Grooms v. Olson
OPINION and ORDER summarily denying 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 George Caram Steeh. (MBea)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
DONALD BRADLEY GROOMS,
Case No. 2:17-CV-12017
HON. GEORGE CARAM STEEH
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
Donald Bradley Grooms, (“Petitioner”), confined at the Ojibway
Correctional Facility in Marenisco, Michigan, filed a pro se petition for writ
of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in which he challenges his
conviction for delivery of heroin, M.C.L.A. 333.7401(2)(a)(iv); and being a
fourth felony habitual offender, M.C.L.A. 769.12. For the reasons that
follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is SUMMARILY DENIED WITH
Petitioner was charged with two counts of delivery of heroin and one
count of conspiracy to deliver heroin. Petitioner was also charged as a
fourth felony habitual offender.
On May 16, 2016, petitioner entered a plea of guilty to one count of
delivery of heroin as a fourth felony habitual offender, in exchange for
dismissal of the other charges. The judge also agreed to sentence
petitioner to no more than 46 months on the minimum sentence. (Tr.
5/16/16, pp. 4-5). 1 Petitioner made out a factual basis for the delivery of
heroin charge, but did not specifically admit to being a fourth felony
habitual offender. (Id., pp. 6-7). Petitioner was sentenced the same day to
46 months to 20 years in prison. (Id., p. 16).
Petitioner’s counsel filed a motion to correct the invalid sentence, on
the ground that petitioner never pleaded guilty to being a fourth felony
habitual offender. Petitioner also objected to the scoring of the sentencing
guidelines. The judge denied the motion. People v. Grooms, No. 16006970-FH (Alpena Cty. Cir.Ct., July 21, 2016).
Petitioner’s plea and sentence were affirmed on appeal. People v.
Grooms, No. 334249 (Mich.Ct.App. Sep. 26, 2016); lv. den. 894 N.W. 2d
Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:
Transcript attached as Appendix G to the petition.
I. Whether the trial judge erred when it failed to amend the
judgment to remove the Hab 4th and for failing to follow the
correct procedures under Lockridge and Steanhouse.
II. The scoring of OV-14 was wrongly decided by trial court and
should have been scored at Zero points seeing there’s a lack of
record evidence to support the scoring.
The Court summarily dismisses the petition because petitioner failed
to state a claim upon which habeas relief can be granted.
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 “disapprove[s] 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 must 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
receiving an answer 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 claims do 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.
In his first claim, petitioner argues that the judgment of sentence
should have been amended to remove the fourth felony habitual
enhancement because petitioner never pleaded guilty to being a fourth
felony habitual offender.
Before its amendment in 1994, M.C.L.A. 769.13 provided a statutory
right for a jury trial for defendants who were charged with being an habitual
offender. Effective May 1, 1994, the procedure for enhancing an habitual
offender sentence was changed. Under M.C.L.A. 769.13, as amended, a
defendant is no longer entitled to a jury trial on an habitual offender charge.
People v. Zinn, 217 Mich. App. 340, 344-345; 551 N. W. 2d 704 (1996).
The Michigan Court of Appeals indicated that the language of the amended
statute reaffirmed the “long-held legislative intent” that habitual offender
statutes are merely sentence enhancement mechanisms, rather than
substantive crimes. Id. at 347; See also People v. Anderson, 210 Mich.
App. 295, 297-298; 532 N. W. 2d 918 (1995)(habitual offender statute does
not create a substantive offense that is separate from and independent of
the principal charge). Thus, a defendant in Michigan is no longer entitled to
a trial by jury or the right to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on
an habitual offender charge. People v. Zinn, 217 Mich. App. at 347.
Concomitantly, a criminal defendant does not have a right to plead guilty to
being an habitual offender in order to be sentenced as such. See People v.
Carson, No. 187473, 1997 WL 33353361, at * 1 (Mich. Ct. App. Feb. 28,
In any event, petitioner was informed that he was pleading guilty to
delivery of heroin as a fourth felony habitual offender. The Court simply did
not ask petitioner to admit to being an habitual offender.
A claim that there was an insufficient factual basis for a guilty plea is
non-cognizable on habeas review. See Watkins v. Lafler, 517 F. App’x.
488, 500 (6th Cir. 2013). There is no federal constitutional requirement
that a factual basis be established to support a guilty plea. Id. While
M.C.R. 6.302(D)(1) requires that a factual basis must be elicited from a
defendant prior to accepting his or her guilty plea, the failure of a Michigan
trial court to comply this rule does not establish a basis for habeas relief. Id.
“[T]he requirement that a sentencing court must satisfy itself that a
sufficient factual basis supports the guilty plea is not a requirement of the
Constitution, but rather a requirement created by rules and statutes.”
United States v. Tunning, 69 F. 3d 107, 111 (6th Cir.1995). Petitioner is
not entitled to relief on his first claim.
In his second claim, petitioner argues that his sentencing guidelines
were incorrectly scored.
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 Howard v. White, 76 F. App’x.
52, 53 (6th Cir. 2003); See also Haskell v. Berghuis, 695 F. Supp. 2d 574,
598 (E.D. Mich. 2010). 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 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 claims, however, that the scoring of his sentencing
guidelines violated his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.
On June 17, 2013, the United States Supreme Court held that any
fact which 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), where the U.S. Supreme Court held that any fact that 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. The Supreme Court in Alleyne 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. The Supreme Court emphasized that their ruling did not require
that every fact which affects judicial discretion in sentencing must be
proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. at 2163.
Alleyne does not apply to petitioner’s claim, because the Supreme
Court’s holding in “Alleyne dealt with judge-found facts that raised the
mandatory minimum sentence under a statute, not judge-found facts that
trigger an increased guidelines range,” which is what happened to
petitioner in this case. See United States v. Cooper, 739 F.3d 873, 884 (6th
Cir. 2014); See also United States v. James, 575 F. App’x. 588, 595 (6th
Cir. 2014)(collecting cases and noting that at least four post-Alleyne
unanimous panels of the Sixth Circuit have “taken for granted that the rule
of Alleyne applies only to mandatory minimum sentences.”); Saccoccia v.
Farley, 573 F. App’x. 483, 485 (6th Cir. 2014)(“But Alleyne held only that
‘facts that increase a mandatory statutory minimum [are] part of the
substantive offense.’...It said nothing about guidelines sentencing
factors....”). The Sixth Circuit, in fact, has ruled that Alleyne did not decide
the question whether judicial factfinding under Michigan’s indeterminate
sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment. See Kittka v. Franks,
539 F. App’x. 668, 673 (6th Cir. 2013).
Although the Michigan Supreme Court relied on the Alleyne decision
in holding that Michigan’s Sentencing Guidelines scheme violates the Sixth
Amendment right to a jury trial. See People v. Lockridge, 498 Mich. 358;
870 N.W.2d 502 (2015), Lockridge does not provide a basis for habeas
relief for petitioner. The AEDPA standard of review found in 28 U.S.C. §
2254 (d)(1) prohibits the use of lower court decisions in determining
whether the state court decision is contrary to, or an unreasonable
application of, clearly established federal law. See Miller v. Straub, 299 F.
3d 570, 578-579 (6th Cir. 2002). “The Michigan Supreme Court’s decision
in Lockridge does not render the result ‘clearly established’ for purposes of
habeas review.” Haller v. Campbell, No. 1:16-CV-206, 2016 WL 1068744,
at * 5 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 18, 2016). Because the Sixth Circuit ruled that
Alleyne does not apply to sentencing guidelines factors, reasonable jurists
at a minimum could disagree about whether Alleyne applies to Michigan’s
minimum sentencing guidelines. Id. at * 6. “Alleyne therefore did not
clearly establish the unconstitutionality of the Michigan sentencing scheme
and cannot form the basis for habeas corpus relief.” Id.; See also Perez v.
Rivard, No. 2:14-CV-12326, 2015 WL 3620426, at *12 (E.D. Mich. June 9,
The Court summarily denies the petition for writ of habeas corpus.
The Court denies 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 will deny petitioner a
certificate of appealability because he failed to make a substantial showing
of the denial of a federal constitutional right. Myers v. Straub, 159 F. Supp.
2d 621, 629 (E.D. Mich. 2001). The Court will also deny petitioner leave to
appeal in forma pauperis, because the appeal would be frivolous. Id.
IT IS ORDERED that the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is
SUMMARILY DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED That a Certificate of Appealability is
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Petitioner will be DENIED leave to
appeal in forma pauperis.
s/George Caram Steeh
GEORGE CARAM STEEH
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: July 11, 2017
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
Copies of this Order were served upon attorneys of record on
July 11, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail and also on
Donald Bradley Grooms #365360, Ojibway Correctional
Facility, N5705 Ojibway Road, Marenisco, MI 49947.
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