merits in state court. Greene v.
Fisher, 565 U.S. 34, 37-38 (2011). Thus, the inquiry is
limited to an examination of the legal landscape as it would
have appeared to the Michigan state courts in light of
Supreme Court precedent at the time of the state-court
adjudication on the merits. Miller v. Stovall, 742
F.3d 642, 644 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Greene, 565
U.S. at 38).
federal habeas court may issue the writ under the
“contrary to” clause if the state court applies a
rule different from the governing law set forth in the
Supreme Court's cases, or if it decides a case
differently than the Supreme Court has done on a set of
materially indistinguishable facts. Bell, 535 U.S.
at 694 (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-06).
“To satisfy this high bar, a habeas petitioner is
required to ‘show that the state court's ruling on
the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in
justification that there was an error well understood and
comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for
fairminded disagreement.'” Woods, 135
S.Ct. at 1376 (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562
U.S. 86, 103 (2011)). In other words, “[w]here the
precise contours of the right remain unclear, state courts
enjoy broad discretion in their adjudication of a
prisoner's claims.” White v. Woodall, 572
U.S. 415, 424 (2014) (internal quotations omitted).
AEDPA requires heightened respect for state factual findings.
Herbert v. Billy, 160 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir.
1998). A determination of a factual issue made by a state
court is presumed to be correct, and the petitioner has the
burden of rebutting the presumption by clear and convincing
evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Lancaster v.
Adams, 324 F.3d 423, 429 (6th Cir. 2003);
Bailey, 271 F.3d at 656. This presumption of
correctness is accorded to findings of state appellate
courts, as well as the trial court. See Sumner v.
Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 546 (1981); Smith v. Jago,
888 F.2d 399, 407 n.4 (6th Cir. 1989).
Ground I: Sufficiency of the Evidence
first ground for relief, Petitioner argues that the evidence
was insufficient to convict him of first-degree murder. A
§ 2254 challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence is
governed by the standard set forth by the Supreme Court in
Jackson v. Virginia,443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979), which
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.” This standard of review recognizes
the trier of fact's responsibility to resolve reasonable
conflicts in testimony, to weigh the evidence, and to draw
reasonable inferences from basic facts to ultimate facts.
Id. Issues of credibility may not be reviewed by the
habeas court under this standard. See Herrera v.
Collins,506 U.S. 390, 401-02 (1993). Rather, the habeas
court is required to examine the evidence supporting ...