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Jackson v. Lesatz

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

October 29, 2019

Samuel Leshawn Jackson, Petitioner,
Daniel Lesatz,[1] Respondent.

          Patricia Morris Mag. Judge



         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner Samuel Leshawn Jackson is incarcerated at the Baraga Correctional Facility in Baraga, Michigan. Following a jury trial in the Saginaw County Circuit Court, Petitioner was convicted of two counts of assault with intent to murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.83, three counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (felony-firearm), Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b, and one count of carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.226. He was sentenced to 235 months to forty years for assault with intent to murder, two years for each felony-firearm conviction, and thirty months to five years for carrying a dangerous weapon. Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. People v. Jackson, No. 319398, 2015 WL 3648932 (Mich. Ct. App. June 11, 2015); lv. den. 498 Mich. 951 (2015).

         On March 16, 2017, [2] Jackson filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 1.) Jackson challenges his convictions on the grounds that three aspects of his criminal trial violated his federal constitutional rights to due process and to a fair trial. (ECF No. 1, PageID.21.)

         Petitioner did not exhaust his claims because he did not raise them in state court. Instead of dismissing the petition, the Court stays the proceedings and holds the petition in abeyance to permit Petitioner to return to state courts to properly exhaust his claims. The Court will also administratively close the case.


         A state prisoner seeking federal habeas relief must first exhaust his available state-court remedies before raising a claim in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)-(c); Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 27 (2004). The exhaustion requirement allows “state courts an opportunity to act on [a petitioner's] claims before [they] present those claims to a federal court.” O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). Although exhaustion is not a jurisdictional matter, “it is a threshold question that must be resolved” before a federal court can reach the merits of any claim contained in a habeas petition. See Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 415 (6th Cir. 2009). A federal court may not reach the merits of a habeas petition if even one claim has not been fully exhausted. Id. “Therefore, each claim must be reviewed by a federal court for exhaustion before any claim may be reviewed on the merits.” Id. Federal district courts must dismiss habeas petitions which contain unexhausted claims. See Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 227 (2004) (citing Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509 (1982)). A habeas petitioner has the burden of proving that they have exhausted their state court remedies. Sitto v. Bock, 207 F.Supp.2d 668, 675 (E.D. Mich. 2002) (citing Rust v. Zent, 17 F.3d 1555, 160 (6th Cir. 1994)). A federal court may itself raise the issue of exhaustion. See Benoit v. Bock, 237 F.Supp.2d 804, 806 (E.D. Mich. 2003) (citing Prather v. Rees, 822 F.2d 1418, 1422 (6th Cir. 1987)).

         To satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a habeas petitioner must have presented each claim to the state courts as a federal constitutional issue, not merely as an issue that arises under state law. Hruby v. Wilson, 494 Fed. App'x 514, 517 (6th Cir. 2012) (internal citations omitted). To do so, petitioners must cite to the United States Constitution, federal decisions using constitutional analysis, or state decisions employing constitutional analysis in similar fact patterns. Fuller v. Winn, No. 18-13988, 2019 WL 4023788, *2 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 27, 2019) (citing Levine v. Torvik, 986 F.2d 1506, 1516 (6th Cir. 1993)). It is not enough that all the facts necessary to support the federal claim were presented to the state court or that a somewhat similar state law claim was made. Jalowiec v. Bradshaw, 657 F.3d 293, 304 (6th Cir. 2011) (citing Anderson v. Harless, 459 U.S. 4, 6 (1982)).

         III. ANAYLSIS

         Each of Petitioner's claims alleges a violation of his federal constitutional rights. However, Jackson did not raise any of his current federal constitutional arguments during his state-court appeal. M.C.R. 7.212(C)(5) requires a statement of the questions involved, with each issue for appeal separately numbered. See Dando v. Yukins, 461 F.3d 791, 797 (6th Cir. 2006). While Jackson challenged the same underlying incidents on direct appeal as he does in this petition, Jackson's statement of questions and appellate brief show that his state-court appeal raised only state law claims and a single Sixth Amendment claim. Therefore, he has not exhausted his current federal constitutional claims.

         A. Failure to Permit Voir Dire

         Jackson's first claim challenges the trial court's refusal to allow the defense to voir dire prospective jurors before dismissal. In his habeas petition, he alleges that “[he] was denied his state and federal constitutional rights to due process of law where the trial court erred when it excluded prospective jurors for cause without first permitting the Defense the opportunity to voir dire them.” (ECF No. 1, PageID.21.) On his direct appeal, Jackson framed the issue only as a Sixth Amendment violation: “whether defendant was deprived of his Sixth Amendment constitutional right to an impartial jury drawn from a fair cross section of the community by the trial court's application of MCR 2.511(d)(1), challenging potential jurors for cause.” (ECF No. 10-20, PageID.861.) As this comparison makes clear, Petitioner is raising due process arguments for the first time. Additionally, neither Petitioner's appellate brief nor the Court of Appeals' opinion mention due process. (ECF No. 10-20, PageID.866-867; People v. Jackson, 2015 WL 3648932.)

         B. Failure to Exclude ...

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