United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DENYING THE HABEAS PETITION AND
DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a habeas case under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner
Salathiel Rezar Brown (“Petitioner”) challenges
his convictions for second-degree murder, M.C.L. §
750.317, possession of a firearm by a felon, M.C.L. §
750.224f, and possession of a firearm during the commission
of a felony (“felony firearm”), M.C.L. §
750.227b. Petitioner claims that his right to due process was
violated when a juror (“Juror # 2”) had a brief
discussion at a social event with an assistant prosecutor-not
on Petitioner's case-and the trial court failed to ask
the other jurors about any discussions they may have had with
Juror # 2. Petitioner also claims that his trial attorney
provided ineffective assistance by not objecting to the trial
court's failure to question the jurors regarding any
impact the actions of Juror # 2 may have had on them.
State argues that Petitioner procedurally defaulted his due
process claim and that the state appellate court's
adjudication of Petitioner's claims was not contrary to
federal law, an unreasonable application of federal law, or
an unreasonable determination of the facts. For the reasons
stated below, the Court agrees that Petitioner is not
entitled to relief. Accordingly, the petition will be denied.
was charged with first-degree murder, felon in possession of
a firearm, felony firearm, and two counts of felonious
assault. A jury found him not guilty of felonious assault,
but guilty of second-degree murder, as a lesser offense of
first-degree murder, and guilty, as charged, of felon in
possession of a firearm and felony firearm.
trial court sentenced Petitioner to a term of 100 years to
life for the murder conviction, a concurrent term of three
years, four months to five years for the felon-in-possession
conviction, and a consecutive term of two years for the
felony-firearm conviction. The trial court later modified the
sentence for second-degree murder to 100 to 150 years in
appealed as of right, arguing that the trial court violated
his right to due process by failing to question the jurors
about any taint caused by the actions of Juror # 2.
Petitioner also claimed that defense counsel was ineffective
for failing to request further questioning. The Michigan
Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions in an
unpublished decision, see People v. Brown, No.
316648, 2014 WL 4495231 (Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 11, 2014). The
Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. See People
v. Brown, 860 N.W.2d 636 (Mich. 2015) (table).
then filed a pro se habeas corpus petition, raising
the following claim:
A juror at my trial discussed my case (on an evening during
the trial) at a dinner party with a prosecutor (not the
prosecutor at my trial). Though the trial court judge
dismissed the juror, neither the judge, prosecutor, nor even
my lawyer questioned the remaining jurors concerning possible
impermissible/prejudicial discussions the ousted juror may
have had with the other jury members prior to being ousted.
subsequently acquired counsel who filed an amended petition
that added an ineffective assistance claim.
Standard of Review
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) provides:
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 proceedings.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
state court's decision is ‘contrary to' . . .
clearly established law if it ‘applies a rule that
contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court
cases]' or if it ‘confronts a set of facts that are
materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme]
Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from
[this] precedent.' ” Mitchell v. Esparza,
540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam) (quoting
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)).
“[T]he ‘unreasonable application' prong of
§ 2254(d)(1) permits a federal habeas court to
‘grant the writ if the state court identifies the
correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme]
Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle
to the facts' of petitioner's case.”
Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003) (quoting
Williams, 529 U.S. at 413).
simple terms, the Supreme Court has said that the standard of
review is “difficult to meet” and is a
“highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court
rulings, which demands that state-court decisions be given
the benefit of the doubt.” Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011) (quoting
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 102, and Woodford v.
Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per
curiam)). The Supreme Court has further said that a
federal court must guard against “using federal habeas
corpus review as a vehicle to second-guess the reasonable
decisions of state courts.” Renico v. Lett,
559 U.S. 766, 779 (2010).
a federal habeas court must presume the correctness of state
court factual determinations. See 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1). A petitioner may rebut this presumption only with
clear and convincing evidence. Warren v. Smith, 161
F.3d 358, 360-61 (6th Cir. 1998).
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a
habeas petitioner must show that “counsel's
performance was deficient” and that “the
deficient performance prejudiced the defense.”
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. The
deficient-performance prong “requires showing that
counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not
functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the
defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id.
“[T]he defendant must show that counsel's
representation fell below an objective standard of
reasonableness. Id. at 688.
“prejudice” prong “requires showing that
counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the
defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is
reliable.” Id. at 687. A defendant must
demonstrate “a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different. A reasonable
probability is a probability sufficient to undermine
confidence in the outcome.” Id. at 694.
In a habeas case, moreover, review of an
is “doubly deferential, ” Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 190, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 179
L.Ed.2d 557 (2011), because counsel is “strongly
presumed to have rendered adequate assistance and made all
significant decisions in the exercise of reasonable
professional judgment, ” Burt v. Titlow, 571
U.S. __, __, 134 S.Ct. 10, 17, 187 L.Ed.2d 348 (2013)
(quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668,
690, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984); internal
quotation marks omitted). In such circumstances, federal
courts are to afford “both the state court and the
defense attorney the benefit of the doubt.” Burt,
supra, supra, at __, 134 S.Ct., at 13.
Woods v. Etherton, 136 S.Ct. 1149, 1151 (2016)
Trial Court's Failure to ...