United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
EDWARD V. WYNN, Petitioner,
SHERMAN CAMPBELL, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA
PAUPERIS ON APPEAL
F. COX, JUDGE
matter has come before the Court on petitioner Edward V.
Wynn's pro se petition for the writ of habeas
corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The habeas petition
challenges Petitioner's convictions for one count of
criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, Mich. Comp. Laws
§ 750.520b(1)(c), and one count of unlawful
imprisonment, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.349b(1)(c).
argues as grounds for relief that certain evidence was
improperly admitted at his trial, that there was insufficient
evidence at trial to support his convictions, that the
prosecutor withheld evidence, and that his trial and
appellate attorneys were ineffective. Respondent Sherman
Campbell argues in an answer to the petition that
Petitioner's claim about his trial attorney is
procedurally defaulted and that Petitioner's other claims
are not cognizable on habeas review or they were reasonably
decided by the state court. Petitioner argues in a reply
brief that the state courts' rulings were unreasonable
and that "Respondent got it wrong" in his answer to
Court agrees with the State that Petitioner's claims do
not warrant habeas corpus relief. Accordingly, the Court is
denying the petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
charges against Petitioner arose from an incident that
occurred in Flint, Michigan on April 28, 2009. The state
court briefly summarized the facts as follows:
Defendant and the victim were involved in a romantic
relationship over a number of years. The relationship was
volatile and at one point the victim had a personal
protection order against defendant. On the night of the
assault, the victim and a friend were at a bar when they
encountered defendant. All three had been drinking and
smoking marijuana. Although the victim asked defendant to
leave them alone, he refused and got into the victim's
car with them when they attempted to leave. At one point, the
victim and her friend both jumped out of the car and began to
run. Defendant caught the victim, dragged her back to the
vehicle, drove her to his apartment complex, dragged her to
his apartment, and sexually assaulted her.
People v. Wynn, No. 297373, 2011 WL 4467678, at *1
(Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 27, 2011) (unpublished).
was tried before a jury in Genesee County Circuit Court. He
testified that the complainant consented to the sexual
encounter, and his attorney argued to the jury that the
prosecution had failed to prove its case. The trial court
instructed the jury on third-degree criminal sexual conduct
as a lesser offense of first-degree criminal sexual conduct,
but on January 22, 2010, the jury found Petitioner guilty, as
charged, of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and unlawful
imprisonment. On March 10, 2010, the trial court
sentenced Petitioner as a fourth habitual offender to two
concurrent terms of twenty to forty years in prison with
credit for 208 days already served.
appealed his convictions on grounds that: (1) the trial court
abused its discretion and deprived him of his right to due
process when it permitted the prosecutor to introduce
evidence of Petitioner's medications; (2) the trial court
erred reversibly and violated his right to due process by
allowing the prosecutor to admit evidence of Petitioner's
prior criminal conduct; and (3) there was insufficient
evidence of an element in both crimes. These arguments form
the basis for Petitioner's first three habeas claims.
moved to postpone oral argument in his appellate case or to
supplement his appellate brief with new information that the
complainant was arrested four days before the incident that
led to the charges against Petitioner. The Michigan Court of
Appeals, however, denied Petitioner's motion to file a
supplemental brief and affirmed Petitioner's convictions
in an unpublished, per curiam opinion. See
People v. Wynn, No. 297373 (Mich. Ct. App. Sept. 8,
2011, and Sept. 27, 2011) (unpublished). On September 4,
2012, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal
because it was not persuaded to review the issues. See
People v. Wynn, 492 Mich. 864; 819 N.W.2d 880
2013, Petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment in
the state trial court. He argued that his trial and appellate
attorneys were ineffective. The trial court denied
Petitioner's post-conviction motion because the claims
lacked merit and because Petitioner had failed to show
"cause" for his failure to raise his arguments on
direct appeal. See People v. Wynn, No. 09-24999-FC
(Genesee Cty. Cir. Ct. Dec. 30, 2015), ECF No. 9-21.
appealed the trial court's decision on grounds that: (1)
the prosecutor withheld material impeachment evidence from
him and allowed false testimony to go uncorrected at trial;
(2) his trial attorney failed to investigate, obtain
information, and call exculpatory defense witnesses; and (3)
his appellate attorney was ineffective for failing to raise
obvious and significant issues on direct appeal. These
arguments comprise Petitioner's fourth, fifth, and sixth
Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal because
Petitioner had failed to establish that the trial court erred
in denying his post-conviction motion. See People v.
Wynn, No. 331918 (Mich. Ct. App. July 25, 2016)
(unpublished). On January 5, 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court
denied leave to appeal because Petitioner failed to establish
entitlement to relief under Michigan Court Rule 6.508(D).
See People v. Wynn, 500 Mich. 925; 888 N.W.2d 99
January 16, 2017, Petitioner signed and dated his habeas
corpus petition, and on January 20, 2017, the Clerk of Court
filed the petition. See ECF No. 1. Respondent
initially moved to dismiss the petition on the basis that
Petitioner did not comply with the one-year statute of
limitations. See ECF No. 5. The Court denied
Respondent's motion, ECF No. 7, and on April 11, 2018,
Respondent filed an answer to the habeas petition, ECF No. 8.
Petitioner filed a reply brief, ECF No. 10, and the case is
now ready to be adjudicated.
Standard of Review
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
("AEDPA") requires prisoners who challenge "a
matter 'adjudicated on the merits in State court' to
show that the relevant state court 'decision' (1)
'was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application
of, clearly established Federal law,' or (2) 'was
based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light
of the evidence presented in the State court
proceeding.'" Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct.
1188, 1191 (2018) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)).
"[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. Rather, that
application must also be unreasonable." Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 411 (2000). "AEDPA thus
imposes a 'highly deferential standard for evaluating
state-court rulings,' Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S.
320, 333, n. 7, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481 (1997), and
'demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit
of the doubt,' Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S.
19, 24, 123 S.Ct. 357, 154 L.Ed.2d 279 (2002) (per
curiam)." Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766,
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 a writ of
habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must
show that the state court's ruling on his or her 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. Thus, "[o]nly an 'objectively
unreasonable' mistake, [White v. Woodall, 572
U.S. 415, 419 (2014)], one 'so lacking in justification
that there was an error well understood and comprehended in
existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded
disagreement,' slips through the needle's eye of
§ 2254." Saulsberry v. Lee, 937 F.3d 644,
648 (6th Cir. 2019) (quoting Richter, 562 U.S. at
103), cert. denied, __ S.Ct.__, No. 19-419, 2019 WL
5301304 (U.S. Oct. 21, 2019). A state-court's factual
determinations, moreover, are presumed correct on federal
habeas review, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1), and review is
"limited to the record that was before the state court
that adjudicated the claim on the merits." Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).
Evidence of Petitioner's Prescription Medications
alleges first that the trial court abused its discretion and
deprived him of due process when it permitted the prosecutor
to introduce evidence of Petitioner's prescription
medications and Petitioner's failure to take most of the
medications. Petitioner contends that the evidence was not
relevant to the charges because there was no testimony
regarding any connection between the medications and his
perceptions on the night of the crimes.
also contends that the evidence was prejudicial because one
of the medications (Methadone) is commonly known as a
treatment for an addiction to heroin, and some of the other
medications treat mental illness. Petitioner concludes that
evidence of his medications painted him as unstable, mentally
ill, and a recovering drug addict. Petitioner also contends
that the jury could have assumed he was unpredictable and
violent when he did not take his medications.
Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with Petitioner that
evidence of his medications was irrelevant and that the trial
court abused its discretion by admitting the evidence. The
Court of Appeals, nevertheless, concluded that the error was
harmless because it was unlikely that the jury gave any
weight to the evidence.
Clearly Established Federal Law
in the application of state law, especially rulings on the
admission or exclusion of evidence, usually are not
questioned in a federal habeas corpus proceeding. Cooper
v. Sowders, 837 F.2d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1988).
"[S]tate courts are the ultimate expositors of state
law," and federal courts generally are bound by their
constructions of state law. Mullaney v. Wilbur, 421
U.S. 684, 691 (1975). Moreover, "federal habeas corpus
relief does not lie for errors of state law." Lewis
v. Jeffers, 497 U.S. 764, 780 (1990). "In
conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to
deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution,
laws, or treaties of the United States." Estelle v.
McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991).
have wide latitude with regard to evidentiary matters under
the Due Process Clause," and generally, state-court
evidentiary rulings do not rise to the level of a due process
violation unless the rulings offend some fundamental
principle of justice. Wilson v. Sheldon, 874 F.3d
470, 475-76 (6th Cir. 2017). Therefore, to prevail on his
claim, Petitioner must show that the error rendered his trial
"so fundamentally unfair as to deprive [him] of due
process under the Fourteenth Amendment." McAdoo v.
Elo, 365 F.3d 487, 494 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing
McGuire, 502 U.S. at 69-70).
on habeas review, an error is harmless unless it had a
"substantial and injurious effect or influence" on
the jury's verdict. Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507
U.S. 619, 623 (1993) (quoting Kotteakos v. United
States, 328 U.S. 750, 776 (1946)). As recently explained
by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals,
the federal court will not grant habeas relief unless the
state error "resulted in 'actual
prejudice.'" [Davis v. Ayala, 135 S.Ct.
2187, 2197 (2015)] (quoting Brecht, 507 U.S. at 637,
113 S.Ct. 1710). This means that in order to grant habeas
relief, the court must have at least "grave doubt about
whether a trial error of federal law had 'substantial and
injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's
verdict.'" O'Neal v. McAninch, 513 U.S.
432, 436, 115 S.Ct. 992, 130 L.Ed.2d 947 (1995) (quoting
Brecht, 507 U.S. at 627, 113 S.Ct. 1710).
"[G]rave doubt" about whether the error was
harmless means that "the matter is so evenly balanced
that [the court] feels [it]self in virtual equipoise as to
the harmlessness of the error." Id. at 435, 115
O'Neal v. Balcarcel, 933 F.3d 618, 624 (6th Cir.
2019) (first alteration added, second and third alterations
in original). Furthermore, "[s]tate courts'
harmless-error determinations are adjudications on the
merits, and therefore federal courts may grant habeas relief
only where those determinations are objectively
unreasonable." Id. (citing Ayala, 135
S.Ct. at 2198-99).
about Petitioner's medications occurred a few times at
trial. First, Sergeant Norman Hoydic testified that
Petitioner asked for his medication at the time of his
arrest. Sergeant Hoydic explained that, in response to
Petitioner's request, he collected numerous medications
and put them with Petitioner's personal property at the
police station. See 1/8/10 Trial Tr. at 143-146, ECF
No. 9-10, PageID. 711.
identification technician for the Flint Police Department
later testified that she found a prescription for two
medications in the trunk of Petitioner's truck. The
prescriptions had Petitioner's name on them. See
1/13/10 Trial Tr. at 200-201, ECF No. 9-12, PageID 836.
Sergeant Jeff Fray also mentioned the prescription found in
Petitioner's truck. See 1/14/10 Trial Tr. at 8,
ECF No. 9-13, PageID. 868.
in the jury's absence, the prosecutor informed the trial
court that he intended to ask Petitioner about the
medications he was taking. The prosecutor stated that the
medications were relevant to Petitioner's ability to
perceive what was happening on the night in question. When
defense counsel stated that he had no idea whether Petitioner
was knowledgeable about the effects of the medication and
what the medication was supposed to accomplish, the trial
court said, "We'll see. It sounds like the
door's been opened, so [the prosecutor] can go
there." 1/20/10 Trial Tr. at 88, ECF No. 9-14, PageID.
prosecutor subsequently asked Petitioner on cross-examination
whether he had asked Sergeant Hoydic at his arrest to bring
his medication to the police station. When Petitioner
answered, "Yes," the prosecutor asked Petitioner
whether he was taking a medication for cholesterol, another
medication called Gabapentin, and an antidepressant called
Amitriptyline. Petitioner responded that the only medication
he was taking at the time of the incident was Methadone and
that he was taking Methadone for chronic pain in his arm. He
explained that he had a lot of other pills in the house,
including Triavil, which was used to treat depression, but he
took Triavil only one time because he did not like the way it
made him feel. He repeated that he did not take any of the
other medications and that the only one he was taking at the
time was Methadone. Id. at 44-46, PageID. 927.
a bench conference, defense counsel objected to the
prosecutor's questions on the basis that the prosecutor
was testifying when he indicated what the medications were
intended to treat. The trial court, however, overruled the
objection, and the prosecutor was permitted to resume
questioning Petitioner about his medications, which included
antibiotics, Penicillin, a cholesterol medicine, and
prescriptions for Triavil and Restoril. Petitioner explained
that Triavil was used for depression and that Restoril was a
sleeping pill, but that he was not taking those medications
at the time; he was only taking Methadone. Id. at
46-48, Page Id. 927-28.
final reference to the medications occurred during the
prosecutor's closing argument. He stated that Sergeant
Fray had asked Officer Hoydic to collect Petitioner's
medications and bring them to Petitioner and that Officer
Hoydic had records of the medications. Id. at 161,
prosecutor's mention of the medications during closing
arguments was brief. Most of the testimony about the
medications also was brief. Although Petitioner's
testimony on the topic was more extensive, he was adept at
handling the prosecutor's questions. He provided
explanations for his use of Methadone and his failure to take
the other medications. Testimony about the medications did
not necessarily lead to the conclusion that Petitioner was
unstable, mentally ill, a recovering addict, or violent when
not taking medication.
Court concludes that testimony about Petitioner's
medications was harmless because the evidence could not have
had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the
jury's verdict. Additionally, the state appellate
court's conclusion - that the evidentiary error was
harmless because it was unlikely that the jury gave any
weight to the evidence when deciding the critical facts - was
objectively reasonable. Petitioner is not entitled to relief
on his claim.
Evidence of Petitioner's Prior Criminal Conduct
alleges next that the trial court erred reversibly and
violated his right to due process by admitting evidence of
his prior criminal conduct. The evidence included testimony
that Petitioner: harassed, followed, and stalked the
complainant (1/6/10 Trial Tr. at 130-31, ECF No. 9-8, PageID.
586-87; 1/7/10 Trial Tr. at 150, 155, ECF No. 9-9, PageID.
641, 643; 1/12/10 Trial Tr. at 119, ECF No. 9-11, PageID.
759); broke into the complainant's home and sometimes
stole things from her (1/7/10 Trial Tr. at 92-102, ECF No.
9-9, PageID. 627-629); drove by the complainant's home,
yelled threats, and gestured as though he had a weapon
(1/8/10 Trial Tr. at 79, 125-126, ECF No. 9-10, PageID. 695,
706); stole the complainant's car (1/7/10 Trial Tr. at
25, 35, ECF No. 9-9, PageID. 610, 613); attacked or beat the
complainant on a previous occasion and chased her and her
child in a car on another occasion (1/7/10 Trial Tr. at 49,
ECF No. 9-9, PageID. 616; 1/8/10 Trial Tr. at 61, 63, 72-74,
115-18, ECF No. 9-10, PageID. 690-691, 693, 704); cut the
telephone cables at the home of the complainant's sister
and stole her sister's car tires (1/8/10 Trial Tr. at 76,
119-124, ECF No. 9-10, PageID. 694, 705-706); stole
medication prescribed for the complainant's child (1/7/10
Trial Tr. at 89-92, 100-101, ECF No. 9-9, PageID. 626-627,
629); sexually assaulted the complainant on a prior occasion
(1/7/10 Trial Tr. at 83, 129-30, ECF No. 9-9, PageID. 625,
636); and assaulted the complainant after a wedding (1/8/10
Trial Tr. at 48-50, ECF No. 9-10, PageID. 687). There was
additional evidence that the complainant acquired personal
protection orders against Petitioner, although the orders may
not have been in effect when Petitioner committed the crimes
for which he was on trial. See 1/7/10 Trial Tr. at
146-48, ECF No. 9-9, PageID. 640-41; 1/8/10 Trial. Tr. at 14,
52-53, ECF No. 9-10, PageID. 678, 688; and 1/14/10 Trial Tr.
at 5, ECF No. 9-13, PageID. 867.
contends that this evidence should have been excluded due to
the sheer volume of the testimony and because the prior
episodes of stalking and violence had little or no connection
to the charged crimes. Petitioner also contends that unfair
prejudice outweighed any probative value of the evidence.
Michigan Court of Appeals adjudicated Petitioner's claim
on the merits and held that the trial court did not abuse its
discretion when it allowed the prosecutor to admit the
disputed evidence. The Court of Appeals stated that admitting
evidence of Petitioner's prior bad acts was proper
because the evidence was relevant evidence and any
prejudicial effect did not substantially outweigh the
probative value of the evidence.
Clearly Established Federal Law
noted above in the discussion on Petitioner's first
claim, errors in the application of state law, especially
rulings in the admission or exclusion of evidence, usually
are not questioned in a federal habeas corpus proceeding.
Seymour v. Walker, 224 F.3d 542, 552 (6th Cir. 2000)
(quoting Cooper, 837 F.2d at 286). Further, to the
extent Petitioner is asserting that the "other
acts" evidence was improper propensity evidence, his
claim lacks merit because "[t]here is no clearly
established Supreme Court precedent which holds that a state
violates due process by permitting propensity evidence in the
form of other bad acts evidence." Bugh v.
Mitchell, 329 F.3d 496, 512 (6th Cir. 2003).
Consequently, "there is no Supreme Court precedent ...