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Williams v. Mackie

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

July 16, 2019

JUSTIN KYLE WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
THOMAS MACKIE, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          DAVID M. LAWSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         An aborted marijuana transaction ended with Sherrell Hunter taking a bullet in her forehead, which she survived. Petitioner Justin Williams was one the two possible assailants on the other side of the transaction. The other was not apprehended. Williams contended that the other guy did it, but he was convicted at a bench trial of assault with intent to murder and sentenced to 12 to 50 years in prison. He challenges that conviction in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Warden Thomas Mackie argues that the petition should be denied because some of Williams's claims were not preserved properly in the state court and others lack merit. Because none of Williams's claims are meritorious, the Court will deny the petition.

         I.

         Williams was tried in the Wayne County, Michigan circuit court. Sherrell Hunter testified that, on the afternoon of October 31, 2010, she contacted three or four people in an effort to sell two pounds of marijuana at $1, 100 per pound. The marijuana belonged to Crystal Johnson, but Hunter was the “middleman.” Williams expressed an interest in buying the marijuana and told Hunter to meet him on Westminster Street. Johnson and Hunter's friend Yvette then drove Hunter to Westminster Street where they saw Williams walking with another man. Hunter got out of the car and asked Williams to point out the house where they were going. Hunter then went back to the car, grabbed a blue Walmart bag containing the marijuana, and followed Williams and his companion into the corner of an abandoned house on Westminster. Hunter acknowledged that she had no reason to be afraid of the petitioner on the day in question because she had engaged in dozens of drug deals with him in the past.

         Once inside the house, Hunter handed Williams the bag of marijuana to inspect. He was standing in front of her at the time, and the other man was standing a few inches behind her to her left. Williams looked at the marijuana, and when he turned as if he were going to walk away with it, Hunter grabbed the bag. Williams did not put up a struggle. Instead, he let go of the bag and said, “Hold up.” Williams then walked into another room. When he returned, Hunter did not see anything in his hand, and she did not see his hands or arms move, but she did hear the gunshot and then blacked out. She tried to get up, but she fell back down and called Yvette on her phone and said, “They shot me.” She did not mention Williams by name as the shooter.

         Hunter testified that she was looking at Williams's face and not his hands or arm movements when he approached her in the house on Westminster. She also stated that the other man did not move from his position behind her and that he never came around to face her. She was shot above her left eyebrow.

         Hunter spent eighteen days in the hospital. She did not want to speak with the police at first because she wanted to resolve the matter herself. She did tell her mother what happened. It was not until 40 days later that Hunter told the police about the incident. Then, she gave a description of Williams to police officer Raytheon Martin and identified Williams in a photo array.

         Officer Raytheon Martin testified that he went to see Hunter in the hospital after the shooting. Hunter was somewhat medicated and did not want to talk, so, he left his business card with Hunter's mother. At a later time, he spoke with both Hunter and her mother, and on December 9, 2010, he showed Hunter a photo array. Hunter identified Williams.

         Williams was arrested on January 11, 2011 for an unrelated offense and was then interviewed by Sergeant Terrence Sims of the Detroit Police Department. When Sergeant Sims asked Williams about the shooting at 506 Westminster, Williams said,

Around 3:00 P.M. in the afternoon I received a call from Sherrell Hunter. And she says she was on the block. And she asked me where I was. I told her at the store. We met on Westminster. I asked her if she wanted to do it right here or go somewhere.

Trial Tr. at 214, ECF No. 8-2, PageID.447. The interview continued:

Question [by Sergeant Sims]: What did you mean by do it right here?
Answer [by the petitioner]: She was going to sell me one pound of marijuana for eleven hundred dollars. I had the money with me at that time. Also this guy named Train (phonetic) was with us. He was suppose[d] to buy a pound also.
Question: What happened next?
Answer: We went to the house. And Sherrell grabbed two pounds of marihuana out the trunk of a white Buick that one of her friends was driving. We went inside the house. I looked at the weed and went and got my scale. Then I told Train I need your money. He said let me make sure the door is closed. I heard the door close. Then I heard one gunshot. Then I heard Sherrell[‘s] body drop. I was in the kitchen and she was in the living room with Train. After the gunshot I ran out the back door. I haven't seen Sherrell or Train since.
Question: Did you shoot Sherrell?
Answer: No. Train shot Sherrell.
Question: Describe Train.
Answer: He's a black male, 24, 5=9@, 150 pounds, brown complected, moustache, braids, no glasses. He was wearing blue clothing at the time. I've known him for about a year. He's normally on Oakland and Westminster.
Question: The gun that you were caught with today was that the gun used in this shooting?
Answer: No.
Question: Why would Sherrell say you shot her?
Answer: Because she didn't know Train. She only knew me. She only knows me.

Id. at 214-16, PageID.447-49. Sergeant Sims stated that, although he did try to determine who Train was, he did not have Train's real name, date of birth, or phone number.

         Detective Lieutenant Brett Sojda, a firearms and tool-mark examiner for the Michigan State Police, testified that the firearm attributed to Williams could not have fired the bullet recovered from the victim.

         Yulonda Webb, a defense witness, was the paramedic who responded to the crime scene. She observed Hunter lying on the floor of the vacant house at 506 Westminster Street. Hunter was injured but capable of communicating, and she refused to say who shot her.

         Kimberly Williams, the petitioner's aunt testified that she and other family members attended the petitioner's preliminary examination on January 26, 2011. She observed the female prosecutor and a man lean over the railing in the courtroom and talk to Hunter. The prosecutor asked Hunter whether she was sure it was the petitioner who shot her, and Hunter responded that she did not know and was not sure it was him. The prosecutor then told Hunter that she had to be sure it was him.

         Kenisha Reid, who had a child with Williams, also testified that she saw a lady and a man approach Hunter at the preliminary examination. According to Reid,

the lady asked [the victim] is [sic] you sure that she's the one who shot you. And she kept saying she didn't know, she didn't know. And the lady was like, well, we can't go to trial off of you not knowing. And she was like, well, yes - well, she used the ...

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