Schneider v. Booker, CASE NO. 2:10-CV-15017

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
Writing for the CourtGEORGE CARAM STEEH
PartiesJUSTIN SCHNEIDER, Petitioner, v. RAYMOND BOOKER, Respondent.
Docket NumberCASE NO. 2:10-CV-15017
Decision Date10 July 2012


CASE NO. 2:10-CV-15017


Dated: July 10, 2012



Justin Schneider, ("Petitioner"), confined at the Macomb Correctional Facility in New Haven, Michigan, seeks the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his application, filed by attorney Neil C. Williston, petitioner challenges his conviction for first-degree premeditated murder, M.C.L.A. 750.316. For the reasons stated below, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

I. Background

Petitioner was convicted of the above charge following a jury trial in the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court. Petitioner's conviction arose out of the murder of a prostitute named Karen Sue Hussine-Sanders in Kalamazoo, Michigan in August of 2002.

On August 12, 2002, an animal control officer discovered the victim's body near the Sackett Brick Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (Tr. 10/24/07, p. 221-22). Kalamazoo Public Safety Crime Laboratory Specialist Gary Latham subsequently arrived at the crime scene. The victim was lying facedown in the brush. Latham

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testified that it appeared as though some weeds had been placed over her. The victim was naked from the waist down and her shirt and bra had been pulled up to her neck. (Id., pp. 226-227, 236, 240-42, 252, 256, 260, 264-66, 292-95). Latham believed that the victim had been carried to, and not dragged, to the area where her body was discovered. (Id., pp. 264-65). Latham testified that the victim's blood-stained white shorts were recovered about twenty feet away in the trees, about five or six feet above the ground. (Id., pp. 251-52, 260, 265, 282, 345). The victim's underwear was found next to her body in the area near her feet. (Id., pp. 265-66, 268, 285, 330-31). Latham also discovered a landscaping block that was approximately nine inches long and seven and a half inches wide and which weighed 21¼ pounds. The block was about fifteen feet from the woman's body. (Id., pp. 241, 244, 246-47, 282, 345). According to John Sackett, the owner of Sackett Brick, such a block was missing from the retaining wall by the road. (Id., pp. 226-27).

Latham sprayed a chemical on the area which revealed "a blunt force strong enough to throw large volumes of blood quite a distance." The blood spatter covered a distance of about twelve feet, which Latham testified was the farthest that he had ever seen. Latham also recovered a gray polo shirt in the weeds approximately five feet east of the victim's woman's body and a black short sleeved shirt that was about six to seven feet east of the victim's body. (Id., pp. 243-49, 254, 261-64, 269, 281-85, 345).

John Sackett testified that he found a single "burn out mark" from a vehicle, which had apparently left the area quickly. This mark was at least twenty feet from the victim's body. (Id., pp. 227, 240).

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On the early morning hours of Saturday, August 10, 2002, a canine officer from the Kalamazoo Police was called to help search for a drunk driver who had fled from the police. The dog tracked from the open driver's side door of petitioner's truck to the east. About thirty yards away, the canine officer saw a shoe. After jumping over a fence, the dog continued to proceed west, finding another shoe next to a knife. The police found petitioner behind a chain-link fence, hiding behind a tree. The track only took about ten minutes. The area where the victim's body would be found two days later was less than ½-mile from where the police began tracking petitioner. (Id., pp. 314-19).

Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department Deputy Michael Denoon transported petitioner to the Kalamazoo County Jail following his arrest for drunk driving. Deputy Denoon indicated that petitioner was "very agitated," made several insults, suffered from mood swings, and made threats. Petitioner warned Deputy Denoon that "he could kick any police officer's ass" if he was not handcuffed. Petitioner was so combative that Deputy Denoon had to use a number of defensive techniques to get him inside the jail. Petitioner was six feet tall and weighed 225 pounds. Petitioner did not inform Deputy Denoon that anyone had tried to assault him or that someone needed medical assistance. (Id., pp. 298-301, 304-06).

Forensic pathologist Doctor Marcus Nashelsky performed an autopsy on the victim. Given the nature of the victim's head injuries and decomposition, Dr. Nashelsky estimated that she was about 5' 3" tall, and weighed about 160 pounds. Dr. Nashelsky testified that blunt-force trauma injuries to the victim's head killed her. Dr. Nashelsky indicated that the victim's head had been fractured into "at least 60 pieces." In addition, the victim's hyoid bone, which is a small U-shaped bone located high in the neck, had

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been fractured. Dr. Nashelsky testified that such a fracture is often seen in cases that involve manual strangulation. Dr. Nashelsky opined that the victim was already on the ground when she was struck. Dr. Nashelsky indicated that the victim could have been struck more than once. (Tr. 10/26/07, pp. 490-98, 500-01, 511-18, 525).

Forensic anthropologist Doctor Todd Fenton assisted in the victim's autopsy. Dr. Fenton agreed that the woman suffered massive blunt-force trauma consistent with being struck with a 21 ¼-pound concrete block. Given the amount of fracturing, Dr. Fenton could not rule out two blows to the victim. (Id., pp. 521-27, 529-31).

The victim was identified by her fingerprints. (Tr. 10/24/07, pp. 333, 338-39, 346-48, 350). The victim was arrested almost two months before she was murdered. At the time of her arrest, the victim was 5' 1" tall and weighed 190 pounds. (Id., p. 336). The victim's roommate indicated that the victim did not carry a weapon when she worked. (Id., p. 354).

On August 7, 2006, nearly four years after the murder, DNA collected from semen and other biological material that had been recovered from the black t-shirt and gray polo shirt found at the crime scene were matched through a national DNA database with Petitioner's DNA. (Tr. 10/25/07, pp. 372, 376-80). Blood that had been recovered from petitioner's gray polo shirt matched the victim's DNA profile. (Id., pp.373-74, 376).

Following his arrest for the murder, petitioner made a statement to the police in which he admitted to having sex with the victim on three or four prior occasions. Petitioner stated that on the night in question, the victim suggested that they go to Sackett Brick, where she performed oral sex on him in his pickup truck for $10 or $15.

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Petitioner told the police that the victim then agreed to have sex with him in the bed of his pickup for no additional charge. Petitioner told the police that after they finished putting on their clothes, the victim lunged at him with a knife for no reason. Petitioner responded by punching the victim in the nose and knocking her down to one knee, which caused her to bleed. Petitioner told the police that the victim still had the knife in her possession. Petitioner then grabbed the cement block and threw it at the victim, hitting her head. Although the victim dropped the knife and fell to the ground, petitioner indicated that she was swearing and angry. Petitioner picked up the block and threw it at the victim a second time. Petitioner told the police that the victim was still alive when he left because she was moaning. Petitioner told the police that he drove away from the crime scene, with his headlights were off. Petitioner indicated that a deputy who was driving by turned around and began following petitioner. Petitioner acknowledged that he fled from the police because he was afraid that the deputy knew what he had just done to the victim. (Id., pp. 401-08).

In a second interview with the police, petitioner informed them that he dragged the victim's body to the weeds and covered it with weeds that he pulled. Petitioner told the police that the knife that he took from the victim remained in the console of his pickup, which he had abandoned when the deputy chased him. Petitioner did not know why he did not tell the police on the night of his arrest about what had happened so that the victim could get help. (Id., pp. 413-16).

In June of 2007, while awaiting trial on the charge, petitioner discussed his case with two cellmates at the Kalamazoo County Jail, Christian Jones and Dennis Gilleylen. Petitioner told the two men that he had refused to pay the victim after they had sex.

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The victim became upset and an argument broke out, which turned physical. Petitioner told Jones and Gilleylen that he picked up a brick and hit the victim twice, bashing in her head. Petitioner started to leave, but then, he "dragged her over to some weeds and pushed her body into some weeds." (Tr. 10/25/07, pp. 441-42; Tr. 10/26/07, pp. 467-68, 475). Petitioner told Gilleylen that he had lied to the police about the victim having a knife. (Tr. 10/26/07, pp. 468, 477-78).

Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal. People v. Schneider, No....

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