United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS , DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING PETITIONER LEAVE TO APPEAL IN
Stephen J. Murphy, III United States District Judge
15, 2019, Petitioner Anthony Croft filed a petition for a
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and
an application to proceed in forma pauperis
("IFP"). ECF 1. On July 19, 2019, the Court granted
Petitioner's application to proceed IFP. ECF 4.
Petitioner challenges his conviction for first degree
criminal sexual conduct in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws
§ 750.520B. ECF 1. He alleges that the trial court
violated his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by (1)
erroneously scoring his OV1 (Michigan offense variable one)
at five points even though no weapon was "displayed or
implied," and (2) erroneously scoring his OV3 (Michigan
offense variable three) at ten points even though no bodily
injury requiring medical treatment occurred. Id. at
August 30, 3017, Defendant was convicted of first degree
criminal sexual conduct in the Wayne County Circuit Court.
Id. at 1. On September 17, 2017, he was sentenced to
sixteen to thirty years' imprisonment. Id. The
Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court each
denied him leave to appeal. Id. at 2. Petitioner
then filed his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Court cannot grant an application for a writ of habeas corpus
on a claim "that was adjudicated on the merits" in
a state court "unless" the state court proceeding
resulted in a decision that was (1) "contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United
States," or (2) "based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence
presented" in state court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
decision of a state court is "contrary to" clearly
established federal law if the state court arrives at a
conclusion opposite to 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, 405-06 (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
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)). Therefore, in order
to obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state prisoner is
required to show that the state court's rejection of his
claim "was so lacking in justification that there was an
error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond
any possibility for fairminded disagreement."
Id. at 103. A petition should be denied if it is
within the "realm of possibility" that fairminded
jurists could find the state court decision reasonable.
See Woods v. Etherton, 136 S.Ct. 1149, 1152 (2016).
courts are authorized to dismiss summarily any habeas
petition that appears legally insufficient on its face."
McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994) (citing
Rules Governing § 2254, Rule 4). "The rules
governing § 2254 cases provide that the court shall
promptly examine a petition to determine 'if it plainly
appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits
annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to
relief.'" Crump v. Lafler, 657 F.3d 393,
396 n.2 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Rules Governing § 2255,
Rule 4). After conducting this initial inquiry, "[i]f
the court determines that the petitioner is not entitled to
relief, the court shall summarily dismiss the petition."
Id. (citing McFarland, 512 U.S. at 856).
Federal courts therefore have "a duty to screen out a
habeas corpus petition which should be dismissed for lack of
merit on its face" including a petition that is
"frivolous, or obviously lacking in merit[.]"
Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970).
upon conducting the required screening, the Court concludes
that the petition must be summarily denied.
argues that the trial court violated his Sixth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights because the "scoring factors [were not]
adjudicated by a jury and proven beyond a reasonable
doubt." ECF 1, PgID 11-12. To the extent that Petitioner
also challenges whether the state court correctly applied the
Michigan sentencing guidelines, Petitioner's
"challenge to the trial court's application of
Michigan's sentencing guidelines . . . raises issues of
state law not cognizable on habeas review." Tironi
v. Birkett, 252 Fed.Appx. 724, 725 (6th Cir. 2007).
Misapplications of state sentencing guidelines are
"errors of state law" for which "habeas corpus
relief does not lie." Kissner v. Palmer, 826
F.3d 898, 902 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Estelle v.
McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67 (1991).
Petitioner's argument regarding the trial court's
consideration of scoring factors that were not found beyond a
reasonable doubt by a jury is likewise unavailing. After
People v. Lockridge, 498 Mich. 358 (2015), made the
Michigan sentencing guidelines advisory rather than
mandatory, a Michigan trial court's imposition of a
sentence is "an exercise of the court's
discretion" regardless of how the trial court may have
been "guided by the sentencing guidelines."
Holder v. Jackson, No. 1:17-cv-408, 2017 WL 3205762
at *4 (W.D. Mich. July 28, 2017). And "[t]he facts found
to support the exercise of that discretion do not
'increase the penalty for the crime beyond the prescribed
statutory maximum,' or 'increase the mandatory
minimum.'" Id. (quoting Apprendi v. New
Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 490 (2000) and Alleyne v.
United States, 570 U.S. 99, 103 (2013)). And Petitioner
was sentenced more than two years after the Michigan Supreme
Court decided Lockridge. The trial court's
fact-finding regarding Plaintiff's offense variable
levels is therefore not "contrary to, or an unreasonable
application of, clearly established federal law."
Id. Plaintiff's petition is deficient on its
face and the Court will deny it.
it is hereby ORDERED that the petition for a