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Morrell v. Burton

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

January 6, 2020

RONALD MORRELL, Petitioner,
v.
DEWAYNE BURTON, [1] Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, AND (2) DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          HON. GEORGE CARAM STEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Ronald Morrell, (“Petitioner”), confined at the Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction for one count of armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529; four counts of unlawful imprisonment, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.349b; one count of first-degree home invasion, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.110a(2); one count of larceny of a firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.357b; one count of larceny in a building, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.360; five counts of felonious assault, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.82; and thirteen counts of felony firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b.

         The Court finds that the sentencing judge used factors that had not been submitted to a jury in order to score several offense variables under the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. The Court grants the writ in part and remands the case to the state court to conduct a re-sentencing of petitioner. The petition is DENIED with respect to petitioner's remaining claims.

         I. Background

         Petitioner pleaded nolo contendere in the Livingston County Circuit Court and was sentenced to prison. Petitioner's conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal. People v. Morrell, No. 330591 (Mich.Ct.App. Mar. 29, 2016); lv. den. 500 Mich. 868 (2016).

         Petitioner filed a habeas petition. This Court granted petitioner's motion to amend his petition to add additional claims and then held the petition in abeyance so that petitioner could return to the state courts to exhaust these additional claims. Morrell v. McCullick, No. 17-CV-10961, 2017 WL 5499404 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 16, 2017).

         Petitioner filed a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment, which was denied. People v. Morrell, No. 14-22304-FC (Livingston Cty.Cir.Ct., Oct. 1, 2018). The Michigan appellate courts denied petitioner leave to appeal. People v. Morrell, No. 346171 (Mich.Ct.App. Apr. 3, 2019); lv. den. 931 N.W.2d 334 (Mich. 2019).

         The case has now been reopened to the Court's active docket. Petitioner's various pleadings are voluminous, rambling and difficult to understand. It appears, however, that petitioner in his original and amended habeas petitions seeks habeas relief on the following grounds:

I. Trial court violated constitutional due process by refusal to allow plea withdrawal.
II. Petitioner's sentencing range was incorrectly scored.
III. Inaccurate and biased pre-sentencing report which prejudices Petitioner.
IV. Petitioner's confession was involuntary because he was under the influence of drugs, was denied medical care, and the police threatened to kill his wife and children.
V. Prosecutorial misconduct.
VI. The police and prosecutor brought false charges against petitioner.
VII. Petitioner was forced by his trial counsel into pleading nolo contendere.
VIII. Ineffective assistance of trial counsel, in that counsel failed to locate evidence of petitioner's innocence.
IX. Trial counsel had a conflict of interest with petitioner in that he was working in collusion with the prosecutor and police.
X. Ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.
XI. The Judge conspired with the police.
XII. Transcripts of the proceedings were altered or falsified.

         II. Standard of Review

         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 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 ...

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