United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
JAMES A. REEVES, Petitioner,
SHANE JACKSON, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
M. LAWSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
A. Reeves, a prisoner in the custody of the Michigan
Department of Corrections, has filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his
assault and firearms convictions. The petitioner raises eight
claims for relief, all of which were presented to the state
court of appeals in direct review. The respondent argues that
the petitioner procedurally defaulted the claims regarding
jury instructions, prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective
assistance of counsel and that all of the claims lack merit.
Because none of the claims merit the issuance of the writ,
the Court will deny the petition.
County, Michigan jury convicted the petitioner for assault
and firearms crimes arising from an argument between the
petitioner and his cousin. The Michigan Court of Appeals
summarized the facts on direct appeal as follows:
This case arises from a July 23, 2013 altercation between
defendant and his cousin, Quintin Omar Thornton, at
defendant's home in Detroit, Michigan. Thornton first
visited defendant's house that morning in an attempt to
either borrow or collect $200 from defendant. Defendant was
drinking, and Thornton smoked some marijuana. Thornton left
defendant's house after staying there for a short time.
Later that day, Thornton returned to defendant's home.
Several other people were also present there. Defendant and
Thornton continued to argue about the $200 and an allegation
that Thornton had inappropriately touched defendant's 10-
and 11-year-old stepdaughters. Ravorn Withers, a friend of
defendant and Thornton, testified that Thornton was
“looking distraught and stressed out” about the
earlier argument, but that the situation was “calming
down.” As time passed, the argument between defendant
and Thornton escalated again. Thornton was “swelling
up” and becoming visibly more upset. Defendant
displayed a revolver, and Thornton backed down
In response to defendant showing him the gun, Thornton said,
“You're going to have to use it, ” and told
defendant that he was going to “beat his a**.”
Defendant responded that he would not fight Thornton, but he
would shoot him. Thornton took off one of his shirts in
preparation for a fight and told defendant again,
“I'm going to beat your a**.” Defendant then
fired gunshots at Thornton. Thornton fled the home, and
defendant followed him. During the incident, one of
defendant's shots struck Deavonte Andrews, a 12-year-old
boy who had been coloring with other children on
Multiple witnesses identified defendant as the shooter and
saw him holding a gun after he followed Thornton outside.
Thornton failed to appear to testify at defendant's
trial. However, the trial court allowed the prosecution to
read Thornton's preliminary examination testimony into
the record over defense counsel's objection.
People v. Reeves, No. 320218, 2015 WL 7365963, *1
(Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 19, 2015).
jury found Reeves guilty of two counts of assault with intent
to do great bodily harm less than murder, Mich. Comp. Laws
§ 750.84, intentionally discharging a firearm at a
dwelling or potentially occupied structure, Mich. Comp. Laws
§ 750.234b, felon in possession of a firearm, Mich.
Comp. Laws § 750.224f, and possession of a firearm
during the commission of a felony (felony firearm), Mich.
Comp Laws § 750.227b. The trial court sentenced the
petitioner as a second habitual offender and imposed
concurrent prison terms totaling 6 to 15 years on all charges
except the felony firearm charge, for which Reeves received a
consecutive two-year sentence.
petitioner's convictions were affirmed on appeal.
Reeves, 2015 WL 7365963, lv. den. 499 Mich.
917 (Mich. 2016).
his appellate lawyer's brief and his own pro se
filing, Reeves raised eight claims of error on appeal. He
replicated those claims in his petition for habeas corpus as
I. Did the prosecution fail to prove beyond a reasonable
doubt that James Reeves did not act in self-defense?
II. Did the trial court err when it failed to instruct the
jury sua sponte that Petitioner had no duty to
III. Did trial counsel perform ineffectively by failing to
call a witness to impeach the complainant's credibility
and support the self-defense theory and failing to request an
IV. Did the trial court abuse its discretion when it denied
the motion for new trial when trial counsel performed
ineffectively when he failed to call an available witness to
impeach the complainant, failed to object to irrelevant
testimony, and failed to request a jury instruction?
V. Was Petitioner denied his fundamental due process
protections to a fair trial as guaranteed under both state
and federal constitutions, when the trial court abused its
discretion by and through the taking of Petitioner's
liberty in a manner inconsistent with due process of law; the
result of which resulted in a void judgment?
VI. Was Petitioner denied a fair trial as guaranteed under
both federal and state constitutions, when the prosecution
failed to insure that Petitioner's due process
protections were secured?
VII. Was Petitioner denied a fair trial as guaranteed under
both state and federal constitutions, when said counsel
abandoned his duty to protect Petitioner's constitutional
rights from the misconduct of both the trial court and the
VIII. Was Petitioner denied his fundamental protections to a
fair criminal proceeding by and through the cumulative effect
of error that took place at the hands of the trial court, the
prosecution, defense counsel and appellate counsel?
respondent opposes the petition on the merits, and also
argues that the petitioner's second, third, and sixth
claims are procedurally defaulted. The “procedural
default” argument is a reference to the rule that the
petitioner did not preserve all his claims in the trial court
by timely objection, and the state court's denial of
those claims on that basis is an adequate and independent
ground for the denial of relief under state law, which is not
reviewable here. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722,
750 (1991). It is not necessary to address this procedural
question. It “is not a jurisdictional bar to review of
the merits, ” Howard v. Bouchard, 405 F.3d
459, 476 (6th Cir. 2005), and “federal courts are not
required to address a procedural-default issue before
deciding against the petitioner on the merits, ”
Hudson v. Jones, 351 F.3d 212, 215 (6th Cir. 2003)
(citing Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U.S. 518, 525
(1997)). The procedural default will not affect the outcome
of this case, and it is more efficient to proceed directly to
provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214
(Apr. 24, 1996), which govern this case,
“circumscribe[d]” the standard of review federal
courts must apply when considering an application for a writ
of habeas corpus raising constitutional claims, including
claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. See Wiggins
v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003). Because the
petitioner filed his petition after the AEDPA's effective
date, its standard of review applies. Under that statute, if
a claim was adjudicated on the merits in state court, a
federal court may grant relief only if the state court's
adjudication “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 if the adjudication
“resulted in a decision that was based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2). “Clearly established
Federal law for purposes of § 2254(d)(1) includes only
the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the
Supreme] Court's decisions.” White v.
Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, 419 (2014) (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted). “As a condition for