Stapleton v. Stewart
OPINION and ORDER Summarily Dismissing 1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, and 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
KELLI RAY STAPLETON,
Case No. 2:17-CV-11541
HONORABLE SEAN F. COX
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
OPINION AND ORDER SUMMARILY DENYING THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS AND DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF
APPEALABILITY OR LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS
Kelli Ray Stapleton, (petitioner), confined at the Huron Valley Women’s Correctional
Facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan, filed a pro se application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges her sentence for first-degree child abuse, Mich. Comp Laws
§ 750.136(b)(2). For the reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is SUMMARILY
Petitioner was originally charged with attempted murder, but pleaded guilty to the lesser
offense of first-degree child abuse.
Petitioner was sentenced to ten to 22 years in prison.
Petitioner’s conviction and sentence was affirmed. People v. Stapleton, No. 326600 (Mich.
Ct. App. May 24, 2016); lv. den. 499 Mich. 926 (2016).
Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:
I. Scoring error in OV [Offense Variable] 1: Aggravated use of a weapon. (20
points). The trial court misconstrued the statute to include a grill as a harmful
chemical device. OV 1 should have been zero [points].
II. Error in scoring OV 2: using a lethal weapon. A grill is not a harmful biological
device or harmful radioactive device. OV 2 should have been scored a zero.
III. Error in scoring: OV 4 for 10 points for serious psychological injury. It should
be scored at zero.
IV. Error in scoring in OV 9: 10 points, for counting self as a victim. How can a
defendant be a victim? Court scored 2-9 victims?
Promptly after the filing of a petition for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a
preliminary review of the petition to determine whether “it plainly appears from the face of the
petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.”
Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases; see also 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If, after preliminary
consideration, the Court determines that the petitioner is not entitled to relief, the Court must
summarily dismiss the petition. Id., see also Allen v. Perini, 424 F. 2d 134, 141 (6th Cir.1970)
(district court has the duty to “screen out” petitions that lack merit on their face). A federal district
court is authorized to summarily dismiss a habeas corpus petition if it plainly appears from the face
of the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to federal habeas relief. See
McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436 (6th Cir.1999);
Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, Rule 4, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254. No response to a habeas petition is
necessary when the petition is frivolous, obviously lacks merit, or where the necessary facts can be
determined from the petition itself without consideration of a response from the State. See Allen, 424
F.2d at 141; Robinson v. Jackson, 366 F. Supp. 2d 524, 525 (E.D. Mich. 2005).
After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, this Court concludes that petitioner’s
sentencing claims do not entitle her 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 court incorrectly scored several offense variables of the
Michigan Sentencing Guidelines.
State courts are the final arbiters of state law. See Bradshaw v. Richey, 546 U.S. 74, 76
(2005); Sanford v. Yukins, 288 F.3d 855, 860 (6th Cir. 2002). Therefore, claims which arise out of
a state trial court’s sentencing decision are not normally cognizable on federal habeas review, unless
the habeas petitioner can show that the sentence imposed exceeded the statutory limits or is wholly
unauthorized by law. See Vliet v. Renico, 193 F. Supp. 2d 1010, 1014 (E.D. Mich. 2002). Thus, 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).
Petitioner’s claims that the state trial court incorrectly scored or calculated her sentencing
guidelines range under the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines are not cognizable for federal habeas
review, because they are basically state law claims. 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). Errors in the application of
state sentencing guidelines cannot independently support habeas relief. See Kissner v. Palmer, 826
F. 3d 898, 904 (6th Cir. 2016). Petitioner had “no state-created interest in having the Michigan
Sentencing Guidelines applied rigidly in determining [her] sentence.” See Mitchell v. Vasbinder, 644
F. Supp. 2d 846, 867 (E.D. Mich. 2009). “[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 her guideline
score would not merit habeas relief. Id. Petitioner’s claims that the state trial court improperly
departed above the correct sentencing guidelines range would thus not entitle her to habeas relief,
because such a departure does not violate any of the petitioner’s federal due process rights. Austin
v. Jackson, 213 F. 3d 298, 301 (6th Cir. 2000).
The Court summarily denies the petition for writ of habeas corpus. 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). 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 denies petitioner a certificate of appealability
because she failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of a federal constitutional right. The
Court will also deny petitioner leave to appeal in forma pauperis, because the appeal would be
IT IS ORDERED That:
(1) The Petition For Writ of Habeas Corpus is SUMMARILY DENIED WITH
(2) A Certificate of Appealability is DENIED.
(3) Petitioner is DENIED Leave to Appeal In Forma Pauperis.
Dated: June 9, 2017
s/Sean F. Cox
Sean F. Cox
U. S. District Judge
I hereby certify that on June 9, 2017, the foregoing document was served on counsel of record via
electronic means and upon Kelly Stapleton via First Class mail at the address below:
HURON VALLEY COMPLEX - WOMENS
3201 BEMIS ROAD
YPSILANTI, MI 48197
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?