Staley v. Jones

Decision Date14 July 2000
Docket NumberNo. 1:99-CV-312.,1:99-CV-312.
Citation108 F.Supp.2d 777
PartiesJerry Lee STALEY, Petitioner, v. Kurt JONES, Warden, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Michigan

David A. Dodge, David A. Dodge, PC, Grand Rapids, MI, for Jerry Lee Staley.

Janet A. VanCleve, Jennifer M. Granholm, Attorney General, Habeas Corpus Div., Lansing, MI, for Kurt Jones, Warden.


ENSLEN, Chief Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Jerry Lee Staley's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 2254. On April 11, 2000, United States Magistrate Judge Timothy Greeley filed a Report recommending that the Petition be denied. On April 21, 2000, Staley filed Objections to that Report. For the reasons discussed below, the Court adopts in part, and rejects in part, the Magistrate Judge's Report.

Procedural History

On June 29, 1994, after a jury trial, Staley was convicted in Michigan state court of Aggravated Stalking in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.411i. Also on that date, Staley pled guilty to being a habitual offender, in violation of Mich. Comp. Laws § 769.12. Staley was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Staley appealed his conviction and sentence through the state courts. Staley argued that Section 750.411i was unconstitutionally vague, that the trial court committed reversible error in allowing the Prosecutor to amend the Information, that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion to sever his charges, and that the sentence was excessive. The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the conviction but determined that the sentence was excessive and disproportionate. Thereafter, Staley was re-sentenced to 15-25 years of imprisonment. Staley pressed his appeal of the conviction to the Michigan Supreme Court which denied leave to appeal on May 30, 1997. Petitioner has fully exhausted his remedies in state court.

Habeas Corpus Standard

Staley's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is governed by 28 U.S.C. Section 2254(d)(1). Pursuant to Section 2254(d)(1), a writ of habeas corpus may only issue if the state court adjudication resulted in a decision that:

(1) `was contrary to ... clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States,' or

(2) `involved an unreasonable application of ... clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.'

Williams v. Taylor, ___ U.S. ___, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000) (O'Connor, J., concurring). The Supreme Court has also explained that:

[u]nder the `unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from this Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.



Staley asserts that he is entitled to habeas corpus relief because Michigan's Aggravated Stalking statute is unconstitutionally vague, places defendants at risk of double jeopardy, and unconstitutionally shifts the burden of proof to the defendant. The Magistrate Judge rejected each of these arguments in his Report.

Staley objects to the Report on three principal grounds. First, Staley attacks the Magistrate Judge's conclusions regarding his vagueness challenge. In particular, Staley contends that the Magistrate Judge erred when he determined that the Michigan Court of Appeals' decision in People v. White, 212 Mich.App. 298, 536 N.W.2d 876 (1995), had cured any vagueness in the statute as written. Second, Staley asserts that the Magistrate Judge incorrectly analyzed his Double Jeopardy Clause challenge by focusing on the wrong legal issue. Staley argues that his challenge derives from the successive prosecution prohibition of the Double Jeopardy Clause as opposed to the multiple punishment prohibition. Third, Staley argues that the Magistrate Judge's analysis of the burden-shifting challenge was erroneous because it ignored the possibility that Staley's trial motions for directed verdict, dismissal, and judgment notwithstanding the verdict were influenced by an improper presumption set forth in the statute.

The Court determines that Staley's objections to the Magistrate Judge's recommendations regarding his vagueness arguments have merit, but that his objections concerning the double jeopardy challenge and the burden-shifting challenge do not.

1. Double Jeopardy

The Magistrate Judge's Report recommended that Staley's challenge based on the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment be rejected because Staley was not subject to cumulative or multiple punishments for the same conduct. Staley responds that his claim is not based on the cumulative or multiple punishment prohibition, but instead on the prohibition against multiple prosecutions. Staley argues that the Double Jeopardy Clause was violated because he was placed at risk of having additional charges brought against him for the same conduct that formed the basis of his conviction for Aggravated Stalking.

As the Magistrate Judge noted, Staley does not have standing to raise a double jeopardy challenge because he was only convicted and sentenced for the single offense of Aggravated Stalking. He was never charged or tried with another crime. Therefore, regardless of the way in which Staley styles his double jeopardy challenge, he is without standing and his objection is overruled.

2. Burden Shifting

The Report also recommended that the Court reject Staley's claim that the presumption found in the Aggravated Stalking statute unconstitutionally shifted the burden of proof.1 The Magistrate Judge reasoned that because the jury was never instructed as to the presumption, Staley was not subject to any burden-shifting and his claim was without merit. Staley responds that the presumption affected his trial because it may have influenced the trial judge's decision to deny his motions for directed verdict, dismissal, and judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Therefore, Staley argues that he was subject to an unconstitutional shifting of the burden of proof.

Staley's argument is misplaced. The Supreme Court has explained that in criminal cases, the ultimate test of a presumption's constitutionality is that "the [presumption] must not undermine the fact finder's responsibility at trial, based on evidence adduced by the State, to find the ultimate facts beyond a reasonable doubt." County Court of Ulster County, New York v. Allen, 442 U.S. 140, 156, 99 S.Ct. 2213, 60 L.Ed.2d 777 (1979); In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970). Here, the jury was the fact finder and it determined that Staley was guilty of Aggravated Stalking without ever being instructed about the presumption. Therefore, there is absolutely no possibility that Staley's conviction resulted from an unconstitutional burden shift. Even if the trial judge were influenced by the presumption when he ruled on Staley's motions, a point which Staley is unable to support with any evidence from the record, these rulings did not influence the final determination of Staley's guilt or innocence by the jury. As a result, Staley's objection is overruled.

3. Vagueness

Staley's most persuasive argument is that Michigan's Aggravated Stalking statute is unconstitutionally vague. This argument is grounded in two distinct legal theories. First, Staley argues that the statute is overbroad and infringes upon conduct protected by the First Amendment. Second, Staley argues that the statute violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it: (a) fails to define the offense with sufficient definiteness such that an ordinary person could understand what conduct is prohibited; and (b) fails to establish adequate enforcement standards such that police officers are likely to engage in arbitrary enforcement.

The Court's analysis of Staley's vagueness challenge is divided into five parts. Part A examines the text of the statute. Part B sets forth the specifics of Staley's vagueness challenge. Part C reviews the legal standards which are applicable to Staley's challenge. Part D explores the relevancy of state court decisions interpreting the statute. Part E draws legal conclusions.

A. The Statute

Michigan Compiled Laws Section 750.411i(3) provides that Aggravated Stalking is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine of not more than $10,000, or both. Section 750.411i(2) provides that an individual who engages in stalking is guilty of Aggravated Stalking if one of five factors is present.2 The statute defines stalking as:

... a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.

Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.411i(e) (1994). This stalking definition contains three elements. First, stalking requires a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another. Second, it requires that the harassment would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested. Third, it requires that the harassment actually cause the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested. See People v. Kieronski, 214 Mich.App. 222, 542 N.W.2d 339, 343-44 (1995) (discussing requirements of the statute). Each of these elements requires the existence of harassment. The statute defines harassment as:

conduct toward a victim that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact, that would cause a reasonable individual to suffer emotional distress. Harassment does not include constitutionally protected activity or conduct that serves a legitimate purpose.

Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.411i(d) (1994). This...

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4 cases
  • State v. Whitesell, No. 82,610.
    • United States
    • Kansas Supreme Court
    • December 8, 2000
    ...39), Whitesell submitted additional authority concerning the vagueness issue after the briefs were filed. Whitesell points to Staley v. Jones, 108 F. Supp.2d 777 (W.D. Mich. 2000), in support of his vagueness argument. Staley provides nothing in the way of support for Whitesell's argument t......
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    ...the nature of the error is simply incurable. such as a conviction under an unconstitutional statute. See, e.g., Staley v. Jones, 108 F.Supp.2d 777, 788 (W.D.Mich.2000), rev'd on other grounds, 239 F.3d 769 (6th Cir.2001). Conditional grants of writs of habeas corpus are final orders, Phifer......
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