United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
ROBERT L. WALDEN, Petitioner,
ERICA HUSS, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER SUMMARILY DENYING THE PETITION FOR
WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY OR LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
HONORABLE THOMAS L. LUDINGTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Robert L. Walden, presently confined at the Marquette Branch
Prison in Marquette, Michigan, filed a pro se
application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Petitioner was convicted in the Monroe County
Circuit Court of voluntary manslaughter, Mich. Comp Laws
§ 750.321. Petitioner was sentenced to ten to twenty-two
and a half years in prison as a second habitual offender.
Mich. Comp Laws § 769.10. Petitioner contends that the
trial court improperly scored Offense Variable (OV) 9 of the
Michigan Sentencing Guidelines, that the trial judge erred in
departing above the recommended sentencing guidelines range,
and that his sentence was disproportionate. For the reasons
that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus will be
was originally charged with open murder. He was convicted
by a jury of the lesser included offense of voluntary
manslaughter and sentenced to ten to twenty-two and one-half
years in prison.
conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. People
v. Walden, 319 Mich.App. 344, 901 N.W.2d 142 (2017),
lv. den., 501 Mich. 951, 904 N.W.2d 843 (2018).
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
also 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If, after preliminary
consideration, the Court determines that the petitioner is
not entitled to relief, the Court must summarily dismiss the
petition. Id., see also 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 federal district court is authorized to
summarily dismiss a habeas corpus petition if it plainly
appears from the face of the petition and any attached
exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to federal
habeas relief. See McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849,
856 (1994); Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436 (6th
Cir. 1999); Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, Rule 4, 28
U.S.C. foll. § 2254. No. response to a habeas petition
is necessary when the petition is frivolous, obviously lacks
merit, or where the necessary facts can be determined from
the petition itself without consideration of a response from
the State. See Allen, 424 F.2d at 141; Robinson
v. Jackson, 366 F.Supp.2d 524, 525 (E.D. Mich. 2005).
undertaking the review required by Rule 4, it is concluded
that Petitioner's sentencing claims do not entitle him to
habeas relief. See McIntosh v. Booker, 300 F.Supp.2d
498, 499 (E.D. Mich. 2004).
sentencing claims will be addressed together for clarity.
in his first claim contends that the trial court incorrectly
scored OV 9 of the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. As part of
his second claim, Petitioner argues that the trial court
erred in sentencing Petitioner above the sentencing
courts are the final arbiters of state law. See Bradshaw
v. Richey, 546 U.S. 74, 76 (2005); Sanford v.
Yukins, 288 F.3d 855, 860 (6th Cir. 2002). Therefore,
claims which arise out of a state trial court's
sentencing decision are not normally cognizable on federal
habeas review, unless the habeas petitioner can show that the
sentence imposed exceeded the statutory limits or is wholly
unauthorized by law. See Vliet v. Renico, 193
F.Supp.2d 1010, 1014 (E.D. Mich. 2002). Thus, a sentence
imposed within the statutory limits is not generally subject
to habeas review. Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736,
741 (1948); Cook v. Stegall, 56 F.Supp.2d 788, 797
(E.D. Mich. 1999).
claim that the state trial court incorrectly scored or
calculated his sentencing guidelines range under the Michigan
Sentencing Guidelines is non-cognizable on federal habeas
review, because it is essentially a state law claim. See
Tironi v. Birkett, 252 Fed.Appx. 724, 725 (6th Cir.
2007); Howard v. White, 76 Fed.Appx. 52, 53 (6th
Cir. 2003). Errors in the application of state sentencing
guidelines cannot independently support habeas relief.
See Kissner v. Palmer, 826 F.3d 898, 904 (6th Cir.
2016). Petitioner had “no state-created interest in
having the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines applied rigidly in
determining his sentence.” See Mitchell v.
Vasbinder, 644 F.Supp.2d 846, 867 (E.D. Mich. 2009).
Petitioner's related claim that the state trial court
improperly departed above the sentencing guidelines range
would also not entitle him to habeas relief. Welch v.
Burke, 49 F.Supp.2d 992, 1009 (E.D. Mich. 1999); See
also Drew v. Tessmer, 195 F.Supp.2d 887, 889-90 (E.D.
Mich. 2001). “[I]n short, petitioner had no federal
constitutional right to be sentenced within Michigan's
guideline minimum sentence recommendations.” Doyle
v. Scutt, 347 F.Supp.2d 474, 485 (E.D. Mich. 2004). Any
error by the trial court in calculating his guideline score
or in departing above the sentencing guidelines range alone
would not merit habeas relief. Id. Petitioner's
claims that the state trial court improperly departed above
the correct sentencing guidelines range would thus not
entitle him to habeas relief, because such a departure does
not violate any of Petitioner's federal due process
rights. Austin v. Jackson, 213 F.3d 298, 301 (6th
extent that Petitioner argues that the trial judge failed to
use the factors delineated in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) to
determine the length of his sentence, he would not be
entitled to relief. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1) is the
federal sentencing statute, which does not apply ...