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Ingram v. Barrett

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

July 19, 2019

CHARLES DEXTER INGRAM, Petitioner,
v.
JOE BARRETT, Respondent,

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          DAVID M. LAWSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Charles Ingram was convicted by a jury in the Saginaw County, Michigan circuit court of various counts of criminal sexual conduct for sexually assaulting the daughter of a coworker. He filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, the fairness of his trial, the propriety of convicting him of multiple counts in light of the Double Jeopardy Clause, the scoring of the state advisory sentencing guidelines, and the performance of his attorney. The warden responded, arguing that some of the claims are barred by procedural defenses and the rest lack merit. Because the state courts adjudicated Ingram's claims consistent with controlling federal law, and none of them support issuance of the writ, the Court will deny the petition.

         I.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals succinctly summarized the facts of the case in its opinion on direct appeal as follows:

Defendant's convictions stem from the sexual assault of “BJ” in the basement of a home that defendant was renovating. BJ testified that her father worked for defendant and that she sometimes accompanied her father and was paid for work that she performed. According to BJ, defendant grabbed her hands and held them behind her back while he pulled her pants down, squeezed her breasts, and vaginally penetrated her with his penis. Defendant testified that the sexual encounter was consensual.

People v. Ingram, No. 309035, 2013 WL 3717793, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. July 16, 2013).

         Ingram was convicted of one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520d(1)(b), and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520e(1)(b). He was sentenced to concurrent prison terms totaling seven to fifteen years. His convictions were affirmed on appeal. Id., lv. den. 495 Mich. 915, 840 N.W.2d 336 (2013) (Table).

         Ingram then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which was held in abeyance so that he could return to the state courts to exhaust additional claims. He filed a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment, which was denied. People v. Ingram, No. 08-031317-FH (Saginaw Cty. Cir. Ct. Dec. 1, 2015). The Michigan appellate courts denied leave to appeal. People v. Ingram, No. 332098 (Mich. Ct. App. July 25, 2016), lv. den. 500 Mich. 926, 888 N.W.2d 97 (2017) (Table).

         On February 14, 2017, this Court reopened the case and permitted Ingram to file an amended habeas petition. In his original and amended petitions, he seeks habeas relief on the following grounds:

I. Petitioner claims that there was insufficient evidence to justify a reasonable juror concluding that all elements of the crime of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree and fourth degree was established beyond a reasonable doubt and all the state courts demonstrated an unreasonable application of precedential federal law set forth in Jackson v. Virginia.
II. Petitioner's verdict was against the great weight of the evidence and the state courts demonstrated an unreasonable determination of the facts of the case.
III. Petitioner's rights to a fair trial were infringed upon by the improper denial of the motion in limine relative to the introduction of evidence of the victim's prior sexual history with third parties and in particular her prior claims of pregnancy.

         Pet. at 3-4.

IV. Petitioner's conviction is a product of one being incarcerated whom is actually innocent [as] the acts that occurred petitioner holds where [sic] consensual and that petitioner did not have the malice intent or the mens rea of the act that he was convicted of. The prosecution failed to establish these specific act [sic] of intent causing a miscarriage of justice also some testimony was a product of perjury and resulting in a Napue violation and one was convicted by the violation and denied a fair trial.
V. Defendant's convictions should be vacated and he should be granted a new trial because he was subjected to double jeopardy in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, where he was subjected to multiple prosecutions for the same offense.
VI. Defendant did not receive the effective assistance of trial counsel when counsel failed to object when the court gave a jury instruction that permitted the jury to find him guilty even if they were not in unanimous agreement on each charge.
VII. Defendant did not receive the effective assistance of trial counsel when counsel failed to impeach complainant with her preliminary examination testimony, when she testified at his trial, and when counsel failed to point out the discrepancies between complainant's preliminary examination test[i]mony and her trial testimony, where it came out at trial, at her closing argument.
VIII. Defendant did not receive the effective assistance of trial counsel when counsel failed to do a proper investigation and present facts contained in documents that negated complainant's version of events, and therefore, she should not have been believed.
IX. The trial court improperly scored the offense variable 13 and prior record variable 7 making the guidelines incorrect in violation of Defendant's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
X. Defendant did not receive the effective assistance of appellate counsel when counsel did not raise the issues he now raises, on defendant's appeal of right, and thus, he fulfills the “cause” requirement of MCR 6.508(D)(3)(a).

         Amend. Pet. at 7, 11, 18, 26, 42, 52, 55.

         The warden filed an answer to the petition raising the defenses of procedural default and untimeliness. The “procedural default” argument is a reference to the rule that the petitioner did not preserve properly some of his claims in state court, and the state court's ruling on that basis is an adequate and independent ground for the denial of relief. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991). The untimeliness argument references the requirement that a habeas petitioner must bring his claims within one year of the date his conviction becomes final. See 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1). In this case, although the petition was stayed in this Court, Ingram did not file his post-conviction motion in state court until after the one-year statute of limitations expired. The warden reasons that those new claims are all untimely because there was not limitations period to toll by the time the post-conviction was filed. See Hargrove v. Brigano, 300 F.3d 717, 718 n.1 (6th Cir. 2002) (holding that a state court post-conviction motion that is filed after the limitations period expires cannot toll that period because there is no period remaining to be tolled); Searcy v. Carter, 246 F.3d 515, 519 (6th Cir. 2001) (holding that the AEDPA's limitations period does not begin to run anew after the completion of state post-conviction proceedings). The Court finds it unnecessary to address these procedural questions. They are not a jurisdictional bar to review of the merits, Howard v. Bouchard, 405 F.3d 459, 476 (6th Cir. 2005) (procedural default); Smith v. State of Ohio Dept. of Rehab., 463 F.3d 426, 429, n.2 (6th Cir. 2006) (statute of limitations), 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)). These procedural defenses will not affect the outcome of this case, and it is more efficient to proceed directly to the merits.

         II.

         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, including claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. 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).

         Even though the state appellate courts did not give full consideration to some of Ingram's federal claims on appeal, AEDPA's highly deferential standard for reviewing a habeas petitioner's constitutional claims applies here. The petitioner must show that “the state court decision was ‘contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law' or involved an ‘unreasonable determination of the facts.'” Kelly v. Lazaroff, 846 F.3d 819, 831 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)). That standard applies “even when a state court does not explain the reasoning behind its denial of relief.” Carter v. Mitchell, 829 F.3d 455, 468 (6th Cir. 2016). “Under [Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86 (2011)], ‘[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 the contrary.'” Barton v. Warden, S. Ohio Corr. Facility, 786 F.3d 450, 460 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Harrington, 562 U.S. at 99). There is nothing in this record that suggests a basis for rebutting that presumption. See Johnson v. Williams, 568 U.S. 289, 303 (2013).

         A.

         Ingram first contends that the evidence was not sufficient at trial to prove that the sexual encounter was accomplished with force or coercion, which is an essential element of both third-degree and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. The Michigan Court of Appeals found sufficient ...


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