United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
M. LAWSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Trial Tr. at 214, ECF No. 8-2, PageID.447. The interview
Question [by Sergeant Sims]: What did you mean by do it right
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
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
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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 ...