Harris v. Stovall
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Christine Harris and DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY. Signed by District Judge Marianne O. Battani. (KDoa)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case Number: 2:07-CV-12213
HON. MARIANNE O. BATTANI
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
Petitioner Christine Harris seeks habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
Petitioner is a state prisoner in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections
pursuant to convictions for second-degree murder and possession of a firearm during the
commission of a felony. She argues that her convictions were obtained in violation of her
constitutional rights. Respondent argues that the petition should be denied because
Petitioner failed to comply with the Court’s prior order staying the proceedings and
because the claims are without merit and/or procedurally defaulted. The Court denies the
Petitioner was tried before a jury in Wayne County Circuit Court. She was
convicted of second-degree murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of
a felony. On November 1, 2001, she was sentenced to 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment for
the second-degree murder conviction and two years’ imprisonment for the felony firearm
Petitioner filed an appeal of right in the Michigan Court of Appeals. She raised
these claims: (i) prosecutorial misconduct; (ii) trial court improperly allowed jury to
consider first-degree murder charge; (iii) trial court erred in denying request for selfdefense instruction; and (iv) ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Michigan Court
of Appeals affirmed Petitioner’s convictions. People v. Harris, No. 239722, 2003 WL
21675885 (Mich. Ct. App. July 17, 2003). Petitioner sought leave to appeal in the
Michigan Supreme Court. She raised the same issues raised in the Michigan Court of
Appeals and a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The Michigan
Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. People v. Harris, No. 124565, 469 Mich. 1000
(Mich. Jan. 27, 2004).
Next, Petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment in the trial court. She
raised these claims: (i) offense variables incorrectly scored; (ii) ineffective assistance of
trial counsel; and (iii) prosecutorial misconduct. The trial court denied the motion.
People v. Harris, No. 01-003932-01 (Wayne County Cir. Ct. Apr. 27, 2005). Petitioner
sought leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court.
Both state appellate courts denied leave to appeal. People v. Harris, No. 264123 (Mich.
Ct. App. March 16, 2006); People v. Harris, 477 Mich. 906 (Mich. Oct. 31, 2006).
Petitioner then filed a habeas corpus petition. She raised the same claims raised on
direct and collateral review in state court. After filing the petition, Petitioner sought to
amend her petition to include an unexhausted claim and a stay so that she could return to
state court to exhaust the newly-added claim. On January 14, 2008, the Court granted the
stay, imposed certain conditions and administratively closed the case.
Petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment in the trial court on March 14,
2010. The trial court denied the motion, finding that Petitioner failed to present newly
discovered evidence which would entitle her to file a successive motion for relief from
judgment. People v. Harris, No. 01-03932-01-FC (Wayne County Cir. Ct. Nov. 12,
2010). Michigan court rules do not allow a defendant to appeal the denial of a successive
motion for relief from judgment. See Mich. Ct. R. 6.502(G). Petitioner, therefore, asked
this Court to reopen her habeas proceeding. The Court granted her request and directed
Respondent to file an amended answer, which she has done. As part of her answer,
Respondent argues that the habeas petition should be dismissed because Petitioner did not
comply with the conditions of the Court’s stay order.
Respondent argues that the petition should be dismissed because Petitioner failed
to comply with the terms of the Court’s order granting a stay, and the amended petition,
therefore, is untimely. The Court granted the stay conditioned upon Petitioner filing a
motion for relief from judgment in the trial court within sixty days from the date of the
stay order and filing a motion to lift the stay and an amended petition in this Court within
sixty days after the conclusion of state court proceedings. Respondent claims that
Petitioner failed to file a motion for relief from judgment within sixty days of the stay
The Court stayed this matter on January 14, 2008. Petitioner filed a motion for
relief from judgment in state court on March 14, 2010, two years after the sixty-day time
period prescribed by the Court. Thus, she failed to comply with the terms of the stay.
Petitioner argues that she failed to comply with the stay because, rather than filing a
motion for relief from judgment in the trial court, she mistakenly sent two copies of the
motion to this Court. However, even if Petitioner had mailed the motion for relief from
judgment to the proper court, she nevertheless failed to comply with the conditions of the
stay. The motion for relief from judgment that she mistakenly filed with this Court is
dated March 24, 2008, ten days after the sixty-day period allowed by the Court.
Moreover, once Petitioner discovered her error, she failed to act promptly. She waited
approximately eight months to seek to lift the stay in this Court. Thus, for a period of
over two years – from January 14, 2008 until March 14, 2010 – Petitioner had no matters
pending in state court and failed to move to reopen proceedings in this case. Thus, she
clearly failed to comply with the conditions of the stay and, in accordance with Sixth
Circuit precedent, the Court vacates the stay as of the date it was entered, January 14,
2008, and dismisses the petition. Palmer v. Carlton, 276 F.3d 777, 780–82 (6th Cir.
2002) (“If the conditions of the stay are not met, the stay may later be vacated nunc pro
tunc as of the date the stay was entered, and the petition may be dismissed.”) (internal
quotation omitted). Petitioner’s amended petition, filed well after the one-year limitations
period expired, is untimely.
Certificate of Appealability
Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 22 provides that an appeal may not proceed
unless a certificate of appealability (COA) is issued under 28 U.S.C. § 2253. Rule 11 of
the Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings, which was amended as of December 1,
2009, requires that a district court must “issue or deny a certificate of appealability when
it enters a final order adverse to the applicant. . . . If the court issues a certificate, the court
must state the specific issue or issues that satisfy the showing required by 28 U.S.C. §
2253(c)(2).” Rule 11, Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings.
A certificate of appealability may issue “only if the applicant has made a
substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).
Courts must either issue a certificate of appealability indicating which issues satisfy the
required showing or provide reasons why such a certificate should not issue. 28 U.S.C. §
2253(c)(3); Fed. R.App. P. 22(b); In re Certificates of Appealability, 106 F.3d 1306, 1307
(6th Cir.1997). To receive a certificate of appealability, “a petitioner must show that
reasonable jurists could debate whether (or, for that matter, agree that) the petition should
have been resolved in a different manner or that the issues presented were adequate to
deserve encouragement to proceed further.” Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336
(2003) (internal quotes and citations omitted).
In this case, the Court concludes that reasonable jurists would not debate the
Court’s conclusion that Petitioner failed to comply with the conditions of the stay.
Therefore, the Court denies a certificate of appealability.
For the reasons stated, the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is DISMISSED and
a certificate of appealability is DENIED.
Date: August 4, 2014
s/Marianne O. Battani
MARIANNE O. BATTANI
United States District Judge
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing Order was served upon counsel of record via the Court's ECF System to their
respective email addresses or First Class U.S. mail to the non-ECF participants on August 4, 2014.
s/ Kay Doaks
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