Matthews v. Abramajtys, Civil Action No. 98-CV-73319-DT.
|92 F.Supp.2d 615
|11 April 2000
|Civil Action No. 98-CV-73319-DT.
|Lorenzo MATTHEWS, Petitioner, v. Joseph ABRAMAJTYS, Respondent.
|United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
James S. Lawrence, Detroit, MI, for Petitioner.
Laura G. Moody, Michigan Dept. of Attorney General, Habeas Corpus Div., Lansing, MI, for Respondent.
I. Introduction .............................. 620 II. Facts ..................................... 621 III. Procedural History ........................ 623 IV. Discussion ................................ 626 A. Standard of Review ..................... 626 B. Exhaustion ............................. 627 C. Procedural Default ..................... 628 D. Laches ................................. 630 E. Insufficiency of Evidence .............. 632 F. Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel ................................ 634 1. Deficient Performance ............... 635 a. Failure to Cross-Examine Child Witnesses .................. 635 b. Waiver of Deon Corbett as a Witness ........................ 636 c. Failure to Present Alibi Witnesses ........................ 637 2. Prejudice ........................... 638 G. Admission of Other Crimes Evidence...... 640 H. Prosecutorial Misconduct ............... 641 I. Ineffective Assistance of Appellate Counsel ................................ 642 V. Conclusion ............................. 643
Petitioner Lorenzo Matthews ("Petitioner"), a state prisoner currently confined at the Ionia Maximum Facility in Ionia, Michigan,2 has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 alleging that he is incarcerated in violation of his constitutional rights. Petitioner was convicted of three counts of first degree murder and one count of felony firearm following a bench trial in the Recorder's Court for the City of Detroit in July of 1986. He was sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment and a consecutive term of two years imprisonment on September 4, 1986. People v. Lorenzo Matthews, Recorder's Ct. No. 86-01765.
Mr. Matthews claims that he is entitled to habeas relief based upon claims of insufficiency of the evidence, ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, admission of other crimes evidence, and prosecutorial misconduct. Mr. Matthews has maintained his innocence. This Court finds that there was insufficient evidence to support Mr. Matthews conviction. Further, he was denied the effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, and that admission of his mug shot violated due process. Therefore, the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is GRANTED.
Petitioner's convictions arise from the robbery and shooting deaths of Bruce Baxter, his wife Marilyn Baxter, and their next door neighbor Robert Williams on the morning of December 12, 1985 at the Baxters' residence at 9627 Westwood in Detroit, Michigan.
Several police officers testified at trial regarding the circumstances of the crime and their investigation of the crime scene. Responding to 911 calls, police officers found the Baxters in the basement of their home and found Mr. Williams outside the home near his still-running car around 8:35 a.m. Although there was no evidence of a break-in, the Baxters' home had been ransacked, Mr. Baxter's pockets were empty, Mrs. Baxter's purse was empty, and several jewelry items were missing from the home. All three victims died of multiple gunshot wounds. There was no dispute the elements of felony murder were established. The only dispute was whether or not Mr. Matthews was one of the three persons seen running from the scene. Police did not find fingerprints or other physical evidence on the scene linking him to the crime.
Off-duty police officer Gilbert McReynolds testified that, while at home on December 12, 1985, he observed Mr. Matthews walking alone on Orangelawn (one street east of Westwood) near Grandville in the direction of the Baxters' residence shortly after 8:00 a.m. Officer McReynolds heard gunshots approximately 20 minutes later, but could not tell where those shots originated. Officer McReynolds could not recall what Petitioner was wearing that morning, but a report that he completed shortly after the incident described Mr. Matthews as being six-feet three or four inches tall and wearing blue jeans and a dark jacket. McReynolds acknowledged that Petitioner lived in the neighborhood and that he had often seen him in the area.
Several children testified that, while walking to school on December 12, 1985, they saw three males running from the vicinity of the Baxters' residence. None of the children could identify those individuals. Michael Barmore, age 8, testified that he heard gunshots and saw three boys running on Minock Street (one block away from and parallel to Westwood) toward Plymouth. He stated that one of the boys wore a red jacket with a hood, one wore a red and blue Sixers jacket, and one wore an orange jacket; but he also stated that he did not see the third jacket. He did not see a gun.
Terrance Barmore, age 10, testified that he heard three gunshots and saw a man laying by a tree on Westwood, while another man leaned over him and then ran into a house. He saw three boys running down the street and dropped to the ground until they passed. He stated that one of the boys wore an orange and blue windbreaker and one wore a gray Georgetown jacket, but he did not see the third coat.
Emmanuel Jones, age 12, testified that he heard three gunshots while walking to school and saw three men running down Minock. He stated that two of the men wore red, blue, and yellow jackets and the other man wore a blue and gray Georgetown jacket. He also saw one of the men carrying a handgun at his side while running.
Deangelo Williams, age 10, testified that he heard four gunshots and then saw three guys running from Orangelawn onto Minock. One of the men was carrying a small gun as he ran. He testified that one man wore a red Sixers jacket and one wore a gray and blue Georgetown jacket, but he did not see the third man's jacket. He thought one of the men was someone he had seen at Cody High School because of his height, but admitted that he did not see his face.
Jovan Willis, age 10, testified that he heard gunshots and saw three boys running from Orangelawn onto Minock toward Plymouth. One boy was carrying a handgun by his side. One of the boys wore a blue and orange jacket with a blue vest and blue hood, one wore a red Sixers jacket, and one wore a gray Georgetown jacket. He described the boys as being older than himself and explained that two were the size of men and one was like a teenager.
Leon Lewis, age 9, testified that he heard four gunshots while he was outside on Minock, but did not see anyone running down the street.
Defense counsel did not cross-examine any of the child witnesses. Defense counsel also agreed to waive the presentation of three additional child witnesses, including Deon Corbett.
Over defense objection, a mug shot of Petitioner wearing a blue Georgetown jacket with gray lettering was admitted into evidence. The photograph was taken in January, 1985, about 11 months prior to the incident at issue.
Marilyn Pryor, an adult living on Minock Street, testified that she saw three boys running down her street when she let her children out for school around 8:25 a.m. on December 12, 1985. She thought she recognized one of the men as Petitioner. Mrs. Pryor explained that she had seen Petitioner in the neighborhood and believed he went to Cody High School with her nieces. She stated that all three men had the same complexion and were about the same size, but she could not estimate their heights. Ms. Pryor admitted that she only had a side view of the men and merely glanced at them as they ran past. She could not positively identify Petitioner as one of those men.
Reverend James Ellison, Mr. Williams' next door neighbor, testified that he heard four gunshots on the morning of December 12, 1985. When he opened his front door and looked outside, he saw a man with a dark object in his left hand leaning over Mr. Williams on the ground. He yelled out to the man and told his wife to call the police. The man then ran away. Reverend Ellison went outside and discovered that Mr. Williams had been shot. Reverend Ellison testified that Petitioner was not the man he saw with Mr. Williams. Ronald Ramirez, another neighbor, observed the man confront and shoot Mr. Williams before running toward Minock, but did not identify the perpetrator.
Two jewelers also testified at Petitioner's trial. Bobby Berry, the owner of the Gold Express in Detroit, testified that Petitioner sold him a Mercedes Benz ring a week or so before the Christmas holiday in December, 1985. In exchange for the ring, Mr. Berry gave Petitioner $750 in cash and a large gold rope chain with a medallion. He estimated that the ring was worth $12,000 to $15,000. Krikor Oknayan, a manager at Kayanan Jeweler Corporation, testified that a jeweler in his store made the Mercedes Benz ring for Bruce Baxter approximately two years prior to the trial. He estimated the present value of the ring to be $12,000.
Jonathan Hudson, the Baxters' nephew, testified that he worked for the Baxters performing household chores and babysitting after school. Mr. Hudson testified that Petitioner had been at the Baxters' residence on several occasions and was there two days before the murders. Petitioner and Mr. Baxter spoke in the basement for about one hour that evening, but Mr. Hudson did not participate in the conversation. Mr. Hudson also testified that he was...
To continue readingRequest your trial
Dell v. Straub
...this Court must determine whether the state court's application of the Jackson standard was reasonable. Matthews v. Abramajtys, 92 F.Supp.2d 615, 632 (E.D.Mich.2000) (Tarnow, J.). A reviewing court does not reweigh the evidence or redetermine the credibility of the witnesses whose demeanor ......
Hargrave-Thomas v. Yukins
...witnesses because the prosecution's case was "so weak" fell below minimum standards of competence); Matthews v. Abramajtys, 92 F.Supp.2d 615, 637-38 (E.D.Mich.2000) (Tarnow, J.) (reasoning that failure to interview alibi witnesses or present a defense theory, and relying solely on the weakn......
Johnson v. Hofbauer
...and fact, this Court must determine whether the state court's application of the Jackson standard was reasonable. Matthews v. Abramajtys, 92 F.Supp.2d 615, 632 (E.D.Mich.2000) (citations B. The individual claims. 1. The failure to direct a verdict on the first degree murder charge. Petition......
Regan v. Hoffner
...claim would be efficient and would not offend the interest of federal-state comity. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2); Matthews v. Abramajtys, 92 F.Supp.2d 615, 628 (E.D.Mich.2000)(Tarnow, J.)(internal citations omitted). In these circumstances, a federal court should dismiss a non-federal or frivolou......