United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR ORAL
D. BORMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jeff Titus filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus
through attorneys at the Michigan Innocence Clinic. The
habeas petition challenges Petitioner's convictions for
two counts of first-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws §
750.316. Currently pending before the Court is
Petitioner's motion for oral argument on his claim that
the prosecution failed to disclose evidence favorable to the
defense. For the reasons given below, the Court will deny the
convictions arose from the fatal shooting of two hunters at a
state game area in 1990. The case remained unsolved for
years, but over a decade after the crime, a cold-case team,
which included Detective Richard Mattison, reopened the case.
Petitioner was then charged with two counts of first-degree
murder and two counts of possessing a firearm during the
commission of a felony. On July 19, 2002, a Kalamazoo County
Circuit Court jury found Petitioner guilty as charged. The
trial court sentenced Petitioner to two years in prison for
the felony firearm convictions and to a consecutive sentence
of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for
the murder convictions.
appeal from his convictions, Petitioner argued that: (1) the
trial court erroneously denied his motion for a directed
verdict of acquittal on the murder charges because the
prosecution presented insufficient evidence of premeditation;
and (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion to
preclude the prosecution from presenting "other
acts" evidence. The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected
these claims and affirmed Petitioner's convictions in an
unpublished, per curiam decision. See People v.
Titus, No. 243642, 2004 WL 316427 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb.
19, 2004). On November 22, 2004, the Michigan Supreme Court
denied leave to appeal because it was not persuaded to review
the questions presented to it. See People v. Titus,
471 Mich. 920 (2004).
2006, Petitioner filed a habeas corpus petition in which he
raised his sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim and a claim that
trial counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce
evidence of another man's admitted involvement in a
similar murder. The Court denied the petition on the merits,
but granted a certificate of appealability on
Petitioner's first claim regarding the sufficiency of the
evidence. See Titus v. Jackson, No. 2:06-cv-10770
(E.D. Mich. June 24, 2009). The United States Court of
Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed this Court's
decision. See Titus v. Jackson, 452 Fed.Appx. 647
(6th Cir. 2011).
2014, Petitioner allegedly discovered Detective
Mattison's conclusion that two shooters were responsible
for the murders. Petitioner then filed a motion for relief
from judgment in the state trial court. He argued that trial
counsel was ineffective for failing to call certain witnesses
and establish a time line of events for the day of the
shooting. Petitioner also argued that appellate counsel was
ineffective for failing to raise the issue of trial
counsel's ineffectiveness and that the prosecution
violated his right to due process by failing to disclose
Detective Mattison's theory of the case.
trial court held an evidentiary hearing and then denied
Petitioner's motion. The court determined that
Petitioner's trial and appellate attorneys were not
ineffective and that any prejudice resulting from the
non-disclosure of evidence was not sufficient to question the
jury's verdict. See Op. and Order, People v.
Titus, No. 2002-0166 (Kalamazoo Cty. Cir. Ct. Apr. 24,
2015). The Michigan Court of Appeals granted leave to appeal,
but ultimately denied relief. See People v. Titus,
No. 329770 (Mich. Ct. App. May 4, 2017). On September 12,
2017, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal
because it was not persuaded to review the issues presented
to it. See People v. Titus, 501 Mich. 865 (2017).
2018, Petitioner sought permission from the United States
Court of Appeals to file a second or successive habeas corpus
petition. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted
Petitioner's request, but only on his claim regarding
Detective Mattison's two-shooter theory. See In re
Titus, No. 18-1142 (6th Cir. Apr. 25, 2018).
April 27, 2018, Petitioner filed his petition in this case.
His sole argument is that the prosecution violated his
constitutional right to due process, as articulated in
Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by not
disclosing Detective Mattison's conclusion that more than
one person fired at the victims. Petitioner contends that
Mattison's conclusion was inconsistent with the
prosecution's theory that Petitioner was the lone
shooter. Petitioner also maintains that he could have
corroborated Detective Mattison's conclusion at trial
through the testimony of a ballistics expert if the
prosecution had disclosed Mattison's conclusion.
State urges the Court to deny the habeas petition because:
(1) there is not a reasonable probability that the result of
the trial would have been different if the prosecution had
disclosed Mattison's theory to the defense; and (2) the
Supreme Court has never held that a police officer's
theory about a crime constitutes Brady material.
Petitioner replies that Detective Mattison's two-shooter
theory and corroborating expert ballistics testimony are
Brady material and that the State mis-characterizes
the nature and exculpatory value of the two-shooter theory.
pending before the Court is Petitioner's motion for oral
argument. Petitioner contends that oral argument on the
merits of his claim would assist the Court in deciding the
significant questions presented in his petition. He also
contends that oral argument would be a more useful resource
in this case than in most other cases due to the lengthy and
complex state-court record. The State did not file an answer
to Petitioner's motion, but it indicated in its answer to
the petition that it opposes oral argument.
the Court ordinarily does not grant hearings on motions in a
civil case where a party is in custody, Petitioner is
represented by counsel, and judges in this district have
discretion to order a hearing on motions. See E.D.
Mich. L.R. 7.1(f)(1) ("The court will not hold a hearing
on ... a motion in a civil case where a person is in custody
unless the judge orders a hearing."). A court may order
oral argument to assist it in resolving a state
prisoner's habeas claims. See Haskell v.
Berghuis,695 F.Supp.2d 574, 584 (E.D. Mich. 2010). But
a district court's decision not to hear oral argument is
a proper exercise of discretion when the movant ...