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Tietz v. Haas

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

December 23, 2019

RANDALL HAAS, Warden, Respondent.



         Cameron Tietz shot and killed his friend. He maintained that he did not know that there was a bullet in the gun's chamber and that the shooting was an accident. A jury found that Tietz at least “knowingly created a very high risk of death or great bodily harm” when he shot his friend and so it convicted Tietz of second-degree murder instead of involuntary manslaughter. After pursuing appeals and post-conviction relief in the state courts, Tietz filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Among other claims, Tietz asserts that his trial and appellate attorneys were both ineffective, that the prosecutor committed misconduct by introducing prohibited evidence, and that his due process rights were violated.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Tietz's petition.


         The Michigan Court of Appeals summarized the facts surrounding Tietz's offenses as follows:

On April 17, 2010, Tietz shot James Miller in the chest in Miller's home. Jade Okoneski, Alisha Harris, and Brenton Dow were at the home at that time. Okoneski and Dow both testified that Miller and Tietz started to talk about $10 that Miller's father owed Tietz. Harris testified that Miller and Tietz were speaking “in a playful manner, ” and Okoneski testified that Miller appeared relaxed and not angry. Harris testified that Tietz asked Miller if he was going to pay him, and that Miller smiled and asked Tietz what would happen if he did not pay him. Okoneski testified that she saw Tietz reach into his waist, remove a gun, and cock it.
Okoneski, Harris, and Dow each testified that Tietz pointed the gun at Miller and fired it. Okoneski testified that both Miller and Tietz appeared “shocked” when the gun discharged. Okoneski testified that everyone ran out of the house. Dow testified as Tietz ran to his truck, he told Dow to “cover him.” Dow testified that he returned to call the police and attempt to stop Miller's bleeding.
Detective Terry Coon arrested Tietz. According to Detective Coon, Tietz stated that he found the gun in a car that he had recently purchased, and did not look in the chamber. Tietz claimed that he was sitting at the dining room table and passing the gun around when a dog ran through the room and bumped into him. At that point, the gun went off.
Detective Coon testified that when he informed Tietz that his story was inconsistent with the other witnesses' accounts, Tietz told him that Miller was teasing him about $10, that they were joking, and that he wanted to “dry-fire” the gun without any bullets in the chamber to scare Okoneski and Harris. Tietz told Detective Coon that he obtained the gun the day before because he was concerned for his safety, and he did not think that any bullets were in the chamber.
Tietz's testimony was consistent with that of the other witnesses. He testified that he and Miller were being playful, and that he thought the gun would dry-fire and scare the girls. Tietz insisted that the shooting was an accident.
Detective-Sergeant Ryan Larrison of the Michigan State Police testified that . . . a person would have to cock the weapon and then pull the trigger for it to fire.
Officer Kenneth Shingleton of the Michigan State Police testified that on November 3, 2009, he searched Tietz and removed a different nine millimeter semi-automatic gun from his waistband. The prosecution argued that this evidence showed that the shooting was not an accident or a mistake.

People v. Tietz, No. 309767, 2013 WL 3107325, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. June 20, 2013) (paragraphing altered).

         Following a trial in Michigan's 7th Judicial Circuit Court (the circuit court for Genesee County), the jury found Tietz guilty of second-degree murder, carrying a concealed weapon, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Id.

         Tietz's direct appeal raised two issues. The first was that the trial court erroneously failed to instruct the jury on reckless discharge of a firearm. The Michigan Court of Appeals found that reckless discharge was a “cognate” lesser offense (an offense that has at least one element not found in the greater offense) and applied a state-law rule prohibiting trial courts from instructing on cognate lesser offenses. See Id. at *2. Tietz also argued that the trial court erred in its judgment of sentence. The court of appeals agreed and remanded for the judgment to be corrected to reflect that Tietz's prison terms for carrying a concealed weapon and for felony-firearm were concurrent. Id.

         The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. People v. Tietz, 839 N.W.2d 457 (Mich. 2013).

         Tietz returned to the state trial court with a motion for relief from judgment, raising a number of issues. The court denied Tietz's motion for relief on all issues. (ECF No. 9-11, PageID.919-910.)

         The Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court denied Tietz leave to appeal in standard form orders. See People v. Tietz, No. 326812 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. 26, 2015); People v. Tietz, 881 N.W.2d 478 (Mich. 2016).


         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) (and 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in particular) “confirm[s] that state courts are the principal forum for asserting constitutional challenges to state convictions.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011); see also Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 182 (2011). If a claim was “adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings, ” this Court cannot grant habeas corpus relief on the basis of that claim “unless the adjudication of the claim . . . resulted in a decision” (1) “that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States” or (2) “that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         If the state courts did not adjudicate a claim “on the merits, ” this “‘AEDPA deference' does not apply and [this Court] will review the claim de novo.” Bies v. Sheldon, 775 F.3d 386, 395 (6th Cir. 2014). However, “‘[w]hen a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary.'” Johnson v. Williams, 568 U.S. 289, 298 (2013) (quoting Harrington, 562 U.S. at 99).



         The warden argues that Tietz procedurally defaulted several of his theories of ineffective assistance of counsel by not arguing them on direct appeal or collateral review. Tietz replied that the state waived affirmative defenses by failing to respond to his motion for relief from judgment in the trial court.

         Having reviewed the pleadings and the record, the Court finds that, given the complexity of the procedural-default issues, the interests of judicial economy are best served by addressing the merits of Tietz's claims. See Thomas v. Meko, 915 F.3d 1071, 1074 (6th Cir. 2019).


         The Court begins with Tietz's assertion that his trial counsel, Michael Ewing, was constitutionally ineffective.

         “An ineffective assistance claim has two components: A petitioner must show that counsel's performance was deficient, and that the deficiency prejudiced the defense.” Wiggins v. Smith,539 U.S. 510, 521 (2003) (citing Strickland v. Washington,466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984)). To succeed on the performance prong, Tietz must identify acts that were “outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690. To satisfy the prejudice prong, he must show that “there is a reasonable ...

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