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.
December 12, 2018, Petitioner Marvin Noble, a prisoner
incarcerated in Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in
Muskegon Heights, Michigan, filed a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF 1.
Petitioner challenges his conviction for first-degree murder,
in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316; carrying a
concealed weapon, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws §
750.227; being a felon in possession of a firearm, in
violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224f; and felony
firearm, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b;
and his sentence as a fourth-offense habitual offender,
pursuant to Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12. For the reasons
below, the Court will deny the petition.
was convicted following a jury trial in the Wayne County
Circuit Court. The Court adopts the relevant facts relied
upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which are presumed
correct on habeas review. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1);
Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009).
Petitioner's convictions were based on the August 5,
2013, "shooting death of Dennis Washington" in
Detroit. People v. Noble, No. 324885, 2016 WL
7333323, at * 1 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 15, 2016). At trial, the
Government presented evidence that Petitioner had previously
sold drugs to Washington and that, on August 5, 2013,
Petitioner's romantic partner, Joanna Smith,
"dropped [Petitioner] off at a Rite Aid store in her
black Impala," Petitioner beckoned Washington to an
alley, Petitioner shot Washington point-blank in the head,
and then Petitioner "called Smith for help to escape
from the scene." Id. at *2. Petitioner was
convicted, and his conviction was affirmed on direct appeal.
filed a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment,
which was denied. People v. Noble, No.
14-000744-01-FC (Third Jud. Cir. Ct., Oct. 19, 2017). The
Michigan appellate courts denied Petitioner leave to appeal.
People v. Noble, No. 341415 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 9,
2018); lv. den. 503 Mich. 879 (2018). Petitioner now seeks
habeas relief on nine grounds.
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)). To obtain habeas
relief in federal court, a state prisoner is therefore
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).
Sufficiency of the Evidence
claims that there was insufficient evidence to support his
conviction. It is beyond question that "the Due Process
Clause protects the accused against conviction except upon
proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to
constitute the crime with which he is charged." In
Re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970). When reviewing the
sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction,
the Court must determine "whether the record evidence
could reasonably support a finding of guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt." Jackson v. Virginia, 443
U.S. 307, 318 (1979). "[T]he relevant question is
whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most
favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact
could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a
reasonable doubt." Id. at 318-19 (internal
citation omitted) (emphasis in the original).
making its sufficiency determination, the Court must give
circumstantial evidence the same weight as direct evidence.
See United States v. Farley, 2 F.3d 645, 650 (6th
Cir. 1993). "Circumstantial evidence alone is sufficient
to sustain a conviction and such evidence need not remove
every reasonable hypothesis except that of guilt."
United States v. Kelley, 461 F.3d 817, 825 (6th Cir.
2006) (internal quotation omitted). Moreover,
"[c]ircumstantial evidence is not only sufficient, but
may also be more certain, satisfying and persuasive than
direct evidence." Desert Palace, Inc. v. Costa,
539 U.S. 90, 100 (2003) (quoting Rogers v. Missouri
Pacific R. Co., 352 U.S. 500, 508 n.17 (1957)).
federal habeas court "may not overturn a state court
decision rejecting a sufficiency of the evidence challenge
simply because the federal court disagrees with the state
court[.]" Cavazos v. Smith, 565 U.S. 1, 2
(2011). Instead, a federal court may grant habeas relief
"only if the state court decision was 'objectively
unreasonable.'" Id. (citation omitted).
Judges must therefore sometimes uphold "convictions that
they believe to be mistaken." Id. Indeed, a
federal habeas court may only overturn a state court's
finding that the evidence was sufficient if the state
court's finding was "so insupportable as to fall
below the threshold of bare rationality." Coleman v.
Johnson, 566 U.S. 650, 656 (2012). A state court's
determination that the evidence does not fall below that
threshold is entitled to "considerable deference under
on habeas review, a federal court does not reweigh the
evidence or redetermine the credibility of the witnesses
whose demeanor was observed at trial. Marshall v.
Lonberger, 459 U.S. 422, 434 (1983). "It is the
province of the factfinder . . . to weigh the probative value
of the evidence and resolve any conflicts in the
testimony." Neal v. Morris, 972 F.2d 675, 679 (6th Cir.
1992). A habeas court therefore must defer to the fact finder
for its "assessment of the credibility of
witnesses." Matthews v. Abramajtys, 319 F.3d
780, 788 (6th Cir. 2003).
primary claim is that there was insufficient evidence of
premeditation and deliberation to sustain his first-degree
murder conviction. The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected
Petitioner's claim. See People v. Noble, 2016 WL 7333323,
convict a defendant of first-degree murder in Michigan, the
state must prove that a defendant's intentional killing
of another was deliberated and premeditated. See Scott v.
Elo, 302 F.3d 598, 602 (6th Cir. 2002) (citing
People v. Schollaert, 194 Mich.App. 158, 170
(1992)). "The elements of premeditation and deliberation
may be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the
killing. Premeditation may be established through evidence of
the following factors:" (1) the parties' prior
relationship, (2) "the defendant's actions before
the killing," (3) the circumstances surrounding the
killing, and (4) the defendant's actions after the
killing. Johnson v. Hofbauer, 159 F.Supp.2d 582, 596
(E.D. Mich. 2001) (citing People v. Anderson, 209 Mich.App.
527, 537 (1995)).
the minimum time required under Michigan law to premeditate
"is incapable of exact determination, the interval
between initial thought and ultimate action should be long
enough to afford a reasonable man time to subject the nature
of his response to a 'second look.'"
Williams v. Jones, 231 F.Supp.2d 586, 594-95 (E.D.
Mich. 2002) (quoting People v. Vail, 393 Mich. 460,
469 (1975), overruled on other grounds by People v.
Graves, 458 Mich. 476 (1998)). "A few seconds
between the antagonistic action between the defendant and the
victim and the defendant's decision to murder the victim
may be sufficient to create a jury question on the issue of
premeditation." Alder v. Burt, 240 F.Supp.2d
651, 663 (E.D. Mich. 2003). "[A]n opportunity for a
'second look' may be merely seconds, minutes, or
hours or more, depending upon the totality of the
circumstances surrounding the killing." Johnson, 159
F.Supp.2d at 596 (quoting People v. Berthiaume, 59
Mich.App. 451, 456 (1975)). "Premeditation may be
inferred from . . . the type of weapon used and the location
of the wounds inflicted." People v. Berry, 198
Mich.App. 123, 128 (1993). For intent, the fact that a
defendant used a lethal weapon "will support an
inference of an intent to kill." Johnson, 159 F.Supp.2d
at 596 (citing People v. Turner, 62 Mich.App. 467,
470 (1975)). Finally, both "premeditation and intent to
kill may be inferred from circumstantial evidence."
DeLisle v. Rivers, 161 F.3d 370, 389 (6th Cir.
there was sufficient evidence for a rational trier of fact to
conclude that Petitioner acted with premeditation and
deliberation when he shot the victim. The evidence
demonstrated that Petitioner shot the victim in the head at
close range. Under Michigan law, "deliberation and
premeditation may logically be inferred from . . . wounds
inflicted upon vital parts" the victim's body. See
Lundberg v. Buchkoe, 338 F.2d 62, 69 (6th Cir.
1964). Evidence that the victim had been shot in the head at
close range supports a finding of premeditation. See
Thomas v. McKee, 571 Fed.Appx. 403, 407 (6th Cir.
Government presented evidence that Petitioner called the
victim over to an alley and that he was "casing the
area," which, as the Michigan Court of Appeals noted,
provided Petitioner enough time to "take a second
look." See People v. Noble, 2016 WL 7333323, at
*2. And Petitioner fled the scene afterwards, which further
supports a finding of premeditation. See, e.g., Moore v.
Stewart, No. 15-cv-10613, 2017 WL 2984152 (E.D. Mich.
2017) (citing Marsack v. Howes, 300 F.Supp.2d 483,
492 (E.D. Mich. 2004)). The Michigan Court of Appeals's
rejection of Petitioner's insufficiency of evidence claim
did not result "in a decision that was contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of Jackson."
Durr v. Mitchell, 487 F.3d 423, 448 (6th Cir. 2007).
Petitioner is therefore not entitled to relief on his
challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence regarding
also argues that there was insufficient evidence to establish
his identity as the shooter.
"[i]dentity of a defendant can be inferred through
circumstantial evidence." See Dell v. Straub,194 F.Supp.2d 629, 648 (E.D. Mich. 2002). Eyewitness
identification is not ...