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Beauchamp v. Haas

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

November 5, 2019

RANDALL HAAS, Respondent.



         Petitioner Erik Beauchamp filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges his Wexford County Circuit Court jury trial conviction for second-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.317, for which he received a sentence of thirty-seven years, six months to sixty years' imprisonment. The petition raises two claims: (1) that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter; and (2) that the prosecutor committed multiple instances of misconduct during closing argument. For the reasons provided below, the court will deny the petition. The court will also deny a certificate of appealability.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner's conviction arises from the August 8, 2014 shooting death of Lindsey Morgan. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's second-degree murder conviction. People v. Beauchamp, 2016 WL 3421405 (Mich. Ct. App. June 21, 2016). Its description of trial testimony is summarized below. That court's factual findings are presumed correct on habeas review. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009).

         Petitioner and Morgan, both alcoholics, had two children together and an on-again, off-again relationship. Beauchamp, 2016 WL 3421405, at *1. Morgan occasionally left Petitioner for another man, their neighbor Joseph Traylor. Two days before Petitioner shot and killed Morgan, they had a fight. Id. The next day, Petitioner saw Morgan “put the children into her mother's van and leave.” Id. Shortly thereafter, on the phone, Morgan taunted Petitioner about losing his children. Id. She also texted him to say, “I'm sorry, but I am done.” Id.

         The next day, Petitioner went to work, but left because he was unable to focus due to being upset. Id. at *2. After returning home, he told his mother “he loved her and was sorry he had to kill himself.” Id. He went into the woods behind his property with a few bottles of beer, a 12-gauge shotgun, and a .22 caliber pistol. Id. His mother called police. Officer Daniel Johnson arrived and spoke to Petitioner on the phone. Id. When Petitioner “refused to come out of the woods to talk[, ]” the officer decided he could take no action because Petitioner had not committed a crime. Id.

         Defendant testified at trial that he both “wanted to die” but also wanted to confront Morgan. Id. His sister said he called her, saying he was going to kill both Morgan and Traylor, the neighbor. Id. Morgan's mother also testified that Morgan told her that Petitioner had called Morgan and had said he was coming to kill her. Id.

         A friend driving to Traylor's house to meet Morgan saw Petitioner “walking toward the house with a shotgun.” Id. When Petitioner reached the house, he broke in, and “began beating the door” of the bathroom where Morgan had taken the children. Id. at *3. “Morgan came out and the two began struggling over the shotgun[.]” Id. The fight continued through the house with Petitioner repeatedly punching Morgan. Id. Morgan also hit Petitioner “a couple of times in the head with the shotgun they were both holding.” Id. The shotgun went off, “Morgan got ahold of [it]” and ran out of the house. Id. Outside the house, Petitioner shot Morgan three times with his pistol, twice in the head, and also beat her with the pistol. Id. “Morgan died as a result of the gunshot wounds.” Id.

         The jury acquitted Petitioner on the first-degree murder charge but convicted him of second-degree murder. Id. He raised two issues on direct appeal: (1) that the trial court erred in denying his request for a jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter; and (2) that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct during closing argument.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected both issues and affirmed the conviction. Id. The Michigan Supreme Court denied Petitioner leave to appeal in a standard form order. People v. Beauchamp, 500 Mich. 925, 888 N.W.2d 105 (2017). Petitioner's timely pro se habeas petition followed, in which he presents the same two issues raised before the state appellate courts.

         II. STANDARD

         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 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 ...

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