King v. Winn

Decision Date22 April 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 19-cv-10091
PartiesWILLIAM RANDOLPH KING, Petitioner, v. THOMAS WINN, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan

Hon. Matthew F. Leitman

OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS (ECF No. 1), (2) DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND (3) GRANTING PERMISSION TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

Michigan prisoner William Randolph King has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (See Pet., ECF No. 1.) In September 2016, a jury in the Wayne County Circuit Court convicted King of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.520b(1)(c), kidnapping, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.349, and third-degree criminal sexual, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.520d(1)(b). The state trial court then sentenced him as a fourth-time habitual felony offender to 40 to 75 years in prison for the first-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction and to lesser concurrent terms for the other convictions.

King raises three claims in his petition: (1) the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense when it failed to timely submit a pubic hair for DNA testing, (2) the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury to presume that test results on the pubic hair would have been unfavorable to the prosecution, and (3) the trial court incorrectly scored the sentencing guidelines and sentenced him in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (See id.)

The Court has carefully reviewed the petition and will deny relief because the Michigan Court of Appeals' adjudication of King's claims did not result in an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court law. The Court will also deny King a certificate of appealability, but it will grant him permission to appeal in forma pauperis.

I

The charges against King arose from a cold-case sexual assault investigation. The complainant, Erin Long, flagged down police officers on August 5, 2005. She told them that she had just escaped from a van after being raped. Long was treated at a local hospital, and samples were taken for a rape kit. The rape kit was sent to the Detroit Police Department (the "DPD"), where it sat untested for almost ten years.

In 2015, the Michigan State Police (the "MSP") agreed to assist the DPD with its large backlog of untested rape kits. The MSP then sent Long's kit to a private firm, Bode Technology Group, for testing. Bode tested the kit, and the test produced a DNA profile for sperm cells found on Long's vaginal swab. The profile was sent back to the MSP, and the MSP then ran the DNA profile in the Federal Bureau ofInvestigation's CODIS DNA database. The sample matched King's CODIS profile. Police subsequently obtained a known DNA sample from King, and it too matched the sperm sample from Long's rape kit.

At around this same time, a second lab technician investigating a different DPD case identified King as a match to a DNA sample taken from another complainant, Nichole McClintock. McClintock reported being raped by two men in Detroit on August 16, 2014. A foreign pubic hair was also found during McClintock's rape examination. That hair was not tested at that time because, unlike the sample that matched to King, it required more specialized mitochondrial DNA testing.

The prosecutor subsequently charged King with six counts of criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping with respect to Long's allegations. But the prosecutor did not charge King with assaulting McClintock. Instead, the prosecutor added McClintock as an other-acts witness in Long's case. The prosecutor's theory was that in both cases, King demonstrated a common scheme or plan by targeting vulnerable young women found in public places who were drug abusers. The defense theory, on the other hand, was that both Long and McClintock were sex workers. King claimed that he paid Long for consensual sex and that he and he and his son had consensual sex with McClintock.

Prior to trial, the prosecution disclosed to the defense the existence of the foreign pubic hair that was found in McClintock's rape kit. King's counsel then asked the trial court to order a lab to conduct a "forensic evaluation" of the hair on the basis that the results of that test may be "exculpatory evidence." (ECF No. 9-12, PageID.361.) The prosecutor told the court that it was her belief that the hair had already been submitted for testing, but because the MSP did not have the capability to conduct the test itself, the hair had to be sent to the FBI. And the prosecutor did not know how long it would take to conduct the test. The prosecutor further argued that, in any event, the test results would not be exculpatory because McClintock had reported being raped by two men, and thus a pubic hair from a second man would not exonerate King. The court did not believe that the hair evidence was "relevant," but it nonetheless instructed the prosecutor to "find out" whether the lab had completed its testing of the hair. (Id., PageID.363.) It appears that the court later entered an order requiring that the hair be tested. (See ECF No. 9-13, PageID.374.)

On the first morning of trial, the prosecution provided to defense counsel a report from the MSP that the pubic hair had still not been tested. Defense counsel then moved to exclude McClintock's other-acts testimony due to the failure to test the hair as the court had previously ordered. The prosecutor responded that the hair had been sent out to be tested, but the testing had not yet been completed. The trial court denied King's motion to exclude McClintock's testimony, and it indicated itsintention to proceed with trial that day. (See id., PageID.373-376.) The following morning, King requested a jury instruction directing the jury to presume that the testing of the hair would have been unfavorable to the prosecution, and the trial court denied that request. (See ECF No. 9-14, PageID.518-520.)

At trial, Long testified that on August 5, 2005, King forcibly sexually assaulted her multiple times after she accepted a ride in his van. Long explained that she only agreed to the ride because there was another woman inside the van. King then dropped that woman off at a store, drove Long to a secluded spot at a gas station, and forcibly raped her.

After this alleged assault, King picked up several other men. They drove to an industrial area of Detroit where King and the other men stole copper piping from a building. Long testified that King then sexually assaulted her a second time in a residential neighborhood while the other men unloaded the stolen materials. King suggested that all of the other men would be given a turn with Long, and Long ran from the van. She flagged down police officers, and the officers drove Long to Detroit Receiving Hospital, where the rape kit was performed.

An MSP lab technician testified to the process that led to King being identified as the man who assaulted Long through DNA testing.

McClintock testified that she was raped by two unknown men on August 16, 2014. She said that her mother dropped her off that morning at a friend's house inPontiac while she (McClintock) was detoxing from a heroin addiction. The friend gave her a pill to help her with withdrawal symptoms, and McClintock fell asleep. The next thing McClintock knew, she woke up on a couch in a house in Detroit. The house was full of people. Two men, an older man and a younger man, took McClintock into a bedroom where they raped her. They then drove her to a commercial street and dropped her off. McClintock called her mother who drove her to a hospital where a rape kit was performed. While McClintock was able to describe the assault, she did not identify King as one of the men that raped her. The jury was told that King had been connected to the McClintock assault by the DNA testing described above conducted by the second lab technician.

King testified in his own defense. He said that he frequently did business with prostitutes, and that he would compensate them with money and drugs in exchange for sex. He admitted to having sex with both Long and McClintock. He said the sex in both cases was consensual. He testified that he paid Long forty dollars for sex. He then testified that he and his son picked up McClintock on the street, had sex, and later dropped her off. He denied being at a house in Detroit with lots of people, and he suggested that the alleged assault that McClintock described might have occurred after he and his son dropped her off. King's son, however, did not testify to corroborate King's story.

The jury found King guilty of two counts of criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping.

Prior to sentencing, the prosecutor received the results of the DNA analysis performed on the foreign pubic hair found during McClintock's rape examination. Those results showed that the hair belonged to a man named Ronald Lydiel Topps. Topps did not have any other connection to Long's trial or King's conviction. At the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor gave King's counsel a copy of the test results showing that the hair belonged to Topps. King's counsel then indicated that he planned to file a motion for new trial based on this new evidence, but it does not appear that one was ever filed.

King filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals. His brief on appeal, filed by his appellate counsel, raised three claims:

I. Mr. King was denied due process when potentially exculpatory evidence, which supported his theory of the case, was not produced before or during trial.
II. Mr. King was entitled to have the jury given a negative inference instruction regarding the material the government had in its possession for years, but failed to test.
III. Defendant-appellant is entitled to be resentenced as his current sentence is contrary to Const 1963, art 1, § 16, and his guidelines were incorrectly scored.

The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed King's conviction in an unpublished opinion. See People v. King, ...

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