Moran v. Campbell
OPINION AND ORDER Denying Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Denying a Certificate of Appealability, and Granting Permission to Appeal In Forma Pauperis. Signed by District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith. (Sandusky, K)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
SEMAJ D. MORAN,
Case No. 16-cv-11993
HON. MARK A. GOLDSMITH
OPINION AND ORDER
DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A
CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND GRANTING PERMISSION TO APPEAL
IN FORMA PAUPERIS
Petitioner Semaj D. Moran filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Dkt. 1), challenging his Oakland County Circuit Court convictions for two
counts of first-degree murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316, and commission of a felony with a
firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.227b.
Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment for the
murder convictions and consecutive two-year terms for the firearm convictions.
The petition raises a single claim: Petitioner’s Fifth Amendment right against
self-incrimination was violated by admission of his involuntary statement to the police at trial.
For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the petition, denies a certificate of appealability,
and grants permission to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis.
Petitioner’s convictions arise out of the shooting death of two women in their Pontiac
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).
This case arises from an incident involving a home invasion and
shooting that took place on February 17, 2012, in Pontiac,
Michigan. Andrew Threlkeld testified that, on February 17, 2012,
between approximately 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., he drove to a
residence in Pontiac to visit his two longtime friends, Loretta
Fournier and Luann Robinson. The two women lived in separate
apartments on the two floors of the residence, although the
apartments shared a common entrance and front hall area. When
he arrived at the house, he noticed that the front door was cracked
open. He pushed the door open and immediately saw Robinson’s
body lying at the bottom of the stairs in the front hall, just inside the
front door. Approximately 10 feet away, Threlkeld observed
Fournier’s body lying in the front hall area. He smelled what he
believed to be gunsmoke in the air; fearing that an armed intruder
was inside the house, he ran outside and drove to a nearby business,
where he called 911.
Police officers who arrived at the scene testified that they found
Fournier and Robinson dead; Fournier had suffered two gunshot
wounds to her face and one to her back, while Robinson had
suffered one gunshot wound to her head. The officers also
discovered a strike plate from the front door just inside the front hall
and a baseball hat on the stairs leading up to Robinson’s apartment.
In Robinson’s apartment, a television was on the floor just in front
of the stairs down to the front hall, with the power cord leading back
into Robinson’s bedroom, and a cable box was unscrewed from the
wall in the bedroom. After speaking with neighbors, police
officers identified a person with the nickname “Hype” as a potential
suspect for the shootings because he supplied marijuana to one or
both of the victims. Police officers used Fournier’s cell phone to
identify a phone number for “Hype,” who was then identified as
defendant Howard. Officers traveled to Howard’s home that night
to speak with him. When officers arrived at Howard’s home,
Howard’s mother allowed the officers inside and informed them
that Howard was in his bedroom. After speaking with the officers
inside the home, Howard was arrested.
Following his arrest, Howard was interviewed three separate times
by police officers at a police station.
Jeff Buchmann of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department
testified that the first interview was conducted on February 18, 2013
and that, at the outset, he informed Howard of his Miranda rights
and obtained a waiver of those rights. According to Buchmann,
during this interview, Howard claimed that he and Moran had gone
to the residence of Fournier and Robinson for the purpose of
smoking marijuana. Howard told Buchmann that while he was in
the bathroom, he heard gunshots and when he exited the bathroom,
he saw Fournier’s body lying on the ground. He then stated that
approximately 20 seconds later, he heard Robinson scream upstairs,
heard more gunshots, and then heard Robinson’s body tumble down
The second interview, held the following day, February 19, 2013,
was conducted after police recovered a purse containing
identification belonging to one of the victims in the backyard of a
residence near the scene of the crimes. Buchmann again conducted
the interview and it is undisputed that he did not again read Howard
his Miranda rights. During this brief interview, a transcript of
which has been provided to this Court, Howard admitted to taking
the purse and attempting to take the television that was found on the
floor. However, he reiterated that he never had a gun on the night
of the murders and that Moran had shot the two women.
Howard’s third and final interview was conducted the following
day, February 20, 2013. Before this interview, Buchmann read
Howard his Miranda rights. According to Buchmann, Howard
admitted to forcing open the door to the apartment and
acknowledged that the baseball hat found on the stairs belonged to
him. During the interview, Howard provided a written statement
I was going to – was going to go smoke with
[Fournier] as I do usually and my friend Semaj came
along to ask [Fournier] about the fake money she
gave Semaj when he sold her some weed. I told him
he can ask her about the situation if he wanted to, but
I never asked him to come or nothing else. He came
and smoked, talked for a minute.
I went to the bathroom. He shot [Fournier], but I
never planned or made any part in the actions that
took place. The most I did wrong was not calling
the police and report what I saw, but other than that I
didn’t plan, plot or have any control over the actions
that my friend made. I went to smoke with
[Fournier], that’s it.
The lady upstairs was screaming. I pushed her
down the stairs and Semaj said he couldn’t leave any
witnesses and he shot her.
Several days later, police returned to Howard’s home with a search
warrant and searched his room. Inside the pocket of Howard’s
coat, found in his bedroom closet, officers discovered multiple
forms of identification belonging to the victims, including credit
cards and insurance policies.
On February 19, 2013, Moran was interviewed by police at a
substation of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. Moran’s
mother traveled to the police station with him and gave officers
permission to speak with him. Prior to interviewing Moran,
Buchmann read him his Miranda rights. During the interview,
Moran gave a written statement to Buchmann that read:
Around 8:00 – I walked to [Fournier’s] house on
Pingree. We sat at the table and we smoked. Hype
gave me the gun while [Fournier] was in her room
getting the hookah – the hookah – the hookah bong.
And told me when you hear the toilet flush shoot. I
heard the toilet flush, but I hesitated to shoot. I shot
two shots and Hype ran up the stairs. While he was
upstairs I heard a lady screaming. Then I heard
multiple booms. When I looked the lady was on the
floor. He told me to shoot her. After I shot her I
started crying and running. While we were running
I threw the gun behind a church/store. Hype told
me to swear on my grave I wouldn’t tell. I got home
and told my grandma. My mom came to get me.
We stayed at the hotel. Then I left to Detroit with
my aunt and mom. We returned to go talk to the
People v. Moran, No. 318102, 2014 WL 7338888, at *1-3 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 23, 2014).
Following his conviction and sentence as indicated above, Petitioner filed an appeal of
right. His appellate counsel filed a brief on appeal raising a single claim: “Admission of
involuntary inculpatory statements constituted reversible error.” Appellant Br. at 35 (cm/ecf
page) (Dkt. 7-21).
The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the claim on the merits.
After indicating that
the voluntariness of Petitioner’s statements required an examination of the totality of the
circumstances, the court found that Petitioner’s statement was voluntary:
In this case, the officers complied with Miranda prior to
interviewing Moran. It is uncontested that before officers
questioned Moran, they informed him of his Miranda rights and he
signed a form indicating that he wanted to waive those rights.
Moran contends that “the investigative detectives did not make
certain that the fifteen year old understood that he did not have to
speak with them.” However, we have listened to the taped
interview in its entirety and Moran’s contention that the officers
failed to comply with Miranda is unsupported by the record.
Moreover, they spoke with him outside his mother’s presence only
after receiving her permission to do so.
Moran’s contention that he was subjected to repeated and prolonged
questioning is similarly inconsistent with the record. At the time of
questioning, Moran was 15 years old, attended school, and indicated
that he was not intoxicated or under the influence of any substance.
He appeared to understand all of Buchmann’s questions. He was
not deprived of food, sleep, or medical attention, and there was no
contention that he was threatened or abused in any way. In spite of
the absence of Moran’s mother during question, under the totality of
the circumstances, we conclude that Moran’s statements to the
officers were made freely and voluntarily. Accordingly, the trial
court’s denial of Moran’s motion to suppress his statements was
supported by the record and not erroneous.
Moran, 2014 WL 7338888, at *5–6.
Petitioner subsequently filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme
Court, which raised the same claim.
The Michigan Supreme Court denied the application
because it was not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by the Court.
People v. Moran, 864 N.W.2d 571 (Mich. 2015) (table).
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 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 —
(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.
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, 405-406 (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 411.
The Supreme Court has explained that a “federal court’s collateral review of a state-court
decision must be consistent with the respect due state courts in our federal system.” Miller-El v.
Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003). Thus, the AEDPA “imposes a highly deferential standard for
evaluating state-court rulings, and demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the
doubt.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010). 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, 131 S. Ct. 770, 786 (2011). The
Supreme Court has emphasized “that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court’s
contrary conclusion was unreasonable.”
Furthermore, pursuant to section 2254(d), “a
habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or . . . could have supported,
the state court’s decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could
disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision” of
the Supreme Court. Id. Habeas relief is not appropriate unless each ground that supported the
state-court’s decision is examined and found to be unreasonable under the AEDPA. See Wetzel
v. Lambert, 132 S. Ct. 1195, 1199 (2012).
“If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be.” Harrington, 131
S. Ct. at 786. Although 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the AEDPA, does not completely bar
federal courts from re-litigating claims that have previously been rejected in the state courts, it
preserves the authority for a federal court to grant habeas relief only “in cases where there is no
possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court’s decision conflicts with” the
Supreme Court’s precedents. Id. Indeed, section 2254(d) “reflects the view that habeas corpus
is a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for
ordinary error correction through appeal.” Id. A “readiness to attribute error [to a state court] is
inconsistent with the presumption that state courts know and follow the law.” Woodford v.
Viscotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002). 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 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, 131 S. Ct. at 786-787.
A state court’s factual determinations are presumed correct on federal habeas review. See
28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). A habeas petitioner may rebut this presumption of correctness only with
clear and convincing evidence. Id.; Warren v. Smith, 161 F.3d 358, 360-361 (6th Cir. 1998).
Moreover, habeas review is “limited to the record that was before the state court.” Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).
Petitioner claims that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his
confession on the grounds that it was involuntarily given in violation of his Fifth Amendment
right against self-incrimination due to coercive police activity.
Petitioner, who was fifteen
years old at the time of the crime, asserts that he went to the police station with his mother when
his uncle learned that he was wanted for questioning.
Petitioner claims that his mother was not
informed that Petitioner was the suspect in a double murder when she gave police permission to
speak with her son.
Petitioner claims that he was then tricked into giving a statement when a
detective told him that his mother wanted him to speak with them.
Petitioner waived his
Miranda rights and eventually made inculpatory statements.
Under federal law, a confession is considered involuntary if (i) the police extorted the
confession by means of coercive activity; (ii) the coercion in question was sufficient to overbear
the will of the accused; and (iii) the will of the accused was in fact “overborne because of the
coercive police activity in question.” McCall v. Dutton, 863 F.2d 454, 459 (6th Cir. 1988)
(emphasis in original). The ultimate question is “whether, under the totality of the circumstances,
the challenged confession was obtained in a manner compatible with the requirements of the
Constitution.” Miller v. Fenton, 474 U.S. 104, 112 (1985). Factors to consider include the
presence or absence of police coercion (a “crucial element”), length of interrogation, location of
interrogation, continuity of interrogation, the suspect’s maturity and education, the suspect’s
physical condition and mental health, and whether the suspect was advised of his Miranda rights.
Withrow v. Williams, 507 U.S. 680, 693-94 (1993). Without coercive police activity, however, a
confession should not be deemed involuntary. Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 167 (1986)
(stating that “coercive police activity is a necessary predicate to the finding that a confession is not
‘voluntary’ within the meaning of the Due Process Clause”). The burden of proving that a
confession was given involuntarily rests with the petitioner. Boles v. Foltz, 816 F.2d 1132, 1136
(6th Cir. 1987). Voluntariness need only be established by a preponderance of the evidence. Id.
Subsidiary factual questions in determining the voluntariness of a statement to police, such
as whether the police engaged in intimidation tactics alleged by a habeas petitioner, are entitled to
the presumption of correctness accorded to state-court findings of fact. Miller, 474 U.S. at 112;
§ 2254(e)(1). Likewise, whether a defendant understood his Miranda rights is a question of fact
underlying the question of whether his waiver of those rights was knowing and intelligent. On
federal habeas review, a federal court must presume that the state court’s factual finding that a
defendant fully understood what was being said and asked of him was correct, unless the petitioner
shows otherwise by clear and convincing evidence. Williams v. Jones, 117 F. App’x 406, 412
(6th Cir. 2004).
In juvenile cases, the totality of the circumstances approach requires an “evaluation of the
juvenile’s age, experience, education, background, and intelligence, and into whether he has the
capacity to understand the warnings given him, the nature of his Fifth Amendment rights, and the
consequences of waiving those rights.” Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707, 725 (1979) (citing
North Carolina v. Butler, 441 U.S. 369 (1979)). The Supreme Court has spoken of the need to
exercise “special caution” when assessing the voluntariness of a juvenile confession, particularly
when there is prolonged or repeated questioning, or when the interrogation occurs in the absence
of a parent, lawyer, or other friendly adult. In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 45 (1967); Gallegos v.
Colorado, 370 U.S. 49, 55 (1962); Haley v. Ohio, 332 U.S. 596, 599-601 (1948).
The trial court held an evidentiary hearing to determine the voluntariness of Petitioner’s
confession. Detective Jeff Buchmann testified that Petitioner’s mother, Estrella Moran, brought
Petitioner to the police station on February 19, 2012, after police officers contacted members of the
Moran family. 8/9/2012 Hr’g Tr. at 12-13 (Dkt. 7-5). Buchmann asked Estrella if he could
speak with Petitioner about the homicide on Pingree Street, and she gave her permission. Id. at
13-14. Buchmann also asked Estrella if he could speak with Petitioner alone, and Estrella agreed.
Id. Buchmann knew that Petitioner was fifteen and one-half years old at the time. Id. at 16. An
audiotape of the interview was made and played for the court. Id. at 17-18.
Buchmann explained to Petitioner that he was at the police station and that his mother gave
him permission to speak with Petitioner. Buchmann told Petitioner, “We’ve talked to your mom,
and she gave us permission to talk to you.” Id. at 45. Buchmann told Petitioner, “So do you
want to talk to us? Your mom said it’s okay to talk to us,” before Petitioner was advised of his
Miranda rights. Id. at 21-22, 54-55. Petitioner told the officer that he could read and write.
Petitioner appeared coherent and not under the influence of controlled substances. Id. at 23-24.
Petitioner stated that he was rested and had already ate. Buchmann asked Petitioner if he wanted
to talk to him, and Petitioner replied, “Yes.”
Id. at 24.
Petitioner’s interview lasted
approximately forty-five minutes. Id. at 29.
Petitioner made incriminating statements sixteen minutes into the interview. Id. at 30-31.
Petitioner also made a written statement. Id. at 33. Buchmann stated that there was no coercion,
trickery, or deceit in obtaining Petitioner’s statement. Id. at 35. A photocopy of Petitioner’s
written statement and a map was admitted at the hearing. Id. at 69-70. A transcript and an audio
recording of Petitioner’s interview were also admitted. Id. at 73-75. The audio recording was
played in court. Id. at 75.
Gary Miller testified that he was a lieutenant with the Oakland County Sheriff’s
Department. Id. at 80. Miller spoke with a relative of Petitioner and told him that Petitioner’s
mother should bring him to the police station. Id. at 83-84. Miller was at the substation when
Petitioner and his mother arrived. Id. at 84. Miller escorted Estrella and Petitioner to the second
floor. They were seated in the large interview room and turned over to Buchmann. Id. at 85.
Miller went into the observation room and heard Estrella say that it was fine that Buchmann talk to
her son. Id. at 86. Estrella was arrested after she spoke with Buchmann for violation of a
probation warrant. Id. at 87.
Estrella testified that she went to the police station after she was informed that the police
wanted to talk to her son. Buchmann took Estrella to a separate room from Petitioner. Id. at
102-103, 106. Buchmann and another detective asked her if it was okay if they speak with her
son. Estrella testified that she did not have any idea of Petitioner’s rights. Id. at 107. Estrella
denied that the detectives told her that they were going to ask Defendant some questions about a
murder case or that he was a suspect. Id. at 107-108. The detectives took Estrella back into the
room, and she was arrested shortly afterwards. Id. at 109. Estrella admitted that she knew her
son was linked to a homicide. Id. at 114. She knew that he was going to talk to the officers about
a shooting. Id. at 115.
Petitioner testified that he was fifteen years old on the date he gave his statement.
8/23/2012 Hr’g Tr. at 5 (Dkt. 7-6). Petitioner’s aunt dropped him and his mother off at the
Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. Petitioner testified that he did “[n]ot really” want to speak
to them. Id. at 5. Petitioner and his mother were taken to a room with a table and a couple of
chairs around it. Id. at 6. Petitioner’s mother was taken out of the room, and Petitioner waited
about two minutes for the detectives to bring his mother back. Petitioner was then taken to a
different room. Id. at 7-8. According to Petitioner, the detectives told him that his “mother said
it was all right to talk to them, and they said, would I like to speak to them, and I said, ‘yeah.’” Id.
Petitioner did not recall having any conversation with the detectives about the advice of
rights form before signing it. Id. at 10. Petitioner testified that he did not even really try to read
the form because he thought his mother said it was all right. Id. at 11. Petitioner stated that, at
some point during the interview, he asked for his mother, but he could not recall exactly when.
The detectives later told Defendant that they had to send his mother home. Id. at 12. Petitioner
did not really want to make a written statement, but he thought he was required to do so. Id. at 13.
On cross-examination, Petitioner testified that the detectives told him that the advice of
rights form were his rights and asked him to sign it. Petitioner chose to sign the form, but he
maintained that he did not to read it. Id. at 15. Petitioner claimed that he asked to speak to his
mother three different times, and he believed it would be in the recording.
Id. at 16-17.
Petitioner’s mother told him that he had to go to the police station. Id. at 19.
Petitioner knew that the police were going to speak with him about the shooting. Id. at 20.
Petitioner testified that he stated in his interview that his grandmother, aunt, and uncle kept telling
him to go to the police station and talk. Id. at 23. Petitioner testified that he considered himself a
smart kid, and he did not have any learning disabilities or mental health issues. Id. at 26.
Petitioner testified that he lied to the detective because he did not want to be known as a snitch or
tattletale. Id. at 31, 36. Petitioner first stated that he did not know anything about the shooting,
and then he told the officers that “Hype” shot the two ladies. Petitioner testified that his entire
written statement was a lie. Id. at 33. Petitioner testified that he did not know where he was
when Hype shot the women. Id. at 34. Petitioner had heard of Miranda rights on television, but
he testified he was lying when he told the detective that he understood his rights. Id. at 43-44.
Petitioner was advised that anything he said could be used against him, and he admitted that he
knew what that meant. Id. at 45.
Following the hearing, the trial court denied the motion to suppress Petitioner’s statements.
The trial court issued a written order stating that “the testimony and evidence establish by a
preponderance of the evidence that the statements made by Defendant were voluntary and a
product of his own choice and free will. In addition, the Court finds that Defendant knowingly
and intelligently waived his Miranda rights.” Op. & Order (Oakland Cnty. Cir. Ct. Oct., 17,
2012) at 79 (cm/ecf page) (Dkt. 7-21).
In light of this record, the Michigan Court of Appeals could determine that Petitioner’s
statement to police was voluntary without unreasonably applying clearly established Supreme
Court law. Petitioner’s chief argument is that his youth, coupled with the officer’s statement that
his mother gave police permission to speak with him, rendered his statement involuntary. But
Supreme Court cases that have found a juvenile’s confession involuntary often included some
form of mental coercion, denial of rights, intimidation, threats, or physical abuse in obtaining the
confession. For example, in Haley, a fifteen-year old’s confession was found involuntary after
the boy was taken from his home in the middle of the night and subjected to relentless questioning.
332 U.S. at 597-601. The boy was kept in custody for over three days and was not taken before a
magistrate or allowed to see a parent or attorney. Id. He was not informed of his right to
counsel. Id. Once before the magistrate, the boy appeared “bruised and skinned.” Id.
Similar to Haley, the Fifth Circuit found an eleven-year old’s confession involuntary after
the child had been held in custody, unaccompanied by a parent or lawyer, for over three days.
Murray v. Earle, 405 F.3d 278, 288 (5th Cir. 2005). The girl was found to be of “below-normal
intelligence,” had no experience with the criminal justice system, was only briefly informed of her
rights prior to the interrogation, and the police told her that everyone “knew” what happened and
she could only help her family by telling the truth. Id. at 288-289.
The coercion present in Haley and Murray starkly contrasts with a Supreme Court case in
which a juvenile’s confessions was found voluntary. In Fare, a sixteen-and-a-half year old’s
confession was found to be voluntary where there was no evidence that the juvenile was “worn
down” by improper interrogation tactics, lengthy questioning, trickery, or deceit. 442 U.S. at
726. The boy “had considerable experience with police.” Id. He was told he was being
questioned in connection with a murder, his rights were explained fully, and no facts indicated he
was unable to understand his rights. Id.
The Court finds that a reasonable jurist might find Petitioner’s case more akin to the
voluntary confession Fare, than those in Murray and Haley. Like the juvenile in Fare, Petitioner
was apprised of his rights and reasonable inferences can be drawn from the record that he
understood those rights and waived them by signing a waiver of rights form. Petitioner indicated
he was familiar with his rights from television programs. Petitioner was accompanied to the
police station by his mother, and the interrogation started minutes after he arrived. Though
Petitioner was informed that his mother consented to his questioning, Petitioner was not subjected
to the sort of physical abuse, mental coercion, trickery, or deceit like the juveniles in Murray and
Moreover, there was no evidence presented or suggestion that Petitioner was mentally
disabled or otherwise incapable of understanding the rights explained to him. Garner v. Mitchell,
557 F.3d 257, 262-263 (6th Cir. 2009) (upholding the waiver of rights of a nineteen-year-old man
with an IQ that placed him in the “borderline range of intelligence” because police had no reason
to believe he misunderstood the warnings and “the officers were otherwise reasonable and careful
in giving the warnings and obtaining the confession”).
The Michigan Court of Appeals applied a totality of the circumstances approach when
evaluating Petitioner’s claim, and, in so doing, it did not fail to adequately consider relevant
factors. Based upon the totality of the circumstances in this case, it was objectively reasonable for
the Michigan Court of Appeals to hold that Petitioner’s confession was voluntary. See McCalvin
v. Yukins, 444 F.3d 713, 720 (6th Cir. 2006). Accordingly, the Court denies the petition.
B. Certificate of Appealability and Proceeding In Forma Pauperis on Appeal
Before Petitioner may appeal this Court’s dispositive decision, a certificate of
appealability must issue.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(A); Fed. R. App. P. 22(b). 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).
When a court rejects a habeas claim on the
merits, the substantial showing threshold is met if the petitioner demonstrates that reasonable
jurists would find the district court’s assessment of the constitutional claim debatable or wrong.
See Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000).
“A petitioner satisfies this standard by
demonstrating that . . . jurists could conclude the issues presented are adequate to deserve
encouragement to proceed further.” Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 327.
In applying that standard, a
district court may not conduct a full merits review, but must limit its examination to a threshold
inquiry into the underlying merit of the petitioner’s claims.
Id. at 336-337.
“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; Castro v. United
States, 310 F.3d 900, 901 (6th Cir. 2002).
It is not reasonably debatable whether clearly established Supreme Court compelled the
Michigan Courts to find that Petitioner’s statement to police was involuntary. The Court will,
therefore, deny a certificate of appealability.
Although the Court denies a certificate of appealability to Petitioner, the standard for
granting an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is a lower standard than the standard
for certificates of appealability. Foster v. Ludwick, 208 F. Supp. 2d 750, 764 (E.D. Mich. 2002)
(citing United States v. Youngblood, 116 F.3d 1113, 1115 (5th Cir. 1997)). Whereas a certificate
of appealability may only be granted if a petitioner makes a substantial showing of the denial of a
constitutional right, a court may grant in forma pauperis status if it finds that an appeal is being
taken in good faith. Id. at 764-765; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Fed. R. App. P. 24(a). “Good faith”
requires a showing that the issues raised are not frivolous; it does not require a showing of
probable success on the merits. Foster, 208 F. Supp. 2d at 765. Although jurists of reason would
not debate the Court’s resolution of Petitioner’s claims, the issues are not frivolous; therefore, an
appeal could be taken in good faith and Petitioner may proceed in forma pauperis on appeal. Id. at
For the reasons stated above, the Court denies the petition (Dkt. 1), denies a certificate of
appealability, and grants permission to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.
Dated: April 13, 2017
s/Mark A. Goldsmith
MARK A. GOLDSMITH
United States District Judge
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing document was served upon counsel of record and any
unrepresented parties via the Court's ECF System to their respective email or First Class U.S. mail
addresses disclosed on the Notice of Electronic Filing on April 13, 2017.
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