United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
IESHIA D. BARNES, Petitioner,
SHAWN BREWER, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND
(3) GRANTING PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
ARTHUR J. TARNOW SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
D. Barnes (“Petitioner”) filed this habeas case
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner was convicted in the
Oakland Circuit Court after a jury trial of operating a motor
vehicle while intoxicated - causing death, MICH. COMP. LAWS
§ 257.625(4), and after a no contest plea of three
counts of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated -
causing serious injury. MICH. COMP. LAWS § 257.625(5).
Petitioner was sentenced to the maximum possible sentence for
the causing death conviction of 10 to 15 years'
imprisonment, and she was sentenced to concurrent terms of 2
to 5 years' imprisonment for the other convictions.
petition raises one claim: Petitioner's 10 to 15 year
sentence is disproportionate to her crime, and her counsel
was ineffective for failing to challenge the score of the
reasons stated below, the Court will deny the petition and
deny a certificate of appealability. The Court will, however,
grant Petitioner leave to appeal in forma pauperis should she
chose to appeal this decision.
Michigan Court of Appeals summarized the facts surrounding
Petitioner's offenses as follows:
Defendant, while intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of
around .155, operated a motor vehicle, barreled through a
busy city intersection against a red light and around stopped
traffic at an excessive rate of speed, and then slammed into
a minivan, causing serious injuries to three of the
minivan's occupants and the death of the minivan's
driver's three-year old daughter.
*** Aside from the death of the three-year-old girl, who
suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain that led
to her death, the driver's two-year-old nephew suffered
serious head, neck, and leg injuries, along with severe
emotional anxiety and stress, as a result of the crash. In
addition, the nephew's growth plates were damaged, which
will physically affect him for the remainder of his life. The
driver herself suffered two broken ribs, a pelvic fracture,
and two fractured vertebrae; she had two screws placed in her
pelvis and suffers continuing pain.
People v. Barnes, 2017 WL 2791049, at *1, 2 n 2
(Mich. Ct. App. June 27, 2017).
Petitioner's sentencing hearing, the parties acknowledged
that the sentencing guidelines were only advisory. Dkt. 6-9,
at 4. Defense counsel indicated that Offense Variable 17
should have been scored at 0 or 5 points instead of 10 points
because in acquitting Petitioner of second-degree murder,
there was no finding by the jury that Petitioner possessed a
reckless disregard for life at the time of the offense.
Id. at 4. The prosecutor noted that even with the
correction, Petitioner would still be in the top bracket due
to the scoring of the other variables. Id. at 5. The
Court adjusted Offense Variable 17 down to 5 points.
Stilwell, the adult victim, spoke on behalf of her
three-year-old daughter who was killed in the crash, and her
two-year-old nephew, who she said suffered life-long
injuries. She emphasized the irreversible and substantial
harm caused to her family by Petitioner's conduct.
Id. at 7-8. The prosecutor sought the maximum
possible sentence of 10 to 15 years. Id. at 9.
imposing sentence, the trial court noted the severity of the
harm caused by Petitioner, and the degree of Petitioner's
recklessness. Id. at 12-14. The Court imposed the
maximum possible 10 to 15 year sentence for the operating a
vehicle while intoxicated - causing death conviction.
Id. at 14.
sentencing, Petitioner filed a claim of appeal in the
Michigan Court of Appeals that raised one claim:
I. The judge's decision to disregard the guidelines range
and impose the maximum possible punishment was
disproportionate to the offender, whose criminal history
consisted of just two misdemeanor convictions, and also to