Griffin v. Perry, Case No. 2:18-cv-21

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
Writing for the CourtMaarten Vermaat United States Magistrate Judge
PartiesJAKEEME ORLANDO GRIFFIN, Petitioner, v. MITCH PERRY, Respondent.
Decision Date19 March 2021
Docket NumberCase No. 2:18-cv-21

JAKEEME ORLANDO GRIFFIN, Petitioner,
v.
MITCH PERRY, Respondent.

Case No. 2:18-cv-21

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN NORTHERN DIVISION

March 19, 2021


Honorable Gordon J. Quist

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner Jakeeme Orlando Griffin is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections at the Woodland Center Correctional Facility in Whitmore Lake, Livingston County, Michigan. On October 10, 2014, following a four-day jury trial in the Berrien County Circuit Court, Petitioner was convicted of two counts of felonious assault, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.82; two counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm (AGBH), in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.84; one count of carrying a concealed weapon (CCW), in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227; one count of felon in possession of a firearm (felon-in-possession), in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224f; and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (felony-firearm), in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b. On November 17, 2014, the court sentenced Petitioner to concurrent prison terms of 2 to 6 years on each count of felonious assault, 5 to 15 years on each count of AGBH, 3 years to 7 years, 6 months for CCW, and 3 years to 7 years, 6 months for felon-in-possession. Those concurrent sentences were to be served consecutively to a sentence of 2 years for felony-firearm.

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On January 29, 2018, Petitioner timely filed his habeas corpus petition raising six grounds for relief, as follows:

I. The prosecutor engaged in misconduct and denied [Petitioner] a fair trial when he bolstered the testimony of the state's witnesses and called [Petitioner] a liar during closing.

II. [Petitioner's] federal and state constitutional rights to the effective assistance of counsel were violated where counsel failed to make crucial objections.

III. [Petitioner's] convictions must be reversed where the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [Petitioner] committed the crimes.

IV. [The] Sixth Amendment was violated where [the] jury was not sworn in violation of [the Michigan Court Rules] and federal law.

V. [Petitioner's] Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment [rights] were violated when [he] was overcharged contrary to law.

VI. Prior Record Variables and Offense Variables [were scored incorrectly].

(Pet., ECF No. 1, PageID.5-10, 15, 17.) Respondent has filed an answer to the petition (ECF No. 10) stating that the grounds should be denied because they are procedurally defaulted, meritless, or both. Upon review and applying the standards of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (AEDPA), I find that the grounds are meritless. Accordingly, I recommend that the petition be denied.

Discussion

I. Factual allegations

The Michigan Court of Appeals described the facts underlying Petitioner's convictions as follows:

Defendant's convictions arise from an altercation occurring on April 18, 2014, during which he fired a handgun in the direction of the victims, Juan Hassel, Jr., and Ponenail "P.J." Wright, Jr. At trial, defendant admitted that he fired the handgun but contended that he did so in self-defense. Witnesses at trial offered conflicting testimony. The altercation arose from a long-running feud between defendant's younger brother, Henry Griffin, and Anfernee Kyles, who lived next

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door. The feud had resulted in several physical altercations and had involved the two boys' families and friends. On the date of this incident, defendant arrived at his home in his grandmother's vehicle. Hassel and Wright were in the driveway next door, exiting a U-Haul truck. The parties exchanged words. Defendant and his mother testified that Wright threatened defendant's life. Other witnesses testified that defendant threatened Wright and Hassel's life. In any event, defendant acknowledged that he fired shots toward the two victims. Defendant alleged that he fired because Wright was holding a book bag and had his hand on what defendant believed to be the handle of a firearm. There was testimony that after defendant started shooting, Hassel retrieved a handgun from the cab of the U-Haul and returned fire. Defendant was charged and convicted of firing shots at Hassel and Wright.

(Mich. Ct. App. Op., ECF No. 11-10, PageID.1311.) "The facts as recited by the Michigan Court of Appeals are presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)." Shimel v. Warren, 838 F.3d 685, 688 (6th Cir. 2016). Although Petitioner denies that the events occurred as described by the other witnesses, his habeas challenges do not call into question the accuracy of the appellate court's description of the testimony.

After hearing testimony for two and one-half days, closing arguments, and instructions, the jurors deliberated for about two hours before finding Petitioner guilty of five of the counts as charged: two counts of felonious assault, one count of carrying a concealed weapon, one count of felon-in-possession, and one count of felony-firearm. Petitioner was also charged with two counts of assault with intent to murder. The jurors did not find Petitioner guilty of those charges, instead they found him guilty of the lesser charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm with respect to each victim. The trial court sentenced Petitioner as described above.

Petitioner moved for a new trial. (Pet'r's New Trial Mot., ECF No. 11-10, PageID.1339-1380.) That request was denied. (Berrien Cnty. Cir. Ct. Order, ECF No. 11-10, PageID.1383-1387.)

Petitioner directly appealed his convictions and sentences. In the brief he filed with the assistance of counsel he raised the issues he raises in this Court as habeas grounds I-III.

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(Pet'r's Appeal Br., ECF No. 11-10, PageID.1391.) By way of pro per supplemental briefs and motions, Petitioner raised in the court of appeals the issues he raises in this Court as habeas grounds IV-VI. By opinion issued October 6, 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals considered and rejected each of the issues Petitioner raised, affirming the trial court in all respects.

Petitioner then filed an application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court raising the same issues he raised in the court of appeals. By order entered November 29, 2017, the Supreme Court denied Petitioner's application for leave to appeal the October 6, 2016 judgment of the Court of Appeals. (Mich. Order, ECF No. 11-11, PageID.1544.) This timely petition followed.

II. AEDPA standard

The AEDPA "prevent[s] 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 of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). "Under these rules, [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." Stermer v. Warren, 959 F.3d 704, 721 (6th Cir. 2020) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted)). This standard is "intentionally difficult to meet." Woods v. Donald, 575 U.S. 312, 316 (2015) (internal quotation omitted).

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The AEDPA limits the source of law to cases decided by the United States Supreme Court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). In determining whether federal law is clearly established, the Court may not consider the decisions of lower federal courts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 381-82 (2000); Miller v. Straub, 299 F.3d 570, 578-79 (6th Cir. 2002). Moreover, "clearly established Federal law" does not include decisions of the Supreme Court announced after the last adjudication of the merits in state court. Greene v. Fisher, 565 U.S. 34, 37-38 (2011). Thus, the inquiry is limited to an examination of the legal landscape as it would have appeared to the Michigan state courts in light of Supreme Court precedent at the time of the state-court adjudication on the merits. Miller v. Stovall, 742 F.3d 642, 644 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Greene, 565 U.S. at 38).

A federal habeas court may issue the writ under the "contrary to" clause if the state court applies a rule different from the governing law set forth in the Supreme Court's cases, or if it decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has done on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Bell, 535 U.S. at 694 (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-06). "To satisfy this high bar, a habeas petitioner is required to 'show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.'" Woods, 575 U.S. at 316 (quoting Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103).

Determining whether a rule application was unreasonable depends on the rule's specificity. Stermer, 959 F.3d at 721. "The more general the rule, the more leeway courts have in reaching outcomes in case-by-case determinations." Yarborough, 541 U.S. at 664. "[W]here the precise contours of the right remain unclear, state courts enjoy broad discretion in their adjudication of a prisoner's claims." White v. Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, 424 (2014) (internal...

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