Martin v. Haas
OPINION and ORDER Summarily Dismissing 1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Declining to Issue a Certificate of Appealability or Leave to Appeal In Forma Pauperis. Signed by District Judge Sean F. Cox. (JMcC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
CIVIL NO. 2:17-CV-10214
HONORABLE SEAN F. COX
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
OPINION AND ORDER
SUMMARILY DENYING THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS,
DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND
DENYING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
Jerome Martin, presently incarcerated at the Macomb Correctional Facility in New
Haven, Michigan, has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
In his pro se application, petitioner challenges his sentence for four counts of assault with
intent to commit murder, Mich. Comp. Laws, § 750.83; two counts of armed robbery, Mich.
Comp. Laws, § 750.529; and one count of felony-firearm, Mich. Comp. Laws, § 750.227b.
For the reasons stated below, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is SUMMARILY
DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.
Petitioner was convicted of the above charges following a jury trial in the Wayne
County Circuit Court. On March 3, 1993, petitioner was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in
prison for the assault with intent to commit murder convictions, 40 to 60 years on the armed
robbery convictions, and 2 years on the felony-firearm conviction.
Direct review of petitioner’s conviction ended in the Michigan courts on July 28,
1995, when the Michigan Supreme Court denied petitioner leave to appeal following the
affirmance of his conviction on his direct appeal by the Michigan Court of Appeals. People
v. Martin, 449 Mich. 905, 536 N.W.2d 782 (1995).
Petitioner filed a post-conviction motion for relief from judgment, which was denied.
People v. Martin, No. 92-008242-01-FC (Third Cir.Ct. Dec. 18, 2015); reconsideration den.
No. 92-008242-01-FC (Third Cir.Ct. Jan. 27, 2016). The Michigan appellate courts denied
petitioner leave to appeal. People v. Martin, No. 331675 (Mich.Ct.App. May 10, 2016); lv.
Den. __ Mich. __; 887 N.W. 2d 399 (2016).
Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following ground:
Mr. Martin is entitled to a resentencing due to the retroactive change in law
pursuant to People v. Lockridge because it has undermined a prior decision
decided against the petitioner.
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 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).
A petition for a writ of habeas corpus must set forth facts that give rise to a cause of
action under federal law or it may summarily be dismissed. See Perez v. Hemingway, 157
F. Supp. 2d 790, 796 (E.D. Mich. 2001). Federal courts are also authorized to dismiss any
habeas petition that appears legally insufficient on its face. See McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S.
849, 856 (1994). A federal district court is authorized to summarily dismiss a habeas corpus
petition if it plainly appears from the face of the petition or the exhibits that are attached to
it that the petitioner is not entitled to federal habeas relief. See Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d
434, 436 (6th Cir. 1999); Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, Rule 4, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254.
The Sixth Circuit, in fact, long ago indicated that they “disapprove the practice of issuing
a show cause order [to the respondent] until after the District Court first has made a careful
examination of the petition.” Allen v. Perini, 424 F.3d 134, 140 (6th Cir. 1970). A district
court therefore has the duty to screen out any habeas corpus petition which lacks merit on
its face. Id. at 141. No return to a habeas petition is necessary when the petition is frivolous,
or obviously lacks merit, or where the necessary facts can be determined from the petition
itself without consideration of a return by the state. Id.
After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, this Court concludes, for reasons
stated in greater detail below, that petitioner’s sentencing claim does not entitle him to
habeas relief, such that the petition must be summarily denied. See McIntosh v. Booker, 300
F. Supp. 2d 498, 499 (E.D. Mich. 2004).
Petitioner claims that the trial judge violated his Sixth Amendment right to trial by
jury by using factors that had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt or admitted to by
petitioner to upwardly depart from the sentencing guidelines range of 8 to 20 years to
sentence petitioner to 40 to 60 years on the armed robbery convictions.
This Court initially notes that petitioner’s sentence of forty to sixty years in prison
was within the statutory limit under Michigan law for the crime of armed robbery. A
sentence imposed within the statutory limits is not generally subject to habeas review.
Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 741 (1948); Cook v. Stegall, 56 F. Supp. 2d 788, 797
(E.D. Mich. 1999). A sentence within the statutory maximum set by statute does not
normally constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Austin v. Jackson, 213 F.3d 298, 302 (6th
It is well-established that “federal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of state
law.” Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67 (1991). Petitioner’s claim that the state trial court
misapplied the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines is not a cognizable claim for federal habeas
review, because it is basically a state law claim. See Tironi v. Birkett, 252 F. App’x. 724,
725 (6th Cir. 2007); Howard v. White, 76 F. App’x. 52, 53 (6th Cir. 2003). “Petitioner has
no state-created interest in having the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines applied rigidly in
determining his sentence.” See Mitchell v. Vasbinder, 644 F. Supp. 2d 846, 867 (E.D. Mich.
2009)(citing Shanks v. Wolfenbarger, 387 F. Supp. 2d 740, 752 (E.D. Mich. 2005)).
Petitioner’s claim that the state trial court improperly departed above the sentencing
guidelines range would thus not entitle him to habeas relief, because such a departure does
not violate any of petitioner’s federal due process rights. See Austin, 213 F. 3d at 301; see
also Drew v. Tessmer, 195 F. Supp. 2d 887, 889-90 (E.D. Mich. 2001). “[I]n short,
petitioner had no federal constitutional right to be sentenced within Michigan’s guideline
minimum sentence recommendations.” Doyle v. Scutt, 347 F. Supp. 2d 474, 485 (E.D. Mich.
2004). Any error by the trial court in calculating his guideline score or in departing above
his sentencing guidelines range alone would not merit habeas relief. Id.
Petitioner, however, contends that the judge used facts that had not been proven
beyond a reasonable doubt when he departed above the applicable sentencing guidelines
On June 17, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled that any fact that increases
the mandatory minimum sentence for a crime is an element of the criminal offense that must
be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. See Alleyne v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2151, 2155
( 2013). Alleyne is an extension of the Supreme Court’s holdings in Apprendi v. New
Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), in which the
U.S. Supreme Court held that any fact that increases or enhances a penalty for a crime
beyond the prescribed statutory maximum for the offense must be submitted to the jury and
proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In reaching this conclusion, the Supreme Court
overruled Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002), in which the Supreme Court had
held that only factors that increase the maximum, as opposed to the minimum, sentence must
be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a factfinder. Alleyne, 133 S. Ct. at 2157-58.
At the time of petitioner’s conviction and sentence, Harris was good law. In
addition, Alleyne has not been made retroactive to cases on collateral review. See In re
Mazzio, 756 F.3d 487, 489-90 (6th Cir. 2014). Although the Michigan Supreme Court
recently relied on Alleyne to hold that Michigan’s Sentencing Guidelines scheme violates
the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, People v. Lockridge, 498 Mich. 358; 870 N.W.2d
502 (Mich. 2015), a federal district court may only grant habeas relief if it finds that the
state court’s decision was “‘contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly
established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States’ or ‘was
based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence that was
presented in the State court proceeding.’” Peak v. Webb, 673 F.3d 465, 472 (6th
Cir.2012)(quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d))(emphasis added). In addition, “[t]he law in
question must have been clearly established at the time the state-court decision became final,
not after.” Id. (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. at 380). Because the Supreme Court at
the time of petitioner’s conviction did not require that facts which increase a criminal
defendant’s minimum sentence be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, petitioner is not
entitled to habeas relief on his claim. See Gibson v. Tribley, No. 10-13364, 2013 WL
3353905, at * 8 (E.D. Mich. July 3, 2013).1
Under Michigan law, only the minimum sentence must presumptively be set within the
appropriate sentencing guidelines range. See People v. Babcock, 469 Mich. 247, 255, n. 7; 666
N.W. 2d 231 (2003)(citing Mich. Comp. Laws, § 769.34(2)). The maximum sentence is not
determined by the trial judge but is set by law. See People v. Claypool, 470 Mich. 715, 730, n.
14; 684 N.W. 2d 278 (2004)(citing Mich. Comp. Laws, § 769.8).
The Court summarily denies the petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Court also
denies a certificate of appealability. 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). When a district court
rejects a habeas petitioner’s constitutional claims on the merits, the petitioner must
demonstrate that reasonable jurists would find the district court’s assessment of the
constitutional claims to be debatable or wrong. Id. at 484. “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.
For the reasons stated in this opinion, the Court will deny petitioner a certificate of
appealability because reasonable jurists would not find this Court’s assessment of
petitioner’s claim to be debatable or wrong. See Millender v. Adams, 187 F. Supp. 2d 852,
880 (E.D. Mich. 2002). The Court further concludes that petitioner should not be granted
leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal, as any appeal would be frivolous. See
Fed.R.App. P. 24(a).
Accordingly, the Court SUMMARILY DENIES WITH PREJUDICE the petition
for a writ of habeas corpus. The Court further DENIES a certificate of appealability and
leave to appeal in forma pauperis.
Dated: February 15, 2017
s/Sean F. Cox
Sean F. Cox
U. S. District Judge
I hereby certify that on February 15, 2017, the foregoing document was served on counsel
of record via electronic means and upon Jerome Martin via First Class mail at the address
Jerome Martin 229792
MACOMB CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
34625 26 MILE ROAD
NEW HAVEN, MI 48048
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