United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS, DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING
LEAVE TO PROCEED ON APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
L. LUDINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Bret Frame, a Michigan prisoner, was convicted of two counts
of second-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.317, and
two counts of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated
causing death, Mich. Comp. Laws §
257.625(4)(a). He is before this Court seeking a writ of
habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the following
reasons, the petition will be denied.
convictions arise from a car accident that resulted in the
deaths of two young men, Justin Bailey and Mark Angelocci.
The Michigan Court of Appeals set forth the facts as follows:
This case arises out of an incident of drunk driving by
defendant in Texas Township on June 23, 2011, that resulted
in the tragic deaths of Justin Bailey and Mark Angelocci in
an automobile accident. The evidence at trial established
that defendant is, by his own admission, “an extreme
alcoholic” who began abusing alcohol when he was 15
years old. In August 2010, defendant was convicted of
operating while impaired by intoxicating liquor. He was also
kicked out of his parents' home because his drinking made
him, according to his mother, “verbally
obnoxious” and “hard to live with.”
Although defendant attempted to turn his life around by going
back to school and purportedly remaining sober for eight
months, he decided to consume alcohol on June 23, 2011.
Defendant's recollection of that day is incomplete.
Testimony at trial established that defendant recalled
driving around drinking alcohol during the day, visiting a
friend, and leaving the friend's home between 2:00 p.m.
and 3:00 p.m. Although defendant's next cognizant memory
was waking up in jail, numerous witnesses at trial testified
about what happened next.
Defendant-while highly intoxicated-drove his pickup truck in
Texas Township and the immediate vicinity in a reckless,
dangerous, and alarming manner that included illegally
passing and almost hitting other motorists and driving at
speeds estimated as high as 100 mph on roads with speed
limits of 45 and 55 mph. At about 3:30 p.m., defendant
rear-ended Bailey's vehicle while both vehicles were
heading south on South Sixth Street, causing Bailey's
vehicle to spin and ultimately vault into a tree on the other
side of the street. Defendant did not stop but, instead,
continued driving until he reached his home, where
sheriff's deputies, after witnesses provided information
implicating defendant, found him at 4:40 p.m. sitting slumped
in the driver's seat of his truck with his eyes closed.
When the deputies ordered defendant out of his truck, he
smelled of intoxicants and exhibited physical signs of
intoxication, including glassy eyes, slurred speech, and
unsteady balance. Defendant became defiant and violent when
the deputies attempted to handcuff him, and a deputy had to
use a taser to subdue him. During transport to a hospital,
defendant continued to act belligerently, threatening to kill
and eat the face of the deputy who was driving the patrol car
and repeatedly hitting his own head against the car's
Plexiglas partition. At the hospital, defendant's blood
was drawn at 6:58 p.m. despite his continued unruly behavior.
Testing established that defendant's blood-alcohol level
was 0.25 grams per 100 milliliters of alcohol in blood.
People v. Frame, No. 310591, 2013 WL 6244695, *1
(Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 3, 2013).
was convicted by a jury in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court. On
May 14, 2012, he was sentenced to concurrent sentences of 30
to 75 years for the murder convictions and 7 to 15 years for
the operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death
convictions. He filed an appeal of right in the Michigan
Court of Appeals raising five claims: (i) the district court
erred in binding Frame over on two counts of second-degree
murder and the trial court erred in denying the motion to
quash; (ii) insufficient evidence supported the second-degree
murder convictions; (iii) the trial court improperly refused
to instruct the jury on lesser included offenses; (iv) the
trial court improperly refused to instruct the jury on
subjective intent; and (v) the trial court improperly refused
to instruct the jury or allow an expert to testify regarding
the statistical likelihood that an alcohol-related crash in
Kalamazoo would result in fatalities. The Michigan Court of
Appeals affirmed Frame's convictions. People v.
Frame, No. 310591, 2013 WL 6244695, *1 (Mich. Ct. App.
Dec. 3, 2013). The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to
appeal. People v. Frame, 495 Mich. 1006 (May 27,
then filed a motion for relief from judgment in the trial
court, raising these five claims: (i) the trial court's
evidentiary rulings violated due process; (ii) the trial
court's refusal to instruct on lesser included offenses
violated Frame's right to present a defense; (iii)
insufficient evidence was presented to show Frame's state
of mind; (iv) the sentence violated the Eighth Amendment; and
(v) the prosecution failed to preserve material exculpatory
evidence. The trial court denied the motion. See
7/27/2015 Order (ECF No. 12-16). Both state appellate courts
denied leave to appeal the trial court's decision.
See People v. Frame, No. 329774 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec.
30, 2015 (ECF No. 12-18); People v. Frame, 500 Mich.
I. Petitioner's convictions of second-degree murder
violate due process because there is insufficient evidence of
“malice/intent” to sustain his conviction.
II. Petitioner's right to a fair trial and to a properly
instructed jury was violated when the trial court refused to
instruct the jury on the lesser included offenses of reckless
death and moving violation causing death.
III. The trial court violated the Petitioner's right to a
fair trial and improperly instructed jury by denying
Petitioner's request for a jury instruction on
“subjective intent” for second degree murder.
IV. & V. The trial court abused its discretion in
refusing to instruct the jury or allow expert witness
testimony regarding the statistical likelihood that an
alcohol-related crash in Kalamazoo would result in fatalities
VI. Petitioner's ability to present a defense was
impaired because the trial court did not allow expert witness
testimony about statistics related to the “natural
tendency” of drunk driving to cause death. The court
also admitted prejudicial evidence about the arrest, which
occurred over an hour after the accident.
VII. The court failed to instruct the jury on lesser included
VIII. There was no showing of the state of mind for
IX. The Eighth Amendment forbids extreme sentences that are
“grossly disproportionate” to the crime.
X. The government violates a defendant's due process
right where it fails to preserve material exculpatory
evidence regardless of lack of bad faith.
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 Supreme Court of the United States;
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
in the State court proceeding.
decision of a state court is “contrary to”
clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at
a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on
a question of law, or if the state court decides a case
differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially
indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529
U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000). 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.” Id. at 411.
AEDPA “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 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 decision.” Harrington v. Richter,
562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (quoting Yarborough v.
Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). The Supreme Court
has emphasized “that even a strong case for relief does
not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was
unreasonable.” Id. at 102. Pursuant to section
2254(d), “a habeas court must determine what arguments
or theories supported or . . . could have supported, the
state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it
is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those
arguments or theories are ...