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Collier v. Haas

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

August 8, 2019

WILLIAM DARNELL COLLIER, #303214, Petitioner,
v.
RANDALL HAAS, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL

          SEAN F. COX UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         This is a habeas case brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Michigan prisoner William Darnell Collier (“Petitioner”) was convicted of three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.520b(1)(f), and one count of unlawful imprisonment, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.349(b), following a jury trial in the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court. He was sentenced, as a fourth habitual offender, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12, to concurrent terms of 25 to 60 years imprisonment on those convictions in 2010. In his habeas petition, as amended, he raises claims concerning the trial court's denial of a mistrial motion, the effectiveness of trial and appellate counsel, the validity of his sentence, and the trial court's delay in notifying him of its most recent collateral review decision. For the reasons stated herein, the Court denies the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, denies a certificate of appealability, and denies leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.

         II. Facts and Procedural History

         Petitioner's convictions arise from his sexual assault of a female acquaintance at his residence in Kalamazoo, Michigan in September, 2009. The Michigan Court of Appeals described the relevant facts, which are presumed correct on habeas review, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009), as follows:

Defendant's convictions arise from an arrangement in which the victim agreed to have sexual intercourse with defendant in exchange for crack cocaine. The victim and defendant procured the drugs and returned to defendant's apartment. The victim and defendant smoked the crack cocaine and engaged in consensual sexual conduct. After the crack cocaine was gone, the victim and defendant decided to obtain more crack cocaine and each contributed $10 toward that endeavor. Defendant drove the victim to a place where drugs could be purchased and the victim purchased the drugs. Defendant and the victim returned to defendant's apartment and smoked the crack cocaine. The victim testified that after smoking the crack cocaine she informed defendant she was leaving. Defendant responded by striking her in the head and telling her to remove her clothing. Defendant attempted to forcibly engage in vaginal intercourse with the victim and also forced her to perform oral sex. At one point, the victim grabbed a screwdriver and attempted to stab defendant and escape, but defendant grabbed her arm before she could stab him and struck her. Eventually, the victim was able to escape and later reported the incident to police.

People v. Collier, No. 299928, 2011 WL 5870058, *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 22, 2011)(unpublished).

         On state court collateral review, the trial court provided a more detailed description of the trial testimony. Those facts are as follows:

The victim testified that she had agreed to have sex with Collier in exchange for crack cocaine. He picked her up in an area of Kalamazoo he knew to be frequented by prostitutes. The victim knew Collier from previous interactions. Neither indicated anyone else was present when Collier picked up the victim. They purchased the crack at the apartment of someone they both knew, Michelle. Collier had dated Michelle. Collier and the victim smoked crack cocaine together in Collier's apartment, and attempted to have consensual sex. However, the victim testified, Collier was unable to maintain an erection because of the crack cocaine so they did not succeed in having sex. After some time, they left Collier's apartment together to get more crack cocaine at Michelle's, and returned to Collier's apartment. When the two of them had smoked all of the crack cocaine, the victim announced that she was going to leave and proceeded to put on her shoes. Collier struck the victim on the back of her head and the face and told her she was not going to leave until she performed oral sex on him. The victim started to comply, and then Collier made her get on the bed and attempted again to have intercourse. As before, the victim explained, Collier could not maintain an erection because of the crack cocaine. In spite of this, Collier insisted on repeated attempts at oral and vaginal sex. The victim was afraid because Collier repeatedly told the victim he would kill her.
At one point, the victim spotted a screwdriver near the chair where Collier was sitting. She picked up the screwdriver as she leaned over to perform oral sex on Collier. The victim was going to stab Collier with the screwdriver in order to get away, but he grabbed her hand and struck her again, causing her to bleed from a wound on her head. Collier threw the victim on the bed and attempted vaginal sex. The victim testified that Collier eventually succeeded, and got off of her. She took that opportunity to grab her clothes and run out of the bedroom and then out of the apartment.
After leaving Collier's apartment, the victim stopped at the nearby apartment of an acquaintance for help getting a ride home to the north side of Kalamazoo. There were a number of people there that the victim did not know. The victim succeeded in returning to her neighborhood. She was going to go to Michelle's, but saw Collier's car parked outside so she went to a friend's house nearby instead. Frank Ricky Spencer, the friend, testified the victim appeared in shock, was bloody and beat up, and said she had been raped. The victim picked up a length of metal pipe and commented that she wanted to get revenge on the man who raped her. Spencer testified he and his friends wrestled the pipe away from the victim, and tried to talk her into going to the hospital and calling the police.
The victim left Spencer's and went back to Michelle's apartment, a block away. At Michelle's apartment, the victim found and confronted Collier. The victim had the pipe she picked up at Spencer's, and threatened Collier with it. Others held her back and Collier was asked to leave. No. one, including the victim, contacted police at that time.
The next day, the victim saw someone in her neighborhood she knew to be an undercover police officer. She told him she had been raped. The undercover officer called for another officer to come take the victim's statement and transport her for medical treatment. A “rape kit” was done, and staples were placed to close the wound on the victim's head. The victim did not know Collie's address, but rode along with an officer and identified Collier's residence.
Collier testified that the two agreed to an exchange of sex for money, and smoked crack cocaine together. He testified that they went to his apartment, and some consensual sexual activity took place. They left to get more crack cocaine. After smoking the additional crack cocaine, the victim started “tweaking” and not responding to what Collier was saying, which caused Collier to become annoyed with the victim. Collier stated he pushed the victim, causing her to fall and hit her head on the bed frame. The victim got up on her own and onto the bed, and Collier, noticing she was bleeding, tried to help her but she refused. The victim got angry with Collier, the two began arguing, and the victim left the apartment. Collier asserted on cross-examination that the victim was lying in order to get revenge on him.

People v. Collier, No. B-2009-2038-FC, *2-4 (Kalamazoo Co. Cir. Ct. April 12, 2013).

         Following his convictions and sentencing, Petitioner filed an appeal of right with the Michigan Court of Appeals asserting that: (1) the trial court erred in denying his mistrial motion after a police officer witness referenced Petitioner's parole agent, and (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to impeach the victim's testimony and failing to object to hearsay testimony. The court denied relief on those claims and affirmed Petitioner's convictions. Collier, 2011 WL 5870058 at *1-3. Petitioner then filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order. People v. Collier, 491 Mich. 920, 812 N.W.2d 737 (2012).

         In 2013, Petitioner filed his first motion for relief from judgment with the state trial court asserting that: (1) he had newly-discovered evidence that the victim lied and had a prior history of extortion and threats of false rape charges which would have affected the outcome at trial, (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to locate witnesses and raise an alibi and actual innocence defense, and (3) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the foregoing issues on appeal. The trial court denied relief on the claims pursuant to Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D)(3) because Petitioner failed to demonstrate cause and actual prejudice. The court also stated that it would not reconsider trial counsel's effectiveness because that issue was raised on appeal and that Petitioner failed to establish that appellate counsel was ineffective. Collier, No. B-2009-2038-FC at *8-9 (4/12/13 order). Petitioner then filed a delayed application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals, which was denied “for failure to meet the burden of establishing entitlement to relief under MCR 6.508(D).” People v. Collier, No. 317672 (Mich. Ct. App. March 14, 2014). Petitioner also filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was similarly denied. People v. Collier, 497 Mich. 854, 852 N.W.2d 176 (2014).

         In October, 2014, Petitioner filed his initial pro se habeas petition raising claims concerning the denial of a mistrial motion and the effectiveness of trial and appellate counsel. Shortly thereafter, he moved for a stay and abeyance of his case so that he could return to the state courts to exhaust his remedies on a “Missouri v. Frye” issue (an un-communicated plea offer). The Court granted Petitioner's motion, stayed the proceedings, and administratively closed the case in December, 2014.

         Petitioner returned to the state trial court and filed a second motion for relief from judgment asserting that: (1) he obtained newly-discovered evidence of an un-communicated plea offer and trial counsel was ineffective for failing to inform him of that offer, and (2) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the foregoing issue on appeal. The trial court denied relief on those claims finding that they lacked merit because the plea offer information was not newly-discovered and, even if it were, Petitioner failed to show that he would have accepted the offer given his ongoing protestations of innocence. People v. Collier, No. B-09-2038-FC (Kalamazoo Co. Cir. Ct. Jan. 7, 2015). Petitioner filed a delayed application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals, which was dismissed as untimely because it was not filed “within the time period required by MCR 7.502(G)(3).” People v. Collier, No. 329978 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 29, 2015). Petitioner filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order. People v. Collier, 500 Mich. 864, 885 N.W.2d 278 (2016).

         Petitioner thereafter moved to re-open this habeas case to proceed on an amended petition raising additional claims concerning the alleged un-communicated plea offer and the effectiveness of trial counsel, the effectiveness of appellate counsel, the validity of his sentence, and the trial court's delay in notifying him of the denial of his motion for relief from judgment. The Court granted that motion and re-opened the case. Respondent subsequently filed an answer to the amended habeas petition contending that it should be denied because several claims are procedurally defaulted and all of the claims lack merit.

         III. Standard of Review

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2241 et seq., sets forth the standard of review that federal courts must use when considering habeas petitions brought by prisoners challenging their state court convictions. The AEDPA provides in relevant part:

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.

28 U.S.C. §2254(d) (1996).

         “A state court's decision is ‘contrary to' ... clearly established law if it ‘applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court cases]' or if it ‘confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [that] precedent.'” Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)); see also Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). “[T]he ‘unreasonable application' prong of § 2254(d)(1) permits a federal habeas court to ‘grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of petitioner's case.” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 413); see also Bell, 535 U.S. at 694. However, “[i]n order for a federal court find a state court's application of [Supreme Court] precedent ‘unreasonable,' the state court's decision must have been more than incorrect or erroneous. The state court's application must have been ‘objectively unreasonable.'” Wiggins, 539 U.S. at 520-21 (citations omitted); see also Williams, 529 U.S. at 409. The “AEDPA thus 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) (quoting Lindh, 521 U.S. at 333, n. 7); Woodford v. Viscotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam)).

         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) (citing 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. (citing Lockyer v. Andrade,538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)). Pursuant to § 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. Thus, in order to obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state prisoner must 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; see also White v. Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, 419-20 (2014). Federal judges “are required to afford state courts due respect by overturning their decisions only when there could be no ...


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