239 F.3d 769 (6th Cir. 2001), 00-1809, Staley v Jones

Docket Nº:00-1809
Citation:239 F.3d 769
Party Name:Jerry Lee Staley, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Kurt Jones, Respondent-Appellant.
Case Date:February 05, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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239 F.3d 769 (6th Cir. 2001)

Jerry Lee Staley, Petitioner-Appellee,


Kurt Jones, Respondent-Appellant.

No. 00-1809

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

February 5, 2001

Argued: October 26, 2000

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan at Kalamazoo: No. 99-00312, Richard A. Enslen, Chief District Judge.

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David A. Dodge, DODGE & DODGE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellee.

Jennifer M. Granholm, Janet A. Van Cleve, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, HABEAS CORPUS DIVISION, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellant.

Michael J. Hodge, MILLER, CANFIELD, PADDOCK & STONE, Lansing, Michigan, George D. Mesritz, MILLER, CANFIELD, PADDOCK & STONE, Detroit, Michigan, Tina M. Weatherwax-Grant, Lansing, Michigan, for Amici Curiae.

T. Lynn Hopkins, KENT COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Before: SUHRHEINRICH and MOORE, Circuit Judges; EDMUNDS, District Judge[*].

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SUHRHEINRICH, Circuit Judge.

I. Introduction

On January 1, 1993, the Michigan Legislature enacted a comprehensive stalking law, Mich. Comp. Laws 750.411h ("Stalking") and 750.411i ("Aggravated Stalking")1. The law defines "stalking" as "a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.411i(e). "Harassment" is defined as "conduct directed toward a victim that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact that would cause a reasonable individual to suffer emotional distress and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress." Id. § 750.411i(d). Expressly excluded from the definition of "harassment" is "constitutionally protected activity or conduct that serves a legitimate purpose." Id2.

On habeas review the district court ruled that the aggravating stalking statute was unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment because the exclusions for "constitutionally protected activity" and "conduct that serves a legitimate purpose" are so limited that the scope of conduct covered by the statute applied to core First Amendment conduct. The court therefore granted Petitioner Jerry Lee Staley's petition for writ of habeas corpus on July14, 20003.

The matter is now before us on the expedited appeal of Respondent Warden Kurt Jones ("Respondent"). Michigan State Senator Dianne Byrum, The Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, The Michigan Sheriffs' Association, and The National Organization for Women, Michigan Conference have filed a joint brief supporting Respondent's position. The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, along with the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board have also filed a joint amicus brief supporting Respondent's view.

II. Background

A. Facts

In late 1993, Petitioner Jerry Lee Staley was charged with aggravated stalking of his ex-girlfriend, Joellyn Weber. Weber began seeing Staley in April of 1993. She was separated from her husband at the time. On July 4, 1993, however, Weber told Staley that she did not want to see him anymore, because she had reunited with her husband. In October, Weber received a phone call from Staley's sister-in-law reporting that Staley's brother had died the previous evening and that, in the sister-in law's view, Weber should talk with him. Weber started seeing Staley again as a result of that call. She was separated from her husband again at the time.

On October 31, 1993, Weber and her son Ronnie were visiting Staley at his home. Weber wanted to go shopping, but Staley did not want her to go without him. Weber testified that Staley "threw her around" and tore up her purse. When Weber went

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to work the next day, Weber had what she characterized as a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized. Weber was discharged on November 5th, went to Staley's home to pick up some belongings, and told Staley the relationship was over.

That night, when Weber was asleep, Staley entered her home and confronted Weber in her bedroom, trying to get her to change her mind. Weber repeatedly asked him to leave, but he did not. When she yelled for her son, Staley put his hand over her mouth. Weber bit his hand and screamed for her son, who came running. Weber eventually succeeded in getting Staley downstairs. She and her son also went downstairs. Both Weber and Ronnie tried to call the police, but Staley prevented them. Later, Weber tried to push Staley out the front door, and he threw her across the kitchen into the stove. He then left.

Staley then began calling Weber up to fifteen times a day, at home and at work. Weber continued to tell him that she did not want to see him any more. On November 15, 1993, Staley rammed Weber's car with his truck and chased her with a baseball bat.

Staley returned the next day, November 16, 1993. Weber testified that:

I was - my son and I were home. My son was upstairs playing pool. I was in my laundry room doing laundry. And I came out. And he was standing in my living room. He broke in through the back door. And I just immediately sat down. And I just kept looking at the floor and asking - I just kept repeating, please leave, please leave. He just slowly started inching towards me on my couch. So I just picked up the phone and I called my brother and - or my brother's home. And my sister-in-law answered. She asked me if everything was okay. I said no. And she said, he's there, isn't he. And I said, yes. And he kept sayin', who are you talkin' to, bitch, tell me who you're talkin' to. And I wouldn't say anything. I just kept sayin', please leave, please leave.

And he went out into the kitchen and he yanked the cord out of the plug-in in the wall. And he came back in and he had a buck knife with him. And he held it by the point and was like this at me (demonstrating ) and told me, tell me who you're talkin' to, bitch, or I'm gonna slice your gut wide open.

And I knew at that point I had to get out. But my son was upstairs. And I yelled for him. And I didn't know it at the time, but he was just sitting at the top of the stairs. And he came running down. And I went to jump over my love seat. And I - he grabbed me. And I - I just screamed, Ronnie, call 911, get outta here. And he pulled me back to him and he put the knife right to my throat and he said, bitch, tell me who you're talkin' to or I'm gonna slice ya ear to ear. And I screamed to Ronnie to call 911. And he just flung me. And he pulled his pants out and shoved the knife in and he said, fuck it, I'm gonna go kill your brother and his wife and his kids. And out the door he went.

Later that night, Staley called and told Weber she'd better get out of town, that he was going to kill her mother, her son, and her brother, and that he was going to come to her store the next day and kill her.

After threatening to burn down her house, Staley asked Weber if she had checked her smoke alarm recently. When Weber checked the alarm, the battery was missing. In December 1993, Weber started taping Staley's phone calls. One evening Staley called constantly from 6:20 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. when Weber took the phone off the hook. The tape was played for the jury, who heard Staley threatening to burn Weber in her sleep, and told her to "say goodbye to Ronnie."

B. Procedural History

On the day of his conviction, Staley pled guilty to being a habitual offender, fourth offense, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12. He was initially sentenced to life imprisonment. Staley appealed his conviction,

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claiming that the Michigan stalking statute is unconstitutional and that his sentence was disproportionate. The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected Staley's constitutional claim, but held that his sentence was excessive and disproportionate. See State v. Staley, No. 178555 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. 20, 1996) (unpublished per curiam). On remand, Staley was sentenced to 15-25 years imprisonment. The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal on May 30, 1997. See People v. Staley, 564 N.W.2d 898 (Mich. May 30, 1997) (No. 107330).

Having fully exhausted his remedies in state court, Staley filed this federal habeas action. The district court granted Staley's petition for writ of habeas corpus after concluding that the antistalking statute violates the First Amendment because it is overbroad. See Staley v. Jones, 108 F.Supp.2d 777 (W.D. Mich. 2000).

C. District Court Ruling

Staley argued that Michigan's aggravated stalking statute is unconstitutionally vague, places defendants at risk of double jeopardy, and unconstitutionally shifts the burden of proof to the defendant. See id. at 779. The district court rejected Staley's double jeopardy and burden-shifting claims, but agreed that his vagueness arguments have merit because the statute could potentially be applied in violation of the First Amendment. See id. at 779-80, 788.

The district court began by analyzing the statute. The court noted that the statutory definition of "stalking" has three distinct elements. First, "stalking" requires a "willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another." Id. at 781. Second, the term "requires that the harassment would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested." Id. Third, the definition "requires that the harassment actually cause the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested." Id.


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