Layne v. Stewart
OPINION and ORDER re 1 denying Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and declining to issue a certificate of appealability. Signed by District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds. (CBet)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Civil No. 2:16-CV-11194
HONORABLE NANCY G. EDMUNDS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
AND DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
Sandra Layne, (“Petitioner”), confined at the Huron Women’s Correctional Facility
in Ypsilanti, Michigan, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254, through counsel Christopher J. McGrath, in which she challenges her conviction for
second-degree murder, M.C.L.A. 750.317; and possession of a firearm in the commission
of a felony (felony-firearm), M.C.L.A. 750.227b. For the reasons that follow, the petition for
writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.
Petitioner was charged with first-degree murder and felony-firearm. Petitioner was
convicted of the lesser included offense of second-degree murder and guilty of the felonyfirearm charge following a jury trial in the Oakland County Circuit Court. This Court recites
verbatim the relevant facts relied upon by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which are
presumed correct on habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Wagner v.
Smith, 581 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir. 2009):
Defendant shot her grandson, Jonathon Hoffman, to death. Jonathon lived
with defendant and her husband. In March 2012, Jonathan was charged with
marijuana possession and sentenced to probation that included drug testing.
In April 2012, defendant purchased a handgun, a speed loader, and a box of
ammunition. She took two lessons related to gun use, which included firing
the gun at a gun range. Her husband did not know about the gun purchase
or the lessons. On the morning of May 18, 2012, defendant took Jonathon
to his scheduled drug test. Because he tested positive for “spice,” also
known as “K2,” he had to return later in the day and he was angry. He and
defendant argued. Defendant took Jonathon to his afternoon drug test and,
after his return to the vehicle, they argued. When defendant and Jonathon
arrived home at some time after 4:30 p.m., defendant asked her husband to
take the dog for a walk. While defendant’s husband was out walking the dog,
at some time before 5:27 p.m., the shooting occurred. Defendant fired
numerous gunshots, in several areas of the house. Jonathon was shot six
times and died. Toxicology tests revealed no drugs in his blood, but a
synthetic drug metabolite in his urine, i.e., K2. The medical examiner
testified that drugs found in urine have exited a person’s system and do not
affect the person. Defendant was arrested and taken to a hospital. No
injuries were identified. At trial, defendant asserted that she shot Jonathon
People v. Layne, No. 316059, 2014 WL 5164652, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 14,
Petitioner’s conviction was affirmed on appeal. Id., lv. den. 497 Mich. 1028 (2015).
Petitioner seeks habeas relief on the following grounds:
I. The trial court denied petitioner her right to present a defense when it
precluded her from offering evidence about the decedent’s state of mind and
II. The trial court violated the Eighth Amendment when it sentenced petitioner
to 20-40 years imprisonment with a consecutive mandatory two-year term[.]
II. Standard of Review
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act of 1996 (AEDPA), imposes the following standard of review for 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–
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
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.
A decision of a state court is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if the state
court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question
of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set
of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). An
“unreasonable application” occurs when “a state court decision unreasonably applies the
law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner’s case.” Id. at 409. A federal habeas
court may not “issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent
judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law
erroneously or incorrectly.” Id. at 410-11. “[A] state court’s determination that a claim lacks
merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree’ on the
correctness of the state court’s decision.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101
(2011)(citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). Therefore, in order to
obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state prisoner is required to show that the state
court’s rejection of his or her claim “was so lacking in justification that there was an error
well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded
disagreement.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103. A habeas petitioner should be denied relief
as long as it is within the “realm of possibility” that fairminded jurists could find the state
court decision to be reasonable. See Woods v. Etherton, 136 S. Ct. 1149, 1152 (2016).
The Michigan Court of Appeals reviewed and rejected petitioner’s claims under a
plain error standard because petitioner failed to preserve the issues at the trial court level.
In Fleming v. Metrish, 556 F.3d 520, 532 (6th Cir. 2009), a panel of the Sixth Circuit
held that the AEDPA deference applies to any underlying plain-error analysis of a
procedurally defaulted claim. In a subsequent decision, the Sixth Circuit held that that
plain-error review is not equivalent to adjudication on the merits, so as to trigger AEDPA
deference. See Frazier v. Jenkins, 770 F. 3d 485, 496 n. 5 (6th Cir. 2014). The Sixth
Circuit noted that “the approaches of Fleming and Frazier are in direct conflict.” Trimble
v. Bobby, 804 F.3d 767, 777 (6th Cir. 2015). When confronted by conflicting holdings of
the Sixth Circuit, this Court must follow the earlier panel’s holding until it is overruled by
the United States Supreme Court or by the Sixth Circuit sitting en banc. See Darrah v. City
of Oak Park, 255 F.3d 301, 310 (6th Cir. 2001). This Court believes that the AEDPA’s
deferential standard of review applies to these claims, even though they were reviewed
only for plain error.
A. Claim # 1. The right to present a defense claim.
Petitioner contends that her right to present a defense was violated when the judge
refused to allow her to present evidence that she claims would have bolstered her selfdefense claim. Petitioner was precluded from testifying about statements her grandson
made during both car rides home following the drug tests. Petitioner claims that these
statements would have shown her grandson’s state of mind and why she believed she
needed to use deadly force to defend herself from him. Petitioner also claims that she
should have been permitted to introduce statements that her grandson made to his
probation officer over two weeks prior to the shooting, which purportedly questioned the
probation officer’s authority and showed disrespect for authority figures in general.
Petitioner argues that all of this evidence would have shown that she had reason to
believe that she was in danger of being killed or seriously injured by her grandson and
thus was justified in shooting him in self-defense.
Just as an accused has the right to confront the prosecution’s witnesses for the
purpose of challenging their testimony, he or she also has the right to present his own
witnesses to establish a defense. This right is a fundamental element of the due process
of law. Washington v. Texas, 388 U.S. 14, 19 (1967); See also Crane v. Kentucky, 476
U.S. 683, 690 (1986)(“whether rooted directly in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, or in the Compulsory Process or Confrontation clauses of the Sixth
Amendment, the Constitution guarantees criminal defendants ‘a meaningful opportunity
to present a complete defense’”)(internal citations omitted). However, an accused in a
criminal case does not have an unfettered right to offer evidence that is incompetent,
privileged, or otherwise inadmissible under the standard rules of evidence. Montana v.
Egelhoff, 518 U.S. 37, 42 (1996). The Supreme Court, in fact, has indicated its “traditional
reluctance to impose constitutional constraints on ordinary evidentiary rulings by state trial
courts.” Crane, 476 U.S. at 689. The Supreme Court gives trial court judges “wide
latitude” to exclude evidence that is repetitive, marginally relevant, or that poses a risk of
harassment, prejudice, or confusion of the issues. Id. (citing Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. at 679).
Finally, rules that exclude evidence from criminal trials do not violate the right to present
a defense unless they are “‘arbitrary’ or ‘disproportionate to the purposes they are
designed to serve.’” United States v. Scheffer, 523 U.S. 303, 308 (1998)(quoting Rock v.
Arkansas, 483 U.S. 44, 56 (1987)).
Moreover, under the standard of review for habeas cases as enunciated in §
2254(d)(1), it is not enough for a habeas petitioner to show that the state trial court’s
decision to exclude potentially helpful evidence to the defense was erroneous or incorrect.
Instead, a habeas petitioner must show that the state trial court’s decision to exclude the
evidence was “an objectively unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme
Court precedent.” See Rockwell v. Yukins, 341 F. 3d 507, 511-12 (6th Cir. 2003).
Petitioner is not entitled to relief on her claim.
First, petitioner never made an offer of proof at the trial court level to demonstrate
the admissibility or relevance of these statements. (Tr. 3/13/13, pp. 40-43, 90-92). The
Michigan Court of Appeals relied on this failure in part to reject petitioner’s claim. People
v. Layne, 2014 WL5164652, at * 2. Petitioner has also failed to proffer the contents of
these statements to this Court. A habeas petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief on a
right to present a defense claim that is merely speculative. See e.g. Berry v. Palmer, 518
F. App’x. 336, 342 (6th Cir. 2013). Without knowing the precise nature of the excluded
testimony, this Court is unable to establish whether the statements would have been
helpful to petitioner.
Secondly, petitioner was able to present extensive evidence of the victim’s history
of aggression and illegal drug use in support of her self-defense claim. The probation
officer was permitted to testify that Mr. Hoffman tested positive for K2 or “spice,” which
was a violation of his probation. (Tr. 3/13/13, pp. 44-46). Part of petitioner’s self-defense
claim was that her grandson was under the influence of the K2 at the time of the shooting
and was upset that he failed the drug test and intended to leave Michigan as a result.
Petitioner testified that her grandson was agitated after the second drug test, had told her
he was not going to jail, and that he intended to leave the State of Michigan. Petitioner
testified that her grandson used obscene language, kicked her car’s dashboard, attempted
to grab the steering wheel while she was driving and tried to take away the car keys after
she pulled over. Petitioner testified that upon their arrival home, Mr. Hoffman insisted on
leaving home, demanded cash and an automobile from petitioner, and yelled at her. (Id.,
p. 88-89, 95-99, 103; Tr. 3/14/13, p. 80). Petitioner testified that she went to retrieve her
gun and brought it back to Mr. Hoffman’s room. Petitioner testified that when she
confronted Mr. Hoffman, he kicked her and hit her in the head, which put her in fear for her
life. Petitioner testified that a struggle ensued, during which she attempted to run away.
Petitioner claimed that she continued shooting to get away from Mr. Hoffman and to stop
him. (Id., pp. 102-07). Petitioner testified about her grandson’s prior behavioral and drug
problems, including an incident where he was taken to Botsford Hospital after ingesting
marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms. When petitioner and her husband arrived at the
hospital, Mr. Hoffman was tied to a bed. Petitioner testified that she told her husband
Fred Layne that she had become afraid of their grandson. (Id., pp. 133-37). There was
evidence that Mr. Hoffman had crashed a computer monitor to the floor during one
argument with petitioner and had on other occasions kicked in closet doors and broken
items in his room. (Id., pp. 68, 100-01, 142). There was also evidence presented that
police had previously responded to a domestic dispute at petitioner’s house, during which
time Mr. Hoffman was agitated and made derogatory remarks about his mother and the
police. (Id., pp. 21-30).
Mr. Hoffman’s statements in the car to petitioner and his prior statements to his
probation officer would have, at best, been cumulative of ample evidence that had been
offered in support of petitioner’s self-defense claim. Because Mr. Harrison’s statements
would have been cumulative of other evidence that petitioner had acted in self-defense,
the Michigan Court of Appeals’ determination that the exclusion of this evidence did not
violate petitioner’s right to present a defense was not an unreasonable application of
clearly established law, so as to entitle petitioner to relief. See Blanton v. Elo, 186 F.3d
712, 715-16 (6th Cir. 1999).
The judge’s rulings were not so egregious that they
effectively denied petitioner a fair trial, in light of the fact that petitioner was not completely
barred from bringing in evidence about her grandson’s illegal drug use, his erratic and
aggressive behavior, and his lack of respect for petitioner and her husband. See Fleming
v. Metrish, 556 F. 3d at 535-36. With the quantum of evidence concerning Mr. Hoffman’s
aggressive behavior and illegal drug consumption in the record, this Court concludes that
the petitioner was afforded “a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense.”
Allen v. Howes, 599 F. Supp. 2d 857, 873 (E.D. Mich. 2009)(citing Crane, 476 U.S. at 690
(citation and internal quotations omitted)).
Finally, assuming that the judge erred in excluding Mr. Hoffman’s statements to his
probation officer and to petitioner, any error would have been harmless. In Brecht v.
Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637 (1993), the U.S. Supreme Court held that for purposes
of determining whether federal habeas relief must be granted to a state prisoner on the
ground of federal constitutional error, the appropriate harmless error standard to apply is
whether the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the
The Michigan Court of Appeals concluded that the exclusion of statements that Mr.
Hoffman made to petitioner did not affect the outcome of the trial, because of the
weakness of petitioner’s self-defense claim:
On the record before us, defendant fails to establish that, even if the
evidence was improperly excluded, the error affected the outcome of the
trial. That is, contrary to her claim, any statements Jonathon purportedly
made in the car on the way home from the drug testing appointments would
not likely have led the jury to believe that Jonathon was the initial aggressor
before defendant shot him multiple times. Defendant testified that after they
returned home from the second drug testing, she and defendant were
arguing upstairs in his bedroom. Jonathon wanted to leave Michigan
because of his positive drug test and purportedly said: “I am getting out of
here and I’m taking your car.” Defendant also testified that he said he knew
where she kept money in the house. After Jonathon made these
statements, defendant testified, she went downstairs to her bedroom and
retrieved her loaded handgun because: “I wanted him to hear me. I wanted
him to pay attention to me. That I would not give him a car. I would not let
him take the car. I would not let him take the money. He had to listen.” She
then climbed the 13 stair steps back up to Jonathon’s bedroom with the
loaded gun in her hand and found Jonathon in the bathroom. She walked
toward him in the bathroom; the gun was not concealed. They were very
close to each other. Jonathon kicked her and she began shooting. On this
record, any statements Jonathon made in the car after the drug testing, both
early in the day and in the afternoon, would not tend to establish defendant's
claim of lawful self-defense. Accordingly, this claim is without merit.
People v. Layne, 2014 WL 5164652, at * 2.
The Michigan Court of Appeals concluded that the exclusion of statements made
by Mr. Hoffman to his probation officer two weeks prior to the shooting likewise did not
affect the outcome of the trial:
Further, in light of the record evidence, any statements Jonathon made in
the car after the drug testing or to his probation officer over two weeks
before he was shot would not tend to support defendant’s claim of lawful
Id., at * 3.
To be lawful self-defense under Michigan law, the evidence must show that: (1) the
defendant honestly and reasonably believed that he was in danger; (2) the danger feared
was death or serious bodily harm or imminent forcible sexual penetration; (3) the action
taken appeared at the time to be immediately necessary; and (4) the defendant was not
the initial aggressor. See Johnigan v. Elo, 207 F. Supp. 2d 599, 608-09 (E.D. Mich.
2002)(citing People v. Barker, 437 Mich. 161, 165; 468 N.W. 2d 492 (1991); People v.
Kemp, 202 Mich. App. 318, 322; 508 N.W.2d 184 (1993); People v. Deason, 148 Mich.
App. 27, 31; 384 N.W.2d 72 (1985)). Under Michigan law, a defendant is not entitled to
use any more force than is necessary to defend himself. Johnigan, 207 F. Supp. 2d at 609
(citing Kemp, 202 Mich. App. at 322). “[T]he law of self-defense is based on necessity,
and a killing or use of potentially lethal force will be condoned only when the killing or use
of potentially lethal force was the only escape from death, serious bodily harm, or
imminent forcible sexual penetration under the circumstances.” Johnigan, 207 F. Supp.
2d at 609 (internal citation omitted).
There was little evidence to support petitioner’s self-defense claim. Petitioner
herself testified that she and her grandson returned home from the second drug test at
about 4:30 p.m. Petitioner asked her husband to take the dog for a walk, which was
inconsistent with her fear of imminent danger from Mr. Hoffman and more suggestive of
premeditation. Petitioner and Mr. Hoffman got into an argument. Mr. Hoffman told her
that he wanted to leave Michigan and threatened to take her car and some money.
Petitioner did not testify that her grandson physically assaulted her or threatened her at
the time. After Mr. Hoffman made these statements, petitioner went downstairs to her
bedroom and grabbed her loaded handgun because: “I wanted him to hear me. I wanted
him to pay attention to me. That I would not give him a car. I would not let him take the car.
I would not let him take the money. He had to listen.” Petitioner did not testify that she
retrieved her firearm because she was afraid. Petitioner went back upstairs to her
grandson’s bedroom with the loaded gun in her hand, walked into the bathroom and
confronted her grandson. Petitioner’s actions would suggest that she was the initial
aggressor. Petitioner’s grandson kicked petitioner and she began shooting. Petitioner
shot her grandson six times, including once in the back. (Tr. 3/11/13, pp. 24-37). There
was evidence that petitioner shot the victim at several different places in the house. There
was also evidence that petitioner continued shooting the victim even after he got on the
phone and called 911 for help. (Tr. 3/12/13, pp. 233-36). Although petitioner testified that
Mr. Hoffman kicked or hit her in the head, the police did not notice any visible injuries
when petitioner was arrested and she denied having any injuries at the hospital. When
a nurse asked petitioner if her grandson hurt her, she said, “No, he’s a good boy.” (Tr.
3/5/13, pp. 163-68; Tr. 3/14/13, p. 104).
In light of the foregoing evidence, a reasonable jury could have concluded that
petitioner’s actions were inconsistent with acting in self-defense.
exclusion of evidence of Mr. Hoffman’s statements to petitioner in the car and his prior
statements to his probation officer did not have a substantial or injurious effect on
petitioner’s case so as to entitle him to habeas relief. See Fleming v. Metrish, 556 F.3d at
537. Petitioner is not entitled to relief on her first claim.
B. Claim # 2. The sentencing claim.
Petitioner next claims that her sentence of twenty to forty years in prison on the
second-degree murder conviction and the consecutive two year sentence for the felonyfirearm conviction constitutes cruel and unusual punishment because it exceeds her likely
A habeas petitioner who seeks to challenge the severity of a prison sentence on
Eight Amendment grounds faces a formidable challenge. He or she may obtain relief only
by demonstrating that a state court decision contravened or misapplied “clearly
established” Supreme Court precedent. However, the Supreme Court has acknowledged
“that our precedents in this area have not been a model of clarity.” Lockyer v. Andrade,
538 U.S. 63, 72 (2003). “Indeed, in determining whether a particular sentence for a term
of years can violate the Eighth Amendment, we have not established a clear or consistent
path for courts to follow.” Id.
Thus, the Supreme Court declared that the general
applicability of the proportionality standard to term-of-years sentences was clearly
established, but confessed a lack of clarity as to the factors lower courts should consider
in making that determination. Id. The Supreme Court concluded that “the only relevant
clearly established law amenable to the ‘contrary to’ or ‘unreasonable application of’
framework is the gross disproportionality principle, the precise contours of which are
unclear, applicable only in the ‘exceedingly rare’ and ‘extreme’ case.” Id.
In Lockyer, the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s grant of a writ of habeas
corpus on the ground that two twenty-five-year-to-life sentences imposed under
California's “three strikes” law, where the triggering felony was the theft of $ 150 worth of
video tapes, violated the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment.
The Supreme Court noted that the “thicket” created by its jurisprudence consisted primarily
of its decisions in Solem v. Helm, 463 US. 277 (1983), Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957
(1991), and Rummel v. Estelle, 445 U.S. 263 (1980). The California state court observed
that the proportionality rule set forth in Solem was cast into doubt by Harmelin, and
proceeded to analyze Andrade’s sentence under the approach taken in Rummel, where
the Supreme Court rejected a claim that a life sentence imposed under Texas’ recidivist
statute was grossly disproportionate to the theft felonies that formed the predicate for the
The California court concluded that Andrade’s sentence was not
disproportionate. The Supreme Court held that this decision was not contrary to or an
objectively unreasonable application of federal law that was clearly established by the
Supreme Court. Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 72-77.
A plurality of the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment does not require
strict proportionality between the crime and sentence. Harmelin, 501 U.S. at 965. As the
Supreme Court observed in Lockyer, it is generally recognized after Harmelin that the
Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment forbids only an extreme
disparity between crime and sentence, that is, sentences that are “grossly
disproportionate” to the crime. Id. at 1001 (Kennedy, J., concurring); Coleman v. Mitchell,
268 F. 3d 417, 453 (6th Cir. 2001)(citing Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, 592 (1977));
United States v. Hopper, 941 F. 2d 419, 422 (6th Cir. 1991)).
“Outside the context of capital punishment, successful challenges to the
proportionality of particular sentences have been exceedingly rare.” Rummel, 445 U.S. at
272. Rummel was convicted of obtaining $ 120.75 by false pretenses, a crime punishable
by at least two years, but not more than ten years in prison. He was sentenced as a
recidivist to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. His two prior felonies consisted
of fraudulent use of a credit card to obtain $ 80 worth of goods and services, a felony
punishable by two to ten years in prison; and passing a forged check for $ 28.36, a crime
punishable by two to five years in prison. The Supreme Court held that Rummel’s life
sentence under the state recidivist statute did not constitute cruel and unusual
punishment. In Harmelin, the Supreme Court upheld a life sentence without the possibility
of parole for possession of more than 650 grams of cocaine for an offender with no prior
The Supreme Court overturned a life sentence in Solem on the ground that it was
significantly disproportionate to Helm’s crime and therefore prohibited by the Eighth
Amendment. However, Helm had been sentenced to life imprisonment without the
possibility of parole for uttering a “no account” check for $ 100, and his prior felonies also
were minor, nonviolent crimes. By contrast, the Supreme Court reaffirmed Rummel and
found constitutionally sufficient a sentence of twenty-five years to life imposed upon a fifth
felony conviction. Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11, 24-31 (2003).
In the present case, petitioner’s sentence fell within the maximum sentence set by
state law, and “a sentence within the statutory maximum set by statute generally does not
constitute ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’” United States v. Organek, 65 F. 3d 60, 62 (6th
Cir. 1995)(citation omitted)(quoted with approval in Austin v. Jackson, 213 F. 3d 298, 302
(6th Cir. 2000). “As long as the sentence remains within the statutory limits, trial courts
have historically been given wide discretion in determining ‘the type and extent of
punishment for convicted defendants.’” Austin, 213 F. 3d at 301 (quoting Williams v. New
York, 337 U.S. 241, 245 (1949)).
In light of “the vagueness of the gross-disproportionality principle and the
admonition that the principle is “applicable only in the ‘exceedingly rare’ and ‘extreme’
case,” this Court concludes that the state courts did not unreasonably apply clearly
established law in rejecting petitioner’s proportionality claim. See Smith v. Howerton, 509
F. App’x. 476, 484 (6th Cir. 2012)(internal quotations omitted).
Petitioner’s sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison was within the statutory limits of
the offense of second-degree murder. Petitioner’s minimum sentence of twenty years was
within the sentencing guidelines range of 144 to 240 months for the second-degree murder
In Michigan, sentences within a correctly scored guidelines range are
presumptively proportionate. See Hastings v. Yukins, 194 F. Supp. 2d 659, 673-674 (E.D.
Mich. 2002)(citing to People v. Bailey, 218 Mich. App. 645, 647; 554 N. W. 2d 391 (1996)).
This Court concludes that petitioner’s sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison for seconddegree murder and an additional 2 years for the felony-firearm conviction was not extreme
or grossly disproportionate to the offense or to the offender, so as to entitle her to habeas
relief. See Benton v. Booker, 403 F. App’x. 984, 986 (6th Cir. 2010)(imposition of prison
term of 25–50 years for petitioner’s second-degree murder conviction was not
unconstitutionally disproportionate to the offense or the offender, particularly where
sentence was less than the statutory maximum for the offense).
In addition, the mere fact that the sentence may exceed petitioner’s life expectancy
does not alter this Court’s analysis. In rejecting a similar claim in a direct appeal from a
federal criminal conviction, the Sixth Circuit has noted that “[T]he Supreme Court has
never held that a sentence to a specific term of years, even if it might turn out to be more
than the reasonable life expectancy of the defendant, constitutes cruel and unusual
The sentence for felony-firearm in Michigan is a mandatory two year prison sentence that must
be served consecutively to any underlying felony. See M.C.L.A. 750.227b. Hence, the crime of felonyfirearm is not covered by the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. People v. Johnigan, 265 Mich. App. 463,
472; 696 N.W. 2d 724 (2005).
punishment.” United States v. Beverly, 369 F. 3d 516, 537 (6th Cir. 2004)(citing Harmelin,
501 U.S. at 996).
Finally, petitioner’s claim that the trial court failed to consider her rehabilitative
potential in fashioning her sentence is non-cognizable on federal habeas review. See
Grays v. Lafler, 618 F. Supp. 2d 736, 749 (W.D. Mich. 2008). “There is no constitutional
principle that prefers rehabilitation over deterrence and retribution as a goal of sentencing.”
Fielding v. LeFevre, 548 F. 2d 1102, 1108 (2nd Cir. 1977). Accordingly, petitioner is not
entitled to habeas relief on her second claim.
The Court will deny the petition for writ of habeas corpus with prejudice. The Court
will also deny a certificate of appealability to petitioner. In order to obtain a certificate of
appealability, a prisoner must make a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional
right. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). To demonstrate this denial, the applicant is required to show
that reasonable jurists could debate whether, or 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. Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 483-84 (2000). “The
district court must issue or deny a certificate of appealability when it enters a final order
adverse to the applicant.” Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, Rule 11(a), 28 U.S.C. foll. §
2254; See also Strayhorn v. Booker, 718 F. Supp. 2d 846, 875 (E.D. Mich. 2010).
For the reasons stated in this opinion, the Court will deny petitioner a certificate of
appealability because she failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of a federal
constitutional right. See Allen v. Stovall, 156 F. Supp. 2d 791, 798 (E.D. Mich. 2001).
Based upon the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED that the petition for a writ of habeas
corpus is DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED That a certificate of appealability is DENIED.
s/ Nancy G. Edmunds
HON. NANCY G. EDMUNDS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that a copy of this Order was served upon parties/counsel of record
on this 9th day of March, 2017 by regular mail and/or by CM/ECF.
s/ Carol J. Bethel
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