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Davis v. Horton

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

August 5, 2019

ANDRE K. DAVIS, Petitioner,
v.
CONNIE HORTON, Respondent.

          Honorable Janet T. Neff Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MAARTEN VERMAAT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a preliminary review of the petition to determine whether “it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that lack merit on their face). A dismissal under Rule 4 includes those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well as those containing factual allegations that are palpably incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1999). The Court may sua sponte dismiss a habeas action as time-barred under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). Day v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 198, 209 (2006). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, I conclude that the petition is barred by the one-year statute of limitations.

         Discussion

         I. Background

         Petitioner Andre K. Davis is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Chippewa County, Michigan. Following a trial in the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court, a jury convicted Petitioner of the following offenses: armed robbery, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529; breaking and entering of an occupied dwelling, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.110; assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.84; and unlawful driving away of an automobile, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.413. On February 5, 1996, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to life in prison for the armed robbery conviction, 40 to 60 years for the breaking and entering conviction, life in prison for the assault conviction, and 40 to 60 years for the unlawful driving away of an automobile conviction.

         Petitioner appealed the judgment of conviction to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which affirmed the judgment on June 13, 1997. People v. Davis, No. 193484 (Mich. Ct. App. June 13, 1997). He did not appeal that decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

         Petitioner apparently attempted to file a motion for relief from judgment in state court in July 2014, along with a motion for appointment of counsel. Unfortunately, the state court did not recognize the motion for relief from judgment. Instead, the court deemed his motion to be “supporting documentation attached to [his] Petition to Appoint Counsel.” (See 7/27/2016 Order Denying Def.'s Mot. to Amend J., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.30.) In January 2015, the state court sent Petitioner a letter expressly informing him that his motion for relief from judgment was not accepted for filing. (Attach. to Pet., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.120 (quoting the letter).)

         Over a year later, Petitioner followed up with another motion for relief from judgment. (See 7/27/2016 Order Denying Def.'s Mot. to Amend J., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.30 (referring to Petitioner's 2016 motion for relief from judgment).) Apparently, the state court denied that motion on the merits in June 2016 (see id.) and he appealed that decision. The Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal on April 25, 2017. See People v. Davis, No. 336014 (Mich. Ct. App. Apr. 25, 2017). He did not appeal that decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

         While those proceedings were ongoing, Petitioner attempted to get the state court to recognize his first motion for relief from judgment by amending the court's docket. The state court denied that request in July 2016. (See Order Denying Def.'s Mot. to Amend J., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.30.)

         It appears that Petitioner subsequently attempted to obtain other relief in state court, based on “newly discovered evidence” that the state court removed reference to his 2014 motion for relief from judgment from its docket sheet. (See Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.2.) The state court denied that relief, and in February 2017, he appealed that decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals. See Appellate Docket Sheet for People v. Kirk, No. 337201 (Mich. Ct. App.), available at https://courts.michigan.gov/. The Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal on May 26, 2017, and July 3, 2018, respectively. Id.

         Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition in July 2019. The body of the petition asserts claims regarding the state court's handling of his 2014 motion for relief from judgment. For instance, Petitioner claims that the state court deprived him of due process and equal protection by not recognizing his motion for relief from judgment. (See Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.9.) Those sort of claims are not cognizable in this action. The Constitution does not guarantee any right to collaterally attack a criminal conviction in the state courts. See, e.g., Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551, 557 (1987) (“States have no obligation to provide this [post-conviction] avenue of relief.”); accord United States v. MacCollom, 426 U.S. 317, 323 (1976) (plurality opinion).

         Moreover, errors in Petitioner's post-conviction proceedings have no bearing on the legality of the Petitioner's confinement. See Kirby v. Dutton, 794 F.2d 245, 245-46 (6th Cir. 1986); accord Williams-Bey v. Trickey, 894 F.2d 314, 317 (8th Cir. 1989). A finding by this Court that the state court wrongly denied Petitioner post-conviction review would not entitle him to release. Id. at 246. It would only mean that the state's post-conviction process was defective. An action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is not the place to correct those defects, as the habeas statute is only concerned about whether Petitioner is “in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). It is not concerned with issues unrelated to the validity of his custody.

         On the other hand, it appears that Petitioner seeks habeas relief based on the claims asserted in his motion for relief from judgment. (See Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.15 (asking the Court to “grant habeas relief from claims in motion [for relief from judgment] and order release from detention”).)

         Petitioner asserted the following claims in his motion for relief from judgment:

1. [PETITIONER'S] DUE PROCESS RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL, AND TO AN IMPARTIAL JURY WERE COMPROMISED BY THE SEATING OF A JUROR THAT DATED AND BOLSTERED THE CREDIBILITY OF THE ACCOMPLICE AND CRITICAL PROSECUTION WITNESS CHARLES HANNAH.
2. IN A MATTER OF “FIRST IMPRESSION” [PETITIONER'S] SIXTH AMENDMENT RIGHT TO CONFRONT WITNESSES WAS VIOLATED WHEN THE JURY PANEL HEARD A PROSPECTIVE JUROR MAKE STATEMENTS BOLSTERING A KEY PROSECUTION WITNESS' CREDIBILITY.
3. [PETITIONER] RECEIVED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL I[N] THE CONDUCT OF PLEA NEGOTIATIONS WHERE ASSIGNED COUNSEL FAILED TO RELAY A FAVORABLE PLEA OFFER RESULTING IN A SEVERE TRIAL PENALTY:
A. The Sixth Amendment Right to Effective Assistance of Counsel Ensures the fairness of all Criminal Prosecutions, ...

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