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Connolly v. Rewerts

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

September 25, 2019




         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). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court concludes that the petition must be dismissed because it fails to raise a meritorious federal claim.


         I. Factual allegations

          Petitioner Cody Cory-Lea Connolly is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections at the Carson City Correctional Facility (DRF) in Carson City, Michigan. On May 13, 2016, following a four-day jury trial in the Allegan County Circuit Court, Petitioner was convicted of torture, assault with intent to do great bodily harm (AGBH), interfering with a crime report, and aggravated domestic violence-second offense. The jury acquitted Petitioner of unlawful imprisonment and assault by strangulation. On June 20, 2016, the court sentenced Petitioner to concurrent prison terms of 20 to 45 years for torture, 5 to 10 years for AGBH and interfering with a crime report, and 3 to 5 years for aggravated domestic violence.

         Resolution of Petitioner’s habeas issues does not require a detailed recounting of the trial testimony. A summary from the Michigan Court of Appeals opinion will suffice to provide the necessary factual background:

Defendant’s convictions arise from an altercation with his now ex-wife in the couple’s bedroom. According to the victim, defendant accused her of exchanging text messages with another man and demanded to see her cell phone. When the victim refused, defendant pulled her off the end of the bed by her feet and onto the floor. The victim went into the bathroom with her phone and locked the door. Defendant used his body to break open the bathroom door, and then began choking the victim. Defendant subsequently grabbed the victim by her hair, pulled her down, and dragged her out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. The victim got up and ran to the bathroom to retrieve her cell phone, and as she was attempting to call 911, defendant grabbed her phone and put it in the toilet. Defendant then pulled the victim out of the bathroom by her arm. The victim grabbed a table lamp and struck defendant in the head before running for the bedroom door, but defendant blocked the door, preventing her from leaving. The victim tried to get out of the bedroom by climbing through a window, but defendant pulled her back, causing her to pull down the curtains. As the victim tried to get around defendant to the door, he grabbed her by the waist, lifted her off the floor, and then “body slammed” her to the floor.
According to the victim, she experienced the “worst pain” she had ever felt. She could not move or get up from the floor. Defendant denied the victim’s request to call an ambulance and, instead, began audio recording the victim with his cell phone. For about an hour and a half, the victim remaining lying on the floor, screaming and asking for medical assistance, as defendant negotiated with her to devise a story to explain her injuries and told her that she should suffer. In the audio recording defendant told the victim that the couple would lose custody of their child and defendant’s other children if it was determined that the victim’s injuries were the result of domestic violence. Ultimately, defendant’s grandmother arrived at the house and, after an approximately 30-minute drive with defendant and his grandmother, the victim arrived at the hospital, where it was determined that the victim suffered a fracture of her pelvis. She also had bruise marks around her neck and abrasions on her shoulders and arms. Defendant did not deny that the incident occurred, but claimed that the victim was the aggressor and that her description of the incident was inaccurate.

People v. Connolly, No. 333703, 2017 WL 6598129, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 26, 2017).

         On August 23, 2019, Petitioner timely filed his habeas corpus petition raising two grounds for relief, as follows:

I. The trial court reversibly erred and violated Petitioner’s constitutional due process rights in wrongly admitting evidence of prior criminal conduct under Mich. Comp. Laws § 768.27b.
II. The trial court abused its discretion and denied Petitioner his right to due process by allowing the prosecutor to amend the information and by denying the request for a preliminary examination on the new charge.

(Pet’r’s Br., ECF No. 2, PageID10.)

         II. ...

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