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Burrows v. Macauley

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

December 30, 2019

MATT MACAULEY, Respondent.



         This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a preliminary review of the petition to determine whether “it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that lack merit on their face). A dismissal under Rule 4 includes those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well as those containing factual allegations that are palpably incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1999). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court concludes that the petition must be dismissed because it fails to raise a meritorious federal claim.


         I. Factual allegations

         Petitioner Cameron Daniel Burrows is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC) in Ionia County, Michigan. Petitioner pleaded nolo contendere in the Ottawa County Circuit Court to reckless driving causing death, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.626(4), and to reckless driving causing serious impairment of a body function, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.626(3). On December 18, 2017, the court sentenced Petitioner as a fourth habitual offender, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12, to concurrent prison terms of 9 to 40 years.

         Petitioner attaches to his supporting brief the sentencing transcripts from the Ottawa County Circuit Court. Those transcripts reveal that Petitioner, on January 3, 2017, ran a red light at a high rate of speed and collided with another vehicle, killing one person and seriously injuring another. (Sentencing Tr. II, ECF No. 2-1, PageID.70-72.) At Petitioner's initial sentencing hearing, the judge reported that he had received information about an incident involving Petitioner many years prior-a snowmobile accident-that resulted in the death of a young girl. (Sentencing Tr. I, ECF No. 2-1, PageID.54-56.) Because the judge anticipated the incident might be significant for sentencing, he adjourned the hearing to permit the prosecutor and defense counsel to explore the matter further. (Id.)

         The court unquestionably considered the snowmobile accident when it imposed sentence on December 18, 2017. The court described the accident as follows: “[Y]ou were on a snowmobile at age 16, probably going a little bit immoderate, and then the victim was on an inner tube or fell off an inner tube or something and then you ran into her . . . .” (Sentencing Tr. II, ECF No. 2-1, PageID.69.) Petitioner acknowledged he was going approximately 40 miles per hour and came over a knoll where the victim was in the snow. (Id., PageID.70.) He did not know she was there. (Id.) He hit her.

         The court used that accident as a starting point in describing the “unwise things” Petitioner had done. (Id., PageID.72.) In recounting Petitioner's history, the court described the snowmobile accident as “operating a vehicle negligently.” (Id., PageID.74.)

         Petitioner's minimum sentence guideline range was 50 to 200 months. Determination of the range was based on application of the Michigan sentencing guidelines. Based on the transcripts, the 1992 accident did not contribute to any of the guidelines scoring that determined the range. Nonetheless, when the court selected a minimum sentence of 108 months from within that range, it was apparent he considered the snowmobile incident.

         Petitioner, with the assistance of counsel, filed an application for leave to appeal his sentence in the Michigan Court of Appeals. (Pet'r's Appl. for Leave to Appeal, ECF No. 2-1, PageID.81-92.) Petitioner argued that the court was wrong to consider the incident from 25 years ago as evidence of negligence or some future danger, particularly where there were no criminal proceedings brought. Petitioner claimed that the court, in relying on that incident, relied on inaccurate information and that the resulting sentence was invalid. By order entered July 18, 2018, the court of appeals denied leave “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” (Mich. Ct. App. Order, ECF No. 2-1, PageID.94.)

         Petitioner then filed a pro per application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court. That court denied leave by order entered December 4, 2018. (Mich. Order, ECF No. 2-1, PageID.96.)

         On September 27, 2019, Petitioner timely filed his habeas corpus petition raising, essentially, the same ground for relief in raised in the Michigan appellate courts: “The trial court's decision to impose a harsher sentence after considering materially untrue and inaccurate information violated the Petitioner's due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, was contrary to clearly established federal law and was based on an unreasonable determination in light of the evidence presented to the courts, meeting both requirements for habeas relief under the AEDPA.” (Pet'r's Br., ECF No. 2, PageID.21.)

         II. AEDPA standard

         This action is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (AEDPA). The AEDPA “prevents federal habeas ‘retrials'” and ensures that state court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under the law. Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693-94 (2002). An application for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person who is incarcerated pursuant to a state conviction cannot be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudication: “(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; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based upon an unreasonable determination of the facts in light ...

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