Louris v. Macauley, 2:19-CV-11017

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
Writing for the CourtGEORGE CARAM STEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
PartiesKENNETH EARL LOURIS, #407394, Petitioner, v. MATTHEW MACAULEY, Respondent.
Docket Number2:19-CV-11017
Decision Date29 June 2022

KENNETH EARL LOURIS, #407394, Petitioner,
v.

MATTHEW MACAULEY, Respondent.

No. 2:19-CV-11017

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

June 29, 2022


OPINION & ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, & DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL

GEORGE CARAM STEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

I. Introduction

Michigan prisoner Kenneth Earl Louris (“petitioner”) has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 asserting that he is being held in violation of his constitutional rights. The petitioner was convicted of first-degree felony murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(b), armed robbery, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.529, felon in possession of a firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.224f, and three counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b, following a jury trial in the Oakland County Circuit Court

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and was sentenced, as a fourth habitual offender, Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12, to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on the murder conviction, a concurrent term of 40 to 60 years imprisonment on the armed robbery conviction, a concurrent term of 6 to 30 years on the felon in possession conviction, and concurrent terms of 2 years imprisonment on the felony firearm convictions to be served consecutively to the other sentences.

In his pleadings, the petitioner raises claims concerning the jury instructions and his right to present a defense, the sufficiency of the evidence, and the great weight of the evidence. For the reasons stated herein, the Court denies the habeas petition. The Court also denies a certificate of appealability and denies leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.

II. Facts and Procedural History

The petitioner's convictions arise from the shooting death of a man during an armed robbery at a home in Pontiac, Michigan in 2015. The Michigan Court of Appeals described the underlying facts, which are presumed correct on habeas review, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009), as follows:

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This appeal arises from the conviction and sentences of defendant arising from the death of William McGee (victim) in December, 2015. On the evening of December 3, 2015, the victim and his friend Jordan Worrall went to the home of Lajazim Alexander in the City of Pontiac. They were joined there by others,[2] including a cousin of the victim Daijon Grandberry, and the victim's brother, Kavonte Manley. Witnesses testified that the men gathered in the basement of the home to gamble, primarily on dice. Of particular importance to this appeal was the conflicting testimony as to whether Worrall was gambling. Grandberry testified that Worrall was shooting dice and gambling whereas Worrall testified that although he had $50, he did not gamble
Witness testimony revealed that sometime between 11:30 and midnight, defendant came to Alexander's home and went into the basement. Though the exact time frame was not discernable, shortly after defendant arrived, he stuck what Worrall described as a long-barreled revolver to Worrall's ribs and demanded Worrall's money. According to Worrall, the victim told defendant, to “Leave ‘J' alone, Ken.”[3] Worrall testified that defendant then told the victim to “Shut the f*** up.” Then, defendant struck Worrall on the top of his head with the gun, knocking Worrall unconscious. Worrall does not recall a shot being fired, but according to Grandberry, as soon as defendant hit Worrall with the gun, the gun fired a single shot hitting the victim in the head. Manley could not specifically recall how much time passed between defendant hitting Worrall with the gun and the gun being fired, but he approximated it was 15 to 20 seconds.
After hearing shots, Alexander went to see what was happening in her basement when she heard Manley screaming
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“...he shot my brother.” She looked into the basement and saw defendant with a revolver in his hand and heard him state: “Quit playing with me, n***s. Where the f*** my money at?” She then screamed at defendant to get out of her house which he did, but not before most of the people in the basement had fled. A number of guests then telephoned police who arrived at Alexander's house. The victim was still alive, though he was lying in a large pool of blood having been shot in the head, and Worrall needed over twenty stitches in his head to close up the wound he had suffered as a result of the blow to his head. The victim died approximately five days later from the gunshot wound to the head.
After the close of proofs, defense counsel requested that the trial court instruct the jury on accident, M. Crim. JI 7.3a and involuntary manslaughter, M. Crim. JI 7.3. The trial court refused both instructions stating that neither instruction was supported by the evidence. Defendant was thereafter convicted and sentenced as stated above.

People v. Louris, No. 333123, 2017 WL 4700026, *1-2 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 19, 2017) (unpublished, per curiam) (footnotes in original).

Following his convictions and sentencing, the petitioner filed an appeal of right with the Michigan Court of Appeals raising the same claims presented on habeas review. The court denied relief on those claims and affirmed his convictions and sentences. Id. at *2-8. The petitioner then filed an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied. People v. Louris, 501 Mich. 1040, 908 N.W.2d 909 (2018).

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The petitioner thereafter filed his federal habeas petition. He raises the following claims:

I. He was denied his constitutional rights to a fair trial, to present a defense, and to a properly instructed jury under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.

II. His murder conviction must be reversed where the prosecution's evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted with malice.

III. Where the weight of the evidence so preponderates against the verdict of guilty of armed robbery, and for any larceny supporting the felony murder charge, and is so contradictory, it violates his rights.

The respondent has filed an answer to the petition contending that it should be denied.

III. Standard of Review

Federal law 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 proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -

(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
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(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceedings.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

“A state court's decision is ‘contrary to' . . . clearly established law if it ‘applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court cases]' or if it ‘confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [that] precedent.'” Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)); see also Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002).

“[T]he ‘unreasonable application' prong of § 2254(d)(1) permits a federal habeas court to ‘grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of petitioner's case.” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 413); see also Bell, 535 U.S. at 694. However, “[i]n order for a federal court find a state court's application of [Supreme Court] precedent ‘unreasonable,' the state court's decision must have been more than incorrect or erroneous. The state court's application must have been ‘objectively unreasonable.'”

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Wiggins, 539 U.S. at 520-21 (citations omitted); see also Williams, 529 U.S. at 409. “AEDPA thus imposes a ‘highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings,' and ‘demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.'” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (quoting Lindh, 521 U.S. at 333, n. 7; Woodford v. Viscotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam)).

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.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). The Supreme Court has emphasized “that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id. (citing Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)). Pursuant to § 2254(d), “a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or ... could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision" of the Supreme Court. Id. Thus, in order to obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's rejection

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of his claim “was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Id.; see also White v. Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, 419-20 (2014). Federal judges “are required to afford state courts due respect by overturning their...

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