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Hutchinson v. Stewart

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

July 22, 2019

APRIL LYNN HUTCHINSON, A/K/A APRIL LYNN HUTCHISON, # 801729, Petitioner,
v.
ANTHONY STEWART, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          Thomas L. Ludington United States District Judge.

         In 2014, Michigan state prisoner April Lynn Hutchinson was convicted for operating and maintaining a methamphetamine laboratory, Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.7401c(2)(f), and for first degree retail fraud, Mich. Comp. Laws §750.356c. She has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, asserting that she is being held in violation of her constitutional rights. She seeks habeas relief claiming that her sentencing guidelines were scored incorrectly and defense counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the scoring. Respondent has filed an answer in opposition.

         I.

         Petitioner was charged in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court with operating and maintaining a methamphetamine laboratory, stealing over $1, 000 of merchandise from a Meijer store, and resisting and obstructing a police officer. On June 6, 2014, Petitioner pleaded guilty to these offenses, pursuant to a plea agreement providing for the dismissal of another charge and the prosecutor's recommendation for sentencing at the low end of the guidelines.

         Petitioner was sentenced on December 15, 2014, to 6-1/2 to 30 years for maintaining a methamphetamine laboratory, 2 to 7-1/2 years for first-degree retail fraud, and to time served for resisting and obstructing a police officer. A few months later, Petitioner filed a motion for resentencing. She argued that several Prior Record Variables (PRV) and Offense Variables (OV) were incorrectly scored and that her attorney was ineffective for failing to challenge the scoring. The trial court found no scoring errors and, consequently, held counsel was not ineffective for failing to object. See 5/19/15 Tr. at 4-7, ECF No. 8-4, Page.ID.125.

         Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals raising the same claims raised in her motion for resentencing. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” People v. Hutchison, No. 327790 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. 3, 2015). The Michigan Supreme Court also denied leave to appeal. People v. Hutchison, 499 Mich. 882 (Mich. 2016).

         Petitioner then filed her present habeas petition. She claims that she “is entitled to resentencing where the sentencing guidelines were misscored and where defense counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the scoring.”

         II.

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, imposes the following standard of review for habeas cases:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -
(1) 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
(2) 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.

         A state court decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law, or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000). An “unreasonable application” occurs when “a state-court decision unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner's case.” Id. at 409. A federal habeas court may not “issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.” Id. at 411.

         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). A “state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011)(quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). The Supreme Court has emphasized “that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id. at 102. Pursuant to section 2254(d), “a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or . . . could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision” of the Supreme Court. Id. Although 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the AEDPA, does not completely bar federal courts from re-litigating claims that have previously been rejected in the state courts, it preserves the authority for a federal court to grant habeas relief only “in cases ...


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