Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Polzin v. Campbell

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 12, 2019




         Petitioner Timothy Joseph Polzin pleaded no contest in Saginaw County Circuit Court to sixteen counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC), one count of child sexually abusive activity, and one count of extortion. He moved to withdraw his plea, but the state courts denied relief. The petitioner then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, arguing that his federal rights were violated when he was not allowed to withdraw his plea and that his two consecutive sentences of fifteen to thirty years was more than the recommendation of concurrent sentences in his pre-sentence report. The warden argues that the Michigan Court of Appeals reasonably rejected the petitioner's first claim for lack of merit and that his second claim is unexhausted, non-cognizable, and plainly meritless. The Court agrees that the petitioner's claims do not warrant habeas relief. Therefore, the petition for a writ of habeas corpus will be denied.


         The facts set forth in the record before the Court indicate that Polzin sexually penetrated his step-daughter hundreds of times, and that the events in question began when the girl was eight years old and continued until she was twenty-four years old. On April 15, 2014, Polzin pleaded no contest to the offense charged in Saginaw County Circuit Court case number 14-39555, that is, to one count of first-degree CSC involving his stepdaughter. He also pleaded no contest as charged in case number 14-39556 to fifteen counts of first-degree CSC, one count of child sexually abusive activity, and one count of extortion. Michigan law allows the court to engage with the parties in the plea bargaining process. See People v. Cobbs, 443 Mich. 276, 283, 505 N.W.2d 208, 212 (1993) (authorizing a trial judge to participate in sentencing discussions by “stat[ing] on the record the length of sentence that . . . appears to be appropriate for the charged offense” before accepting a guilty plea). Before Polzin entered his plea, the parties and the trial court agreed that the sentence would be fifteen to thirty years in prison on the CSC charges and that two counts of CSC would run consecutively to each other.

         Michigan uses an indeterminate sentencing scheme for custodial sentences in which the maximum sentence is set by the statute that defines the crime, and the sentencing court, following advisory sentencing guidelines, sets a minimum term of imprisonment that may be as long as two-thirds of the statutory maximum sentence. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.34(2)(b); People v. Babcock, 469 Mich. 247, 255 n.7, 666 N.W.2d 231, 236 n.7 (2003) (citing People v. Tanner, 387 Mich. 683, 690, 199 N.W.2d 202 (1972)); see also People v. Lockridge, 498 Mich. 358, 379-83, 870 N.W.2d 502, 514-16 (2015). When the prescribed maximum sentence is life in prison, the sentencing judge also sets the maximum term. Mich. Com. Laws. § 769.9(2).

         On May 27, 2014, the trial court sentenced Polzin to prison terms of fifteen to thirty years on all the CSC convictions and seven-and-a-half to twenty years for the other two convictions. The court ordered one count of CSC in case number 14-39556 to run consecutively to all the other counts in that case, which the court ordered to run concurrently with each other and with the one count of CSC in case number 14-39555. As a result, the petitioner is serving a minimum sentence of thirty years in prison and a maximum sentence of sixty years.

         Following his sentencing, Polzin moved to withdraw his no contest plea, asserting that the trial court did not clearly state at the plea proceeding that his sentence of fifteen years on one count of CSC would be consecutive to the other counts. The trial court heard oral arguments on the motion and denied it because the court had said at the plea proceeding that the two sentences would be consecutive.

         Polzin moved for leave to appeal, arguing that the trial court had failed to give him an opportunity to withdraw his no-contest plea even though the trial court may have erroneously stated the sentencing agreement on the record. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” See People v. Polzin, No. 326018 (Mich. Ct. App. June 10, 2015). He raised the same issue in the Michigan Supreme Court, which denied leave to appeal on December 22, 2015, because it was not persuaded to review the issue. People v. Polzin, 498 Mich. 950, 872 N.W.2d 466 (2015) (table).

         On December 6, 2016, Polzin filed his habeas corpus petition. He alleges as grounds for relief that (1) he was not allowed to withdraw his plea, and (2) his sentence was above the recommendation in his pre-sentence report that all the sentences should run concurrently.


         Certain 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. See Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003). 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) (quotation marks and citations omitted). “As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must 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.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103, (2011). The distinction between mere error and an objectively unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent creates a substantially higher threshold for obtaining relief than de novo review. Mere error by the state court will not justify issuance of the writ; rather, the state court's application of federal law “must have been objectively unreasonable.” Wiggins, 539 U.S. at 520-21 (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 409 (2000) (quotation marks omitted)). The AEDPA imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings and demands that state-court decisions be “given the benefit of the doubt.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010). Moreover, habeas review is “limited to the record that was before the state court.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 180 (2011).

         The state appellate courts' decisions were rendered in summary orders, not reasoned opinions. Nonetheless, the deference required by the AEDPA still must be afforded. “Under [Harrington v. Richter], ‘[w]hen a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on its merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.