Krammes v. Haas
OPINION and ORDER Denying 1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Denying a Certificate of Appealability, and Granting Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis on Appeal. Signed by District Judge Stephen J. Murphy, III. (DPar)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 2:15-cv-14486
HON. STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE HABEAS CORPUS
PETITION , DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY,
AND GRANTING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL
Petitioner Jeffrey1 Krammes, a state prisoner at the Macomb Correctional Facility
in New Haven, Michigan, has filed a pro se petition for the writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Krammes challenges his Wayne County, Michigan
convictions for criminal sexual conduct and domestic violence. He alleges as grounds
for relief that certain testimony was improperly admitted at his trial and that his sentence
is cruel and unusual punishment. The State argues in an answer to the petition that
Krammes' evidentiary claim is not cognizable on habeas review, that Krammes'
sentence is constitutional, and that the state appellate court reasonably denied relief on
both of Krammes' claims. The Court agrees that Krammes' claims do not warrant
habeas relief. Accordingly, the habeas petition will be denied.
Although Krammes spelled his first name "Jeffery" on the face of his habeas petition,
he signed the petition as “Jeffrey” Krammes. Accordingly, the Court is using the spelling
Krammes was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich.
Comp. Laws § 750.520c(1)(b), and domestic violence, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.81(2).
The charges arose from an incident that occurred in Krammes' home on July 11, 2012,
in Woodhaven, Michigan. Krammes was tried before a jury in Wayne County Circuit
the victim and defendant's girlfriend testified to the following facts.
Defendant awoke his 14–year–old daughter, the victim, in the early
morning to watch television. The victim and defendant were in defendant's
home, where the victim lived with defendant and defendant's girlfriend.
Defendant and the victim lay down together on the couch. Defendant
pulled down the victim's shorts, got on top of her, and began touching her
genitals with his genitals. Defendant then penetrated the victim and began
having intercourse with her. Defendant's girlfriend, who had been asleep
upstairs, came downstairs and witnessed defendant and the victim having
intercourse. Defendant's girlfriend contacted the police later that morning.
In addition to the victim and defendant's girlfriend, defendant's older
daughter testified that defendant had committed sexual acts against her
20 years before. Defendant testified on his own behalf, and denied any
sexual contact or penetration with the victim or his older daughter.
Defendant asserted that his girlfriend reported him to police because he
had ended their relationship the morning after the alleged incident
because she had a drug addiction. Defendant further stated that he was
convicted after taking a plea for the sexual assault of his older daughter,
and served three and a half years in prison. According to defendant, he
took a plea to avoid losing custody of his older daughter.
People v. Krammes, No. 314386, 2014 WL 2881155, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. June 24,
The domestic violence charge arose from testimony that Krammes struck his
girlfriend on the face with his fist after the girlfriend witnessed Krammes having sexual
intercourse with his daughter. 11/13/12 Trial Tr., pp. 132, 154–55. Petitioner also denied
that charge. 11/14/12 Trial Tr., p. 94.
On November 14, 2012, the jury found Krammes guilty, as charged, of seconddegree criminal sexual conduct and domestic violence. Id., pp. 144–45. On December
4, 2012, the trial court sentenced Krammes as a habitual offender, fourth offense, to a
term of twenty-five to forty years in prison for the criminal sexual conduct and to a
concurrent term of three months in prison for the domestic violence, with 146 days of jail
credit. 12/4/12 Sentence Tr., p.28.
Krammes raised his habeas claims in an appeal of right, but the Michigan Court
of Appeals affirmed his convictions and sentence in an unpublished, per curiam opinion.
See Krammes, 2014 WL 2881155. On November 25, 2014, the Michigan Supreme
Court denied leave to appeal. See People v. Krammes, 497 Mich. 905 (2014). On
December 29, 2015, Krammes filed his habeas corpus petition.
EXHAUSTION OF STATE REMEDIES
Krammes' first claim alleges that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing
the prosecution to present testimony from Krammes' older daughter. The State
maintains that Krammes did not exhaust state remedies for this claim by presenting the
claim as a federal constitutional issue in state court.
The doctrine of exhaustion of state remedies requires habeas petitioners to fairly
present their claims to the state courts before raising the claims in a federal habeas
petition. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1); Wagner v. Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 414–15 (6th Cir.
2009). "This does not mean that the applicant must recite 'chapter and verse' of
constitutional law," Wagner, 581 F.3d at 415, but "the habeas petitioner must present
his claim to the state courts as a federal constitutional issue—not merely as an issue
arising under state law." Koontz v. Glossa, 731 F.2d 365, 368 (6th Cir. 1984).
Although Krammes did not raise his first claim as a federal constitutional issue in
state court, he also has not raised the claim as a federal constitutional issue here.
Therefore, his claim is plainly meritless, because the Court may entertain an application
for the writ of habeas corpus only if the petitioner "is in custody in violation of the
Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Furthermore,
the exhaustion rule is not a jurisdictional requirement. Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346,
349 (1989). A federal district court may deny a habeas petition on the merits despite the
petitioner's failure to exhaust state remedies for his claim. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2).
Accordingly, the Court proceeds to address Krammes' claims rather than dismissing the
petition on the basis of Krammes' failure to exhaust state remedies for all his claims.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA),
the following standard applies in federal 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
(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 proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
The grounds for granting habeas relief are therefore narrow. 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 is
materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme Court, but nevertheless
arrives at a result different from that precedent. Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15–16
(2003). A state court's application is "unreasonable" when it identifies the correct
governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's cases but unreasonably applies that
principle to the facts of the petitioner's case. Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520
(2003). But the state court's application must be more than incorrect or erroneous; it
must have been "objectively unreasonable." Id. at 520–21. So "even a strong case for
relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable."
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). To obtain federal habeas relief, a state
prisoner must show that the state court's rejection of his claims "was so lacking in
justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law
beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement." Id. at 103.
The state court's decision is judged by the clearly established federal law as
determined by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision.
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 390, 412 (2000). And a state court's determination of a
factual issue is presumed correct unless rebutted by clear and convicting evidence.
Holland v. Rivard, 800 F.3d 224, 242 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)),
cert. denied, 136 S. Ct. 1384 (2016). Finally, "review under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the
record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits." Cullen
v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).
Other Acts Evidence
In his first claim, Krammes alleges that the state trial court abused its discretion
by allowing the prosecution to present a witness whose testimony was more prejudicial
than probative of the truth. The witness was Krammes' older daughter, TW, who
testified that Krammes sexually abused her twenty years earlier when she was a child.
Krammes claims that the trial court erred by failing to articulate its reason for admitting
the evidence and by failing to perform an appropriate analysis of the issue under state
law. Krammes further alleges that the trial court erred by reading the wrong cautionary
instruction to the jury.
The Michigan Court of Appeals determined that the disputed testimony was
admissible under Mich. Comp. Laws § 768.27a and that the probative value of the
evidence outweighed the prejudice to Krammes. As for the instructional error, the
Michigan Court of Appeals stated that Krammes waived the issue by approving the
instructions as read to the jury and that the error was harmless because the instruction
read to the jury actually benefitted Krammes.
A. Legal Framework
To begin, "[t]here is no clearly established Supreme Court precedent which holds
that a state violates due process by permitting propensity evidence in the form of other
bad acts evidence." Bugh v. Mitchell, 329 F.3d 496, 512 (6th Cir. 2003). Consequently,
there is no Supreme Court precedent that the state courts' rulings could be "contrary to"
under AEDPA. Id. at 513.
Further, "errors in the application of state law, especially rulings regarding the
admission or exclusion of evidence, [usually may not] be questioned in a federal habeas
corpus proceeding." Cooper v. Sowders, 837 F.2d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1988). "Ultimately,
states have wide latitude with regard to evidentiary matters under the Due Process
Clause," Wilson v. Sheldon, 874 F.3d 470, 476 (6th Cir. 2017), and to the extent that
any testimony violated Michigan's rules of evidence, such errors are not cognizable on
federal habeas review. Hall v. Vasbinder, 563 F.3d 222, 239 (6th Cir. 2009). "In
conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to deciding whether a conviction
violated the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." Estelle v. McGuire, 502
U.S. 62, 68 (1991).
A state trial court's evidentiary error can rise to the level of a federal constitutional
claim warranting habeas corpus relief if the error was "so fundamentally unfair as to
deprive the petitioner of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment." McAdoo v.
Elo, 365 F.3d 487, 494 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing McGuire, 502 U.S. at 69–70). In Michigan,
however, when a defendant is accused of committing criminal sexual conduct against
someone less than eighteen years of age, the prosecutor may introduce evidence that
the defendant committed criminal sexual conduct against another minor, and the
evidence may be admitted for any relevant purpose. Mich. Comp. Laws § 768.27a(1);
People v. Watkins, 491 Mich. 450, 455, 471 (2012).
The danger of unfair prejudice must not outweigh the probative value of the
evidence under Michigan Rule of Evidence 403, but when applying this balancing test,
"courts must weigh the propensity inference in favor of the evidence's probative value
rather than its prejudicial effect." Watkins, 491 Mich. at 456.
This does not mean, however, that other-acts evidence admissible under
MCL 768.27a may never be excluded under MRE 403 as overly
prejudicial. There are several considerations that may lead a court to
exclude such evidence. These considerations include (1) the dissimilarity
between the other acts and the charged crime, (2) the temporal proximity
of the other acts to the charged crime, (3) the infrequency of the other
acts, (4) the presence of intervening acts, (5) the lack of reliability of the
evidence supporting the occurrence of the other acts, and (6) the lack of
need for evidence beyond the complainant's and the defendant's
Watkins, 491 Mich. at 487–88.
The Michigan Court of Appeals weighed the Watkins factors when addressing
Krammes' claim, and it correctly pointed out that
[t]he acts committed by defendant against the victim and against his older
daughter were similar. Defendant's current and prior actions included
sexual contact and penetration against his biological daughters while his
daughters were minors and lived with defendant. Further, defendant's
older daughter testified that defendant's actions toward her occurred
frequently, there was no evidence of intervening acts, and the reliability of
the evidence was supported by other facts in evidence, namely that
defendant was convicted of an offense related to the sexual assault of his
older daughter. In addition, there was a need for the evidence. There was
an eyewitness to the incident, but the victim changed her testimony two
days before the trial and the evidence supported the reliability of both the
victim and the eye witness. While defendant's prior acts occurred 20 years
before the incident occurred, that fact is not dispositive. The Watkins Court
held that the list of considerations is "meant to be illustrative rather than
exhaustive." Further, "[t]he remoteness of the other acts affects the weight
of the evidence rather than its admissibility." People v. Brown, 294 Mich.
App. 377, 387; 811 NW2d 531 (2011). Here, the extended time period
between the acts does not outweigh the probative value of the evidence,
which includes defendant's propensity to commit sexual crimes against his
minor daughters, the similarity of his actions, and the necessity to support
the reliability of the evidence. See Watkins, 491 Mich. at 486–488.
Krammes, 2014 WL 2881155, at *2 (internal citation omitted). The Michigan Court of
Appeals reasonably concluded from its analysis that the probative value of the disputed
testimony outweighed the prejudice to Krammes.
Although the Michigan Court of Appeals did not consider whether TW's testimony
also was admissible under Michigan Rule of Evidence 404(b) (other crimes, wrongs, or
acts),3 the prosecutor argued that the testimony was admissible under Rule 404(b) to
show Krammes' common scheme, plan, or system of doing an act. 11/2/12 Final
Conference Tr., pp. 8–9; 11/14/12 Trial Tr., p. 124. This is a proper use of "other acts"
evidence. See United States v. Perry, 438 F.3d 642, 648 (6th Cir. 2006) (stating that,
because two crimes of sufficient similarity can create a pattern or modus operandi, the
district court admitted evidence of a similar act for a proper purpose); see also Mich. R.
Evid. 404(b)(1) (stating that evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts may be
admissible as proof of a scheme, plan, or system in doing an act); People v. Sabin, 463
Mich. 43, 66 (2000) (concluding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in
determining that the defendant's alleged assault of his thirteen-year-old daughter and
alleged abuse of his stepdaughter shared sufficient common features to infer a plan,
scheme, or system to do the acts, and stating that "[o]ne could infer from these common
features that defendant had a system that involved taking advantage of the parent-child
The trial court did not say whether it was admitting TW's testimony under Rule 404(b)
or under § 768.27a, and the Michigan Court of Appeals stated on review of Krammes'
claim that the trial court was not required to consider Rule 404(b) because the evidence
was properly admissible under § 768.27a.
relationship, particularly his control over his daughters, to perpetrate abuse").
The trial court's jury instructions also served to ensure that Krammes had a fair
trial. The trial court charged the jurors not to let sympathy or prejudice influence their
decision. 11/14/12 Trial Tr., pp. 127–28.
The trial court also instructed the jury on evidence of other criminal sexual
conduct for which Krammes was not on trial. The court stated that the jurors could use
that evidence only to determine whether (1) Krammes acted purposely and not by
accident, mistake, or because he misjudged the situation or (2) he had a plan, system
or characteristic scheme that he had used before or since. The court charged the jurors
not to consider the evidence for any other purpose and not to conclude that it showed
Krammes was a bad person or likely to commit crimes. The court encouraged the jurors
to find Krammes not guilty if they were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that
Krammes committed the alleged crimes. Id., pp. 135–36.
A trial court does not abuse its discretion by admitting "other acts" evidence
when the court gives the jury an appropriate limiting instruction, Perry, 438 F.3d at 649,
and even though Krammes contends that the trial court read the wrong jury instruction,
the Michigan Court of Appeals determined that Petitioner waived this claim by approving
the instructions as read to the jury. The Court of Appeals also stated that the error was
harmless because the instruction was more restrictive than the jury instruction Krammes
would have preferred. The state court's interpretation of state law binds this Court
sitting in habeas corpus. Bradshaw v. Richey, 546 U.S. 74, 76 (2005).
In conclusion, the trial court's decision to allow TW to testify about Krammes'
sexual abuse of her as a child was not so fundamentally unfair as to deprive Krammes
of a fair trial. And the state appellate court's ruling on the issue was not contrary to, or
an unreasonable application of, any Supreme Court decisions. Krammes, therefore, has
no right to relief on the basis of his evidentiary claim.
In his second and final claim, Krammes challenges his sentence of twenty-five to
forty years for one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Krammes points out
that he was forty-nine years of age at sentencing and that the minimum sentence
imposed was six years more than the minimum sentence recommended under the
sentencing guidelines. He maintains that there were neither substantial, nor compelling,
reasons to depart from the guidelines and that there is no guarantee he will be released
before his maximum sentence is served. He concludes that the sentence imposed
violates the principle of proportionality and, therefore, it is cruel and/or unusual
punishment under the Michigan and Federal Constitutions.
The trial court stated that it was exceeding the sentencing guidelines because
Krammes was a predator and because the court thought Krammes would abuse
another child if he were released from jail. 12/4/12 Sentence Tr., p. 28. The Michigan
Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's sentence after concluding that the trial court did
not abuse its discretion when it departed upward from the sentencing guidelines range.
The Court of Appeals stated that the trial court provided a substantial and compelling
reason for the upward departure and that the sentence did not violate Michigan's
constitutional prohibition against cruel or unusual punishment.
The alleged violation of the Michigan Constitution is not a basis for habeas relief,
because a federal habeas court "is limited to deciding whether a conviction violated the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." McGuire, 502 U.S. at 68. "[F]ederal
habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of state law[.]" Lewis v. Jeffers, 497 U.S.
764, 780 (1990). And even though the Eighth Amendment to the United States
Constitution prohibits the imposition of "cruel and unusual punishments," U.S. Const.,
amend. VIII, the Amendment "does not require strict proportionality between crime and
sentence. Rather, it forbids only extreme sentences that are 'grossly disproportionate' to
the crime." Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957, 1001 (1991) (Kennedy, J., concurring in
part and concurring in the judgment) (quoting Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. 277, 288
A twenty-five-year minimum sentence is a substantial length of time for someone,
like Krammes, who was forty-nine years old at sentencing. In fact, he contends that his
sentence is somewhat comparable to a sentence of life imprisonment without the
possibility of parole. But Krammes was sentenced as a habitual offender, and he
concedes that his criminal record included four prior felony convictions, including one for
indecent liberties with a child, and eight prior misdemeanor convictions. Given this
record, and the seriousness of Krammes' current crime, the Michigan Court of Appeals
reasonably concluded that Krammes' sentence was not disproportionate, nor cruel and
The Supreme Court, moreover, has found life sentences for even relatively minor
offenses to be constitutional. See, e.g., Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11, 30–31 (2003)
(upholding a repeat offender's sentence of twenty-five years to life imprisonment for
stealing three golf clubs); Harmelin, 501 U.S. at 994–95 (upholding a life sentence
without the possibility of parole for possession of 672 grams of cocaine). If the life
sentences in Ewing and Harmelin were not grossly disproportionate to the crimes,
Krammes' sentence for a sex offense involving his teenage daughter is not grossly
disproportionate. As such, his sentence is not cruel and unusual punishment, and the
state appellate court's adjudication of Krammes' claim was not contrary to, or an
unreasonable application of, Supreme Court precedent. Krammes has no right to relief
on the basis of his sentencing claim.
WHEREFORE, it is hereby ORDERED that the petition for writ of habeas corpus
 is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a certificate of appealability is DENIED because
reasonable jurists would not disagree with the Court's assessment of Krammes' claims,
nor conclude that the issues deserve encouragement to proceed further. Krammes is
free to request a certificate of appealability from the Sixth Circuit.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that if Krammes appeals the Court's decision, he
may proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.
s/Stephen J. Murphy, III
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III
United States District Judge
Dated: November 30, 2017
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon the parties
and/or counsel of record on November 30, 2017November 30, 2017, by electronic
and/or ordinary mail.
s/David P. Parker
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