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Simms v. Bauman

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

September 17, 2019




         Willie Lee Simms, (“Petitioner”), incarcerated at the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee, Michigan, seeks the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his pro se application, Petitioner challenges his conviction for second-degree murder. Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.317. For the reasons that follow, the petition is DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was originally charged with open murder, [1] attempted first-degree home invasion, assault with a dangerous weapon, and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Petitioner was found guilty of the lesser included offense of second-degree murder following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court.

         This Court recites verbatim the Michigan Court of Appeals' factual summary of the case, since it is presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):

Defendant's conviction arises from his participation in the fatal shooting of Ernest Tye in Tye's Detroit home on December 10, 2015. The principal issue at trial was defendant's identity as a participant in the crime. The prosecution presented evidence that defendant and two associates, Lawrence Stafford and Travone Wilson, went to the duplex where Tye lived and that defendant acted as a lookout while Stafford and Wilson entered Tye's upstairs unit where Stafford shot Tye. Henric Hayes, who lived in the downstairs unit, testified that Stafford had asked him earlier that day about Tye's whereabouts. Later that day, Hayes and Tye socialized together in Hayes's unit before Tye went upstairs. Hayes subsequently heard noises originating from the stairwell that caused him to open his door. Hayes saw defendant, who was armed with a nine-millimeter handgun, standing in the foyer and looking up the stairs. Defendant turned his gun toward Hayes, who slammed his door. Soon thereafter, Hayes heard gunshots. Charles Deen, who was at the house next door to the duplex, testified to observing defendant standing outside the duplex and later seeing three men running from the duplex. Mark Eddins testified that, around the same time, he observed defendant and two other men running from the area of the duplex toward a vacant house that the three men regularly frequented. The defense theory at trial was misidentification. Defendant testified that he was at a different location at the time of the shooting, and the defense asserted that defendant's alibi defense was supported by a time-stamped Facebook post and evidence that defendant was excluded as a contributor to any DNA found at the crime scene.

People v. Simms, No. 333198, 2017 WL 4938372, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 31, 2017).

         Petitioner's conviction was affirmed. Id., appeal denied, 501 Mich. 1061, 910 N.W.2d 286 (2018).

         Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:

I. [Simms'] Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process were violated when he was convicted of second-degree murder because there was insufficient evidence to support the requisite elements of the second-degree murder conviction; [and]
II. [Simms] was denied his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to effective assistance of counsel at sentencing when trial counsel failed to object to the trial court's erroneous assessment of fifty points for offense variable [(“OV”)] 3, physical injury to victim, where the proper assessment of points for a homicide offense for offense variable 3 is twenty-five points.

(ECF No. 1, PageID.12, 24.)


         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), imposes the following standard of review for habeas cases:

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.

         A 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 410-11. “[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)).


         A. SUFFICIENCY ...

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