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Bradley v. Harry

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

December 5, 2019

RUDOLPH BRADLEY, Petitioner,
v.
SHIRLEE HARRY, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS [1], DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Following a bench trial in state court, Rudolph Bradley was convicted of possession with intent to deliver less than five kilograms of marijuana, Mich. Comp. Laws § 333.7401(2)(d)(iii), felon in possession of a firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224f, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (“felony firearm”), second offense, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. He now seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on the sole ground that there was insufficient evidence to find that he was in constructive possession of the marijuana and the weapons found during the execution of a search warrant at his brother's residence. (ECF No. 1, PageID.2.) Because the state court's determination of the facts and adjudication of Bradley's claim on the merits was objectively reasonable, the petition is denied.

         I.

         Bradley waived his right to a jury trial and was tried before a Wayne County Circuit Court judge. This Court recites the relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which are 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):

This case arises from the execution of a narcotics search warrant by the Detroit Police Narcotics Enforcement Team at 2182 Eastlawn Street in Detroit, Michigan on March 10, 2011. Detroit Police suspected that defendant resided at 2182 Eastlawn Street and that he was selling illegal drugs and firearms from that location. Police conducted preraid surveillance of the residence, and conducted a “trash pull” that recovered a sandwich bag with residue that tested positive for cocaine.
Defendant was found outside of the home when the search warrant was executed, and his girlfriend, Vernita Johnson, and his brother, Terence Bradley, were found inside the home. Police officers recovered several bags of marijuana and other narcotics, several firearms, several proof of residency documents addressed to defendant at the 2182 Eastlawn Street address, and a large amount of money.
At trial, Detroit Police Officer Lynn Moore testified that proof of residency documents, including a Direct TV advertisement, a state of Michigan vehicle title, and a child support payment coupon (issued by the Michigan State Disbursement Unit) addressed to defendant at 2182 Eastlawn Street, were found in the east bedroom along with men's clothing, several firearms, marijuana, ecstasy, and money, and that the drugs were packaged in a way that indicated they were for sale. Defendant's girlfriend testified that defendant had previously resided at 2182 Eastlawn Street with his brother, but had moved in with her five months before the raid, and that she had driven defendant to the Eastlawn home on the day of the raid to pick up some mail, because he had not changed his address.

People v. Bradley, No. 323737, 2016 WL 3717438, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. July 12, 2016). Bradley's brother Terence also testified that Bradley had moved out of the Eastlawn Street house several months before the raid.

         On August 11, 2014, the trial court found Bradley guilty of possession with intent to deliver less than five grams of marijuana, felon-in-possession of a firearm, and felony firearm, second offense. According to the trial court, the idea that Bradley was disconnected from the Eastlawn Street address, as suggested by Bradley's girlfriend and brother, was “too preposterous to be entertained.” (ECF No. 8-7, PageID.222.) The trial court found that, even if Bradley was spending seven nights a week at his girlfriend's home, he could still have possession of the guns and drugs found in his brother's home. (Id., PageID.223.) The judge relied on the fact that the searched home had been in the Bradley family for years and Rudolph had lived there, residence documents (including a car title) connected to Bradley were found both inside the residence and in the trash, and Bradley was found outside the home at the time of the raid. (Id., PageID.222-224.) The court also noted that Bradley had failed to show up for trial on the originally scheduled date and was arrested about twenty-five months later. (Id., PageID.224.) The court construed Bradley's flight as consciousness of guilt. (Id.) The court was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Bradley was in possession, constructive or otherwise, of the guns and the drugs found in the home on Eastlawn and, therefore, he was guilty as charged. (Id., PageID.224-225.) On August 25, 2014, the trial court sentenced Bradley as a habitual offender to concurrent terms of three to fifteen years in prison for the marijuana and felon-in-possession convictions and to a consecutive term of five years for the felony-firearm conviction. (ECF No. 8-8, PageID.232.)

         Bradley appealed his convictions as of right, claiming that the prosecution presented insufficient evidence that he was in constructive possession of anything found in his brother's house. The Michigan Court of Appeals found no merit in this claim and affirmed Bradley's convictions. See Bradley, 2016 WL 3717438, at *4. On January 5, 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. See People v. Bradley, 888 N.W.2d 91 (Mich. 2017).

         On July 5, 2017, Bradley filed his habeas corpus petition, which raises the same sufficiency-of-the-evidence issue that he presented to the state courts. (ECF No. 1, PageID.2.) The State filed a responsive pleading in which it urges the Court to deny the petition because the state court's rejection of Bradley's claim was not objectively unreasonable. (ECF No. 7, PageID.50- 66.)

         II.

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) requires habeas petitioners 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 proceedings.' ” 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.” Davis v. Lafler, 658 F.3d 525, 531-32 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 411 (2000)). “AEDPA thus imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings and demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). “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 ...


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