Vancallis v. Rewerts
OPINION and ORDER DENYING 1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. Signed by District Judge Terrence G. Berg. (AChu)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
ORDER DENYING PETITION
FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
James Vancallis (“Petitioner”) confined at the Carson City
Correctional Facility in Carson City, Michigan, filed a petition for writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his pro se application,
Petitioner challenges his convictions for first-degree premeditated
murder, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(a); first-degree felony murder,
Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.316(1)(b); kidnapping for purposes of engaging
in criminal sexual penetration, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.349(1)(c); and
assault with intent to commit sexual penetration, Mich. Comp. Laws §
For the reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is
Petitioner was convicted of the above offenses following a jury trial
in the Macomb County Circuit Court. This Court recites verbatim the
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relevant facts regarding Petitioner’s conviction from the Michigan Court
of Appeals’ opinion affirming his conviction, 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):
The 14–year–old victim, April Millsap (April), was murdered
along the Macomb Orchard Trail on July 24, 2014 sometime
between 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. At approximately 5:30 p.m.
that day, she left to take her dog, Penny, on a walk. April’s
mother, Jennifer Millsap, became concerned after April failed
to return by 8:00 p.m. because April was usually only gone for
about an hour. Several texts and phone calls to April’s phone
went unanswered. Jennifer contacted April’s boyfriend,
Austin Albertson. Austin was very worried because April had
texted him “I almost got kidnapped, OMFG.” Jennifer, Austin,
and Austin’s friend, Alex, began to look for April.
The trail was eight feet wide with asphalt. There was a gully
or ditch on the one side that was fairly steep—approximately
three or four feet down. It goes up again and the surface at
that point is flat but covered in very thick brush and a lot of
small trees. That is where April’s body was found. Her blouse
and bra were pulled down about her waist area and her blue
shorts and undergarments were pulled down around her
ankles. Her feet were bare and there were two white shoes to
the north of the body. There were injuries to her neck and chin
with pattern marks from footwear. There was some leaf
material clutched in April’s hand. There was blood on her face
and hair. The manner of death was homicide and the cause of
death was “blunt head trauma and asphyxia due to neck
compression.” April’s herringbone-pattern injuries were
consistent with a shoe tread, indicating that someone had
stood on her neck. The medical examiner testified that the
attack on April may have lasted over ten minutes.
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Police started their investigation by looking at April’s family
and loved ones. Security video eliminated April’s boyfriend
Austin and his friend Alex. Given the gravity of the case,
several groups were involved, including: The Violent Crimes
Task Force, the Homicide Task Force, the Southeastern
Michigan Crimes Against Children Group, the Michigan
State Police (MSP), the FBI, and the Macomb County Sheriff’s
Office. Because there was a lot of publicity about the case, a
tip line was established to receive tips from the general public.
A number of tips came in from people who thought they saw
April on the trail with a man who was on a motorcycle. Several
eyewitnesses testified at trial, placing April and defendant on
the trail together near the time of her death.
The jury was shown an animation created by FBI special
agent Matthew Zentz. Zentz used information from April’s
phone and entered it into Google Earth to re-create the path
the phone took just prior to and after April’s death. During
that time, April’s phone placed three calls and sent one text
message. The animation included pinpoints for the times of
the phone calls and text messages, as well as the location of
the body. At 6:28 p.m., the phone texted—“I was almost
kidnapped. OMFG.” The phone then attempted three calls to
810–882–2469 at 6:31 p.m., 6:32 p.m., and 6:33 p.m. At
approximately 6:44 p.m., the phone departed the area where
April was found. Whereas the phone had previously traveled
an average of approximately 3.8 miles per hour, the phone
suddenly traveled at 22 miles per hour.
A police officer observed a motorcycle in a driveway that
appeared to match the description of the motorcycle seen on
the trail and in a neighbor’s security camera footage. The
officer eventually made contact with defendant at a home that
defendant shared with numerous family members and his
girlfriend, Krystal Stadler. Defendant originally told the
officer that he left his house around 5:00 p.m. to visit his
brother and left his brother’s house before dark because he
was worried about hitting a deer. He reported that he wore a
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black helmet, a Carhartt hoodie, camouflage pants, and KSwiss tennis shoes. Defendant provided roughly the same
information the following day.
There was no physical evidence linking defendant to April’s
murder. The evidence against him consisted of eyewitnesses
who placed defendant with April on the trail just before the
murder as well as Krystal’s testimony that defendant behaved
strangely the night of the murder. Krystal testified that on
the day of the murder defendant left the house on his
motorcycle around “four thirty, five” to go to his brother
Donnie’s house to take his brother a “toothbrush thing” and
pick up some money. Defendant was wearing a white t-shirt
with football logos on it, gray camo pants, his favorite
Jordans, and a backpack. He also owned a Carhartt hoodie.
Defendant returned around “eight thirty, nine,” just before it
started to get dark. Krystal woke up to find defendant
cleaning his shoes in the middle of the night. This seemed
unusual as she had never seen him clean his shoes before.
Defendant explained that he was cleaning off some oil. He
used hand sanitizer and a sock. Defendant came back to bed
and told Krystal that “he messed up and he needed me to
stand by his side.” His demeanor was “lovey dovey,” which
indicated to Krystal that “he did something wrong.”
Police interviewed Krystal on a number of occasions and she
admitted to giving inconsistent statements. Krystal
eventually told police about defendant’s statement during a
third interview. Krystal admitted that the nine years she and
defendant were together were not necessarily harmonious. In
fact, during that time Krystal had an affair with a 17–year–
old and had a child by him. Krystal and defendant had only
recently gotten back together in May 2014, just weeks before
Police officer seized defendant’s helmet and a variety of other
items for testing. They also seized a password-protected
computer from defendant’s room that included prior searches
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such as, “why would this girl say I’m too old for her and still
hit on me?” and “how to get a girl that does not like you to like
you.” Officers also found images of defendant wearing the
Jordans on social media. Because the shoes Krystal described
were never found, officers purchased a similar pair and had
them analyzed to see whether they matched the tread found
on April’s body. There was a “limited association” noted.
Defendant did not testify and did not present any witnesses.
Instead, defense counsel vigorously and effectively crossexamined the prosecution’s witnesses and argued that
defendant was not April’s killer. The jury disagreed and found
defendant guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, firstdegree felony murder, kidnapping for purpose of engaging in
criminal sexual penetration, and assault with intent to
commit criminal sexual penetration. He was sentenced as
People v. VanCallis, No. 332514, 2018 WL 341433, at *1-3 (Mich. Ct.
App. Jan. 9, 2018).
This Court also recites additional facts from the Michigan Court of
Appeals’ opinion on remand from the Michigan Supreme Court:
Fourteen-year-old April Millsap was murdered on July 24,
2014, along the Macomb Orchard Trail. As our previous
opinion indicates, there was no physical evidence tying
defendant to April’s murder. The evidence consisted of
eyewitness testimony that placed defendant with April on the
trail in the moments leading up to her murder. Defendant’s
girlfriend also testified that defendant behaved strangely the
night of the murder and that defendant all but confessed to
his involvement and later threatened to take her “down with
him” if she cooperated with police. The evidence also included
computer-generated animation that demonstrated the path
and speed April’s cellular phone traveled.
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People v. VanCallis, No. 332514, 2018 WL 6422091, at *1 (Mich. Ct.
App. Dec. 6, 2018) (On Remand).
The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner’s conviction.
People v. VanCallis, No. 332514, 2018 WL 341433 (Mich. Ct. App. Jan. 9,
The Michigan Supreme Court remanded the case to the Michigan
Court of Appeals because it failed to address the claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel that Petitioner raised in his Standard 4 pro se
supplemental brief.1 People v. VanCallis, 503 Mich. 855, 917 N.W.2d 65
The Michigan Court of Appeals again affirmed the conviction on
remand. People v. VanCallis, No. 332514, 2018 WL 6422091 (Mich. Ct.
App. Dec. 6, 2018) (Stephens, J., dissenting). The Michigan Supreme
Court denied leave to appeal. People v. VanCallis, 504 Mich. 944, 931
N.W.2d 359 (Mich. 2019).
Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the following grounds:
I. Defendant was denied his right to the constitutionally
effective assistance of counsel where his attorney failed to
challenge the admissibility of a computer generated
animation, failed to object the police chief’s vouching for the
credibility of eyewitness testimony, failed to offer an
eyewitness identification expert where funds had been
Standard 4 of Administrative Order 2004-6, 471 Mich. cii (2004), “explicitly provides
that a pro se brief may be filed within 84 days of the filing of the brief by the
appellant’s counsel, and may be filed with accompanying motions.” Ware v. Harry,
636 F. Supp. 2d 574, 594, n. 6 (E.D. Mich. 2008).
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granted to retain such and expert, and failed to object to the
prosecutor’s misconduct during closing argument. US Const,
AMS VI, XIV; Const 1963, Art 1, §§ 17, 20.
II. Defendant was denied a fair trial by the admission over
objection of gruesome close-up photographs taken during the
III. Defendant was denied his right to the constitutional
effective assistance of counsel where his attorney failed to
offer a private investigator expert and the crime scene
interpretation expert where funds had been granted to retain
for defendant’s defense.
Standard of Review
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) provides that:
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
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
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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.
The Supreme Court 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). The “AEDPA thus 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)
((quoting Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333, n. 7 (1997); Woodford v.
Viscotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam)). “[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
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in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.”
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103.
a. Ineffective assistance of counsel.
In his first and third claims, petitioner argues that he was denied
the effective assistance of trial counsel.
To show that he or she was denied the effective assistance of counsel
under federal constitutional standards, a defendant must satisfy a twoprong test. First, the defendant must demonstrate that counsel’s
performance was so deficient that the attorney did not function as the
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). In so doing, the defendant must
overcome a strong presumption that counsel’s behavior lies within the
wide range of reasonable professional assistance. Id. In other words, the
defendant is required to overcome the presumption that, under the
circumstances, the challenged action might be sound trial strategy.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689.
Second, the defendant must show that such performance prejudiced
his or her defense. Id. To demonstrate prejudice, the defendant must
show that “there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been
different.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. “Strickland’s test for prejudice is
a demanding one. ‘The likelihood of a different result must be
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substantial, not just conceivable.’” Storey v. Vasbinder, 657 F.3d 372, 379
(6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Harrington, 562 U.S. at 112). The Supreme
Court’s holding in Strickland places the burden on the defendant who
raises a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel to show a reasonable
probability that the result of the proceeding would have been different
but for counsel’s allegedly deficient performance. See Wong v. Belmontes,
558 U.S. 15, 27 (2009).
On habeas review, “the question ‘is not whether a federal court
believes the state court’s determination’ under the Strickland standard
‘was incorrect but whether that determination was unreasonable—a
substantially higher threshold.’” Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111,
123 (2009) (quoting Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007)). “The
pivotal question is whether the state court’s application of the Strickland
standard was unreasonable. This is different from asking whether
defense counsel’s performance fell below Strickland’s standard.”
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. at 101. Indeed, “because the Strickland
standard is a general standard, a state court has even more latitude to
reasonably determine that a defendant has not satisfied that standard.”
Knowles, 556 U.S. at 123 (citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. at
664). Pursuant to the § 2254(d)(1) standard, a “doubly deferential judicial
review” applies to a Strickland claim brought by a habeas petitioner. Id.
This means that on habeas review of a state court conviction, “[a] state
court must be granted a deference and latitude that are not in operation
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when the case involves review under the Strickland standard itself.”
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 101.
Because of this doubly deferential standard, the Supreme Court has
Federal habeas courts must guard against the danger of
equating unreasonableness under Strickland with
unreasonableness under § 2254(d). When § 2254(d) applies,
the question is not whether counsel’s actions were
reasonable. The question is whether there is any reasonable
argument that counsel satisfied Strickland’s deferential
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. at 105.
In addition, a reviewing court must not merely give defense counsel
the benefit of the doubt but must also affirmatively entertain the range
of possible reasons that counsel may have had for proceeding as he or she
did. Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 196 (2011).
Petitioner in his first claim initially contends that his trial counsel
was ineffective for failing to challenge the admissibility of the computergenerated animation developed from the data on the victim’s Sport
Tracking fitness application. Petitioner claims that the evidence was
inadmissible hearsay, its admission violated his right to confrontation,
and the expert who testified to the animation was not subjected to a pretrial Daubert hearing.
The Michigan Court of Appeals laid out the factual background to
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At trial, FBI special agent Matthew Zentz testified that he
had been a special agent with the FBI for 16 years. He was a
digital forensic examiner who examined computers and
cellphones. Zentz was part of the computer analysis response
team (CART) for the past 10 years. It took him two years to
become certified. He also had annual proficiency tests. When
the prosecutor asked that the trial court qualify Zentz as a
witness, defense counsel responded “[w]e have no objection.
As long as he sticks to the field of digital forensics.”
Zentz testified that CART became involved in the case in
September 2014 to analyze April’s phone. CART used forensic
tools to focus on July 24, 2014, sorting the files by date (Tr II,
p. 21). Zentz was particularly interested in a screenshot that
was taken by the operating system of the phone itself. It was
unusual for a user to take that type of screenshot, so CART
looked deeper into it. In so doing, Zentz saw another
screenshot of what appeared to be an image of a global
position satellite (GPS) that was generated by a fitness
application (app) that appeared to be running during the time
April was killed. The fitness app was used for people to keep
track of their workouts, keeping track of location, time, and
Zentz was unable to directly read the data files because they
were in the proprietary format of the company that created
the app. Zentz discovered that the sports tracker app was
developed by a company out of Finland and that CART needed
the company’s help in reading the files. Zentz sent the
encrypted data files to the company and the company sent
back a text file containing 3,000 data points for latitude,
longitude, date, time and speed. Zentz used that information
to create an animation in Google Earth to re-create the
phone’s path in the time leading up and directly after April’s
murder. Zentz denied putting in any of his own information.
The animation included pinpoints for the three phone calls
directly before April’s murder, text messages and the location
of the body.
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Zentz and the team then bought an iPhone to test the data
files. The team made a copy of the data files and loaded them
on the test iPhone along with the fitness app. They loaded the
app and then copied the data files from April’s phone to put
them in the same file location. This second piece of forensic
work indicated that the paths were identical and corroborated
what the company had provided.
The animation was admitted without objection and played for
During cross-examination, defense counsel confirmed that the
animation was something that Zentz created. Zentz did not
personally travel to Finland, nor did he speak to anyone in
person. Instead, Zentz spoke with the company’s CEO over
the phone. Zentz had no knowledge regarding the CEO’s
technical experience. Zentz did not inquire into the reliability
or the validity of the information. The conversation was
exclusively about gaining access to the software. Zentz did not
ask for any reliability studies or the error rate associated with
the data. He acknowledged that this was something created
at law enforcement’s request and that it was only as good as
the data and information provided by the company. If any of
that information was wrong, then the animation would be off.
Still, Zentz made no inquiries into the reliability or validity of
People v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at *4.
The Michigan Court of Appeals concluded that trial counsel was not
ineffective for failing to object to the admission of the computer-generated
animation because it was not inadmissible hearsay for two reasons. First,
the animation was used as demonstrative evidence as an aid to illustrate
Zentz’s testimony and thus was not hearsay. People v. VanCallis, 2018
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WL 341433, at *5. The Michigan Court of Appeals further concluded that
even if the animation was hearsay, the animation was admissible under
M.R.E. 803(6), the business records exception to the hearsay rule. Id.
To the extent that petitioner argues that trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to object on the ground that the computer animation
was hearsay under Michigan law, he is not entitled to relief.
Federal habeas courts “‘must defer to a state court’s interpretation
of its own rules of evidence and procedure’ when assessing a habeas
petition.” Miskel v. Karnes, 397 F.3d 446, 453 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Allen v. Morris, 845 F.2d 610, 614 (6th Cir. 1988)). Because the Michigan
Court of Appeals determined that the computer animation was
admissible under Michigan law either as demonstrative evidence or
under the business records exception to the hearsay rule, this Court must
defer to that determination in resolving petitioner’s ineffective assistance
of counsel claim. See Brooks v. Anderson, 292 F. App’x 431, 437-38 (6th
Cir. 2008). Because this Court “cannot logically grant the writ based on
ineffective assistance of counsel without determining that the state court
erred in its interpretation of its own law,” this Court is constrained to
reject petitioner’s claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to object
on hearsay grounds to the computer animation. See Davis v. Straub, 430
F.3d 281, 291 (6th Cir. 2005).
Petitioner’s related claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to
object on Confrontation Clause grounds is likewise meritless.
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Michigan Court of Appeals determined that even if the animation was
considered a hearsay statement, it was admissible under the business
records exception to the hearsay rule:
Jussi Kaasinen of Sports Tracking Technologies, Ltd.
authenticated the data compilation when he signed the
“Records of Regularly Conducted Business Activity” for
purposes of the Uniform Unsworn Foreign Declarations Act,
MCL 600.2181. The data that was provided was made by a
person with knowledge of the matter, made at or near the time
of the occurrence. Sports Tracking Technologies, Inc. made,
kept and maintained the data in the ordinary course of
regularly conducted business activity. We reject defendant’s
claim that the animation was testimonial in nature when
Zentz, who created the animation from the underlying data,
testified at trial.
People v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at *5 (Mich. Ct. App. Jan. 9,
Out of court statements that are testimonial in nature are barred
by the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause unless the witness is
unavailable and the defendant has had a prior opportunity to crossexamine the witness, regardless of whether such statements are deemed
reliable by the court. See Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004).
However, the Confrontation Clause is not implicated, and thus does not
need not be considered, when non-testimonial hearsay is at issue. See
Davis v. Washington, 547 U. S. 813, 823-26 (2006); see also Desai v.
Booker, 538 F.3d 424, 425-26 (6th Cir. 2008). Testimonial statements do
not include remarks made to family members or acquaintances, business
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records, or statements made in furtherance of a conspiracy. Crawford,
541 U.S. at 51-52, 56.
The Michigan Court of Appeals concluded that the computer
animation was admissible under the business records exception to the
hearsay rule found in M.R.E. 803(6). Because the animation qualified as
a business record, it was a non-testimonial statement and its admission
did not violate the Confrontation Clause. See U.S. v. Baker, 458 F. 3d 513,
519 (6th Cir. 2006). Because the admission of the computer animation
did not violate the Confrontation Clause, counsel was not ineffective for
failing to object to its admission on this basis. See e.g. U.S. v. Johnson,
581 F. 3d 320, 328 (6th Cir. 2009).
Finally, the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected Petitioner’s claim
that counsel was ineffective for failing to demand a Daubert2 hearing in
Zentz had an extensive history as a digital forensic examiner.
Defense counsel was not ineffective for demanding a Daubert
hearing for the limited purpose of exploring Zentz’s
qualifications in creating the animation, especially where
counsel vigorously cross-examined Zentz and utilized an
expert to critically examine Zentz’s findings.
People v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at *5.
In light of this analysis, Petitioner failed to show that a Daubert
hearing would have been successful, hence, he failed to show that trial
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).
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counsel was ineffective for failing to move for a Daubert hearing. See Flick
v. Warren, 465 F. App’x 461, 465 (6th Cir. 2012).
Moreover, the Supreme Court has noted that: “[I]n many instances
cross-examination will be sufficient to expose defects in an expert’s
presentation.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 111. Counsel’s choice to attack the
credibility of Zentz’s expert testimony and his computer animation
through cross-examination, rather than to object to its admissibility, is a
valid strategy that defeats Petitioner’s claim. See e.g. Jackson v.
McQuiggin, 553 F. App’x 575, 580-82 (6th Cir. 2014) (trial counsel was
not ineffective by opting to forgo defense expert testimony in arson
prosecution, when counsel educated herself on principles of arson
investigation, consulted with arson expert, conferred with defense
attorneys, and elicited concessions from prosecution expert on crossexamination). Petitioner is not entitled to relief on this claim.
Petitioner next argues that counsel was ineffective in failing to
object to Armada Police Chief Howard Smith’s testimony that eyewitness
accounts are credible and correct most of the time.
The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the claim:
Defendant’s appellate brief fails to show the context in which
the testimony took place. The prosecutor had been
questioning Smith about how the case was investigated.
Specifically, Smith testified that a tip line was created and
every tip was pursued. The testimony that defendant finds
offensive was included in this lengthy exchange:
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Q. [by the prosecutor] Were eyewitnesses developed as a
result of the investigation?
A. They were.
Q. How did their information come into the task force?
A. Voluntarily. They came in, they identified, you know, in
particular three of them had been on the, on the trail the day
of the event. One was an eyewitness. Mr. Reschke has already
testified. One was an eyewitness to April. Two were
eyewitnesses that said that they saw somebody on a blue and
white motorcycle. And then there were two other people that
saw something in the little clearing by the Liberty Trail that
they thought were suspicious. They came forward as well.
Q. You’re an officer of many years, we’ve spent time
questioning the jurors during voir dire about eyewitness
testimony and their opinion and credibility. In your
experience as an officer, the eyewitness testimony that you’re
receiving here, how do you, what do you do to verify or do
whatever you can to be certain that it has some credibility?
A. Through my experience, my training, through different
detective bureau courses that I took when I was in the
detective bureau and that one of the things that you look at
with eyewitness testimony is the credibility, the daylight, the
time, the frequency. There is some, if there’s a weapon
involved there’s some focus on the weapon, not necessarily on
what they’re seeing. And the other thing you want to do is you
want to take it for what this eyewitness is telling you, if they
have a particular focus on a certain thing you accept that and
go with that. You then look at and go with corroboration. You
know, were there other people that saw the same thing? Can
you, can you corroborate what the eyewitness is telling you?
And in the most part, the most part the eyewitness is correct
the majority of the time.
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3804 Filed 11/17/20 Page 19 of 35
Q. But there are times where there are issues (inaudible)?
Q. It goes both ways.
A. It does.
Q. Do you know, do you sit, I guess as the judge of it, or do you
just simply gather all of that information and continue to
move the investigation forward?
A. My job is to gather the information, put it all together and
provide it. [Emphasis added.]
It is clear that the prosecutor asked Smith about the steps he
takes to verify a tip. Smith was not asked to comment on
whether eyewitness testimony was correct a majority of the
time; instead, this last comment was non-responsive to the
question being asked. Just as “an unresponsive, volunteered
answer to a proper question is not grounds for the granting of
a mistrial,” counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to
the challenged testimony. Defense counsel also may have
reasonably determined that objecting to the testimony would
have drawn unnecessary attention to it.
Defense counsel instead pursued the issue during crossexamination:
Q. [by defense counsel] Okay. Now you just indicated in
response to Mr. Cataldo’s testimony [sic] that most of the time
you find eyewitness testimony to be reliable?
A. Through my training and experience, the bulk of
eyewitness testimony is credible, yes.
Defense counsel then questioned Smith at length about the
discrepancies in the eyewitness testimony in this case.
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3805 Filed 11/17/20 Page 20 of 35
Defense counsel’s failure to object to Smith’s testimony did not
fall below an objective standard of reasonableness under
prevailing professional norms.
People v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at *6-7.
Counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to Chief Smith’s
testimony because it was non-responsive, volunteered answer to a
legitimate question. Cf Hodge v. Haeberlin, 579 F.3d 627, 641 (6th Cir.
2009) (counsel not ineffective in the cross-examination of petitioner’s exwife, where her damaging statements were made in nonresponsive
answers to legitimate questions, and counsel’s strategic decision not to
object was reasonable). Moreover, counsel may very well have made a
strategic decision not to object to Chief Smith’s testimony, so as to avoid
bringing undue attention to the testimony. See Cobb v. Perini, 832 F.2d
342, 347-48 (6th Cir. 1987).
Petitioner also argues in his first claim that trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to present an expert in the alleged unreliability of
As an initial matter, the Petitioner has presented no evidence
either to the state courts or to this Court that he has an expert witness
in eyewitness identification. A habeas petitioner’s claim that trial counsel
was ineffective for failing to call an expert witness cannot be based on
speculation. See Keith v. Mitchell, 455 F. 3d 662, 672 (6th Cir. 2006).
Petitioner has not offered, either to the Michigan courts nor to this Court,
any evidence that an expert witness would testify and what the content
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3806 Filed 11/17/20 Page 21 of 35
of this witness’ testimony would have been. In the absence of such proof,
Petitioner is unable to establish that he was prejudiced by counsel’s
failure to call an expert witness to testify at trial on the issues
surrounding eyewitness identification, so as to support the second prong
of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. See Clark v. Waller, 490 F.
3d 551, 557 (6th Cir. 2007).
Additionally, with respect to Petitioner’s claim that counsel was
ineffective for failing to call an expert on eyewitness identification, “[N]o
precedent establishes that defense counsel must call an expert witness
about the problems with eyewitness testimony in identification cases or
risk falling below the minimum requirements of the Sixth Amendment.”
Perkins v. McKee, 411 F. App’x 822, 833 (6th Cir. 2011); see also Dorch v.
Smith, 105 F. App’x 650, 653 (6th Cir. 2004) (upholding as reasonable the
Michigan Court of Appeals’ conclusion that defense counsel’s failure to
call an expert witness on eyewitness identification counsel did not satisfy
Strickland, because counsel “presented several witnesses who testified
as to [the habeas petitioner’s] whereabouts on the weekend of the
incident” and cross-examined the eyewitness regarding inconsistencies
in his identification of the petitioner).
Moreover, the Michigan Court of Appeals, in rejecting Petitioner’s
claim, noted that:
Although the trial court approved funds for such an expert,
defense counsel did not present any evidence or witnesses.
However, defense counsel did make eyewitness testimony his
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3807 Filed 11/17/20 Page 22 of 35
focus at trial. Counsel also vigorously and effectively crossexamined the eyewitnesses. Our review of the entire record
reveals that defense counsel was zealous and successful in
this tactic. Eyewitness testimony was clearly the focus for
People v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at *7.
Petitioner was not denied effective assistance of counsel due to trial
counsel’s failure to seek the assistance of expert witness on identification,
where counsel elicited testimony to discredit the witnesses’ identification
testimony. See Greene v. Lafler, 447 F. Supp. 2d 780, 794-95 (E.D. Mich.
Petitioner next contends that trial counsel was ineffective for
failing to object to various instances of prosecutorial misconduct.
Petitioner first argues that the prosecutor in his closing argument
misstated the law concerning the element of premeditation for firstdegree murder.
The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected Petitioner’s claim, finding
that counsel was not ineffective because the prosecutor did not misstate
the law regarding the element of premeditation in his closing argument
and that the words he used actually mirrored the instruction that the
judge gave the jury on the elements of premeditation and deliberation.
People v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at *9.
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). This Court must defer to the Michigan Court of Appeals’
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3808 Filed 11/17/20 Page 23 of 35
determination that the prosecutor’s statement was an accurate
statement of Michigan law concerning the element of premeditation
required for a first-degree murder conviction. Matthews v. Parker, 651
F.3d 489, 520 (6th Cir. 2011), rev’d in part on other grds sub nom Parker
v. Matthews, 567 U.S. 37 (2012). There was no misconduct here because
the prosecutor did not misstate Michigan law concerning the
premeditation element. Id.; see also Palmer v. Bagley, 330 F. App’x 92,
107 (6th Cir. 2009). Furthermore, because the prosecutor did not
misstate the law, trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to
a proper statement concerning Michigan law. Matthews, 651 F.3d at 520.
Petitioner next argues that counsel was ineffective for failing to
object to the prosecutor’s comments that petitioner was dangerous and
that extra security was required to guard against his temper. Petitioner
specifically points to the prosecutor’s statement—“remember we had to
remove you before we brought him out and get more security, because it’s
very difficult to bring somebody accused of murder that close to the jury.”
The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the claim:
However, defendant takes the statement out of context.
During closing arguments, the prosecutor noted:
You have a rare opportunity in this case to see something
most juries don’t get to see, and that is you got to see Mr.
VanCallis’ volatility. Remember when Bill Buchanan was
standing here and they were doing that God awful, supposed
test ...? Bill Buchanan is standing here very quiet. He’s going,
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3809 Filed 11/17/20 Page 24 of 35
no, you’ve got to pull that helmet down, you’ve got to pull that
helmet down, no, the helmet’s too high up, you’ve got to pull
that helmet down. And there’s VanCallis I pulled it down
Put it in these terms, in front of 12 people, 14 of you now, 12
who will eventually decide his fate, in front of four armed
deputies—remember we had to remove you before we brought
him out and get more security, because it’s very difficult to
bring somebody accused of murder that close to the jury. Four
armed deputies, two more armed investigatives [sic] behind
me, three cameras showing this case to the world, what does
he do? He turns around and he yelled at the Judge. So you tell
me what chance did April Millsap have as a small, 14 year old
girl on an isolated stretch of the Orchard Trail when she
rejected his advances and told him no?
The prosecutor did not mention the need for additional
security to guard against defendant’s volatility; instead, the
prosecutor merely explained what happened during trial. He
noted that defendant lost his temper, which was telling
because defendant was in front of the jury and the room was
full of officers. The prosecutor used defendant’s behavior to
demonstrate that April was defenseless against him. Because
there was nothing objectionable about the prosecutor’s
statement, defense counsel was not ineffective for failing to
People v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at *9.
This analysis is correct if the only possible objections to the
prosecutor’s conduct were that he referred to the Defendant’s loss of
temper in the presence of the jury and suggested an inference that the
victim would have had to face such volatile anger from the defendant.
But the prosecutor also drew attention to the number of deputies
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3810 Filed 11/17/20 Page 25 of 35
needed to provide security to protect the jury from a person accused of
murder. Such a statement was not appropriate because it invited the
jury to consider the general dangerousness of the defendant rather than
the evidence that he had committed the offense charged. Nevertheless,
given the context of the statement and overwhelming evidence of
Petitioner’s guilt, whatever prejudice it might have caused was unlikely
to have affected the outcome of the trial. So, while the Court agrees
with Petitioner that the prosecutor’s remarks were objectionable,
Petitioner was not prejudiced by counsel’s failure to object.
Petitioner next claims that counsel was ineffective for failing to
object to the prosecutor vouching for the witnesses. The Michigan Court
of Appeals rejected the claim, finding that none of the prosecutor’s
remarks amounted to improper vouching:
Defendant argues that defense counsel was ineffective for
failing to object to the prosecutor’s vouching for the police
investigation and the prosecution’s witnesses. “[T]he
prosecutor cannot vouch for the credibility of his witnesses to
the effect that he has some special knowledge concerning a
witness’ truthfulness. People v. Bahoda, 448 Mich. 261, 276,
531 N.W.2d 659, 667 (1995). However, “although a prosecutor
may not vouch for the credibility of a witness, a prosecutor
may argue and make reasonable inferences from the evidence
to support a witness’s truthfulness.” People v. Cain, 299 Mich.
App. 27, 36, 829 N.W.2d 37 (2012), vacated in part on other
grounds 495 Mich. 874, 838 N.W.2d 150 (2013), cert den. –––
U.S. ––––, 134 S.Ct. 1895, 188 L.Ed.2d 927 (2014).
Regarding the investigation, the prosecutor’s full statement
was as follows:
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3811 Filed 11/17/20 Page 26 of 35
I want to debunk a couple of myths about this case. First
of all, I guess who does Mr. VanCallis think he is? Like
Al Capone or John Gotti or El Chapo, that we did a
backwards investigation? That we decided when we
found April Millsap’s body we’re going to simply pin it on
him? That for some, I mean Chief Smith has been there
for eight and a half years, had never heard of the name
James VanCallis, didn’t know who he is. We worked
backwards? We decided to find a pair of shoes, match
those shoes, know that he had a pair of those shoes and
then match those shoes to him? Find somebody in the
area who owns a motorcycle and say, he, he’s got a
motorcycle, let’s pin it on him? Really? Really? I mean
what is all this? 1,000 tips, 1,000 tips! 75 investigators
working full-time for weeks to find 1,000 tips. Each tip
was looked at. Each tip was investigated. Each tip on
here has a conclusion indicating what was done, where it
was done and how it was closed out. How about the fact
that Armada Village is small, so that they went to every
house and every business in Armada Village and asked
questions and filled out surveys, getting information?
What about a rolling stop or a roadblock where they
stopped hundreds and hundreds of people? There may
have been tips coming in on James VanCallis at the time,
and those were sent to a special unit. But they didn’t
avoid any other tip, they didn’t stop looking. They spent
months investigating every possible clue to be certain
that there were no mistakes.
There was nothing improper about the prosecutor’s
statement. It was responsive to defendant’s implication that
he was essentially framed for April’s murder.
Defendant also complains about the prosecutor’s claim that
Krystal was credible:
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3812 Filed 11/17/20 Page 27 of 35
One of our other remaining witnesses is Krystal Stadler.
I think it would have been real easy for Krystal to come
in here and just simply say more than she did. She could
have come in here (inaudible) he confessed to me. She
could have come in here and said before he got rid of the
shoes I saw blood. She could have come in here and said
a lot of different things. She didn’t. It’s not her place.
Everybody knows what it’s like to be in the situation that
she was in, those who have had or have been themselves
victims of domestic violence. Krystal Stadler is a victim
of domestic violence. His behavior was physically and
verbally abusive she told you, and controlling. She
exhibits all of the signs of a battered wife. But she is
submissive, she's not vengeful. She had no attitude. She
didn’t come in here yelling and screaming and wanting a
pound of flesh. Was she easily confused? Unfortunately
she was. But I don’t certainly think that she was lying
when she fully understood the gravity of everything that
was going on.
She did the best she could. She told you the truth as she
remembered it. And this is where your role becomes very
important in this case because you are the one that
judges the credibility. My Mr. Sheikh coming on and
beating her up and making her confused, did that make
her less than she was? Or was she just too complacent
when I was asking her questions? You have to make the
decision. But I would tell you based on what you saw and
what she said she was as straightforward as a person
that there is.
Nothing in the prosecutor’s statement indicates that he asked
the jury to believe Krystal because he had some special
insight into her credibility. Instead, the prosecutor asked the
jury to consider all of the facts and circumstances surrounding
her testimony. Because there was nothing objectionable about
the prosecutor’s statements regarding the police investigation
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3813 Filed 11/17/20 Page 28 of 35
and the prosecution's witnesses, defense counsel was not
ineffective for failing to object.
People v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at *10-11.
The Michigan Court of Appeals concluded that the prosecutor’s
comments did not amount to improper vouching, thus, counsel’s failure
to object to the prosecutor’s comments was not ineffective assistance of
counsel. See Tinsley v. Million, 399 F.3d 796, 808 (6th Cir. 2005).
Petitioner next argues that defense counsel was ineffective for
failing to object to the prosecutor arguing facts that were not in evidence.
Petitioner alleges that there was no evidence of “cleaning streaks” on
Petitioner’s helmet, the size of the tires on his bike, or that Krystal had
the characteristics of a battered spouse.
Misrepresenting facts in evidence by a prosecutor can amount to
substantial error because doing so “may profoundly impress a jury and
may have a significant impact on the jury's deliberations.” Washington v.
Hofbauer, 228 F. 3d 689, 700 (6th Cir. 2000) (quoting Donnelly v.
DeChristoforo, 416 U.S. 637, 646 (1974)). Likewise, it is improper for a
prosecutor during opening or closing arguments to bring to the jury any
purported facts which have not been, or will not be, introduced into
evidence and which are prejudicial. Byrd v. Collins, 209 F.3d 486, 535
(6th Cir. 2000). However, prosecutors must be given leeway to argue
reasonable inferences from the evidence. Id.
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3814 Filed 11/17/20 Page 29 of 35
The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected petitioner’s claim at length,
finding that the prosecutor’s comments were based on the evidence
presented at trial and reasonable inferences from that evidence. People
v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at * 11-12.
In the present case, the prosecutor’s remarks were not improper
because they were based on reasonable inferences from the evidence
presented at trial. Counsel was not ineffective for failing to object.
Stermer v. Warren, 959 F.3d 704, 737-38 (6th Cir. 2020).
Petitioner lastly argues in his first claim that the prosecutor
improperly appealed to the sympathy of the jury and their civic duty with
the following remark:
Is there really a question of rape in this case? There’s one and
only one reason why you would leave a 14 year old girl like
this. He has no reason to embarrass her. He has no personal
connection with her. To embarrass somebody means to imply
that you have an emotional connection. There wasn’t any.
They were strangers. This case was a random act, which is
why the Village of Armada and all of the surrounding areas
were scared to their core. Because April Millsap is somebody’s
daughter. She’s Jennifer’s daughter, but she could have been
anybody’s daughter that day on the trail.
The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the claim:
The prosecutor’s comment was focused on the randomness of
the crime and did not ask the jury to convict out of sympathy
or civic duty. Moreover, the trial court instructed the jury:
“Remember that you have taken an oath to return a true and
just verdict based only on the evidence and my instructions on
the law. You must not let sympathy or prejudice influence
your decision.” Because there was nothing objectionable about
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3815 Filed 11/17/20 Page 30 of 35
the prosecutor’s statement,
ineffective for failing to object.
People v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at *13.
The prosecutor’s comment, even if it was an attempt to invoke
sympathy with the jury, would not entitle Petitioner to habeas relief
because the remark was relatively isolated, was not extensive, and was
only a small part of the closing argument that focused on summarizing
the evidence. Byrd, 209 F. 3d at 532. This portion of Petitioner’s claim
would also be defeated by the fact that the trial court instructed the jury
that they were not to let sympathy or prejudice influence their decision.
See Cockream v. Jones, 382 Fed. App’x 479, 486 (6th Cir. 2010); see also
Welch v. Burke, 49 F. Supp. 2d 992, 1006 (E.D. Mich. 1999).
In summary, Petitioner cannot show that counsel was ineffective
for failing to object to any of the prosecutor’s alleged misconduct, in light
of the fact that the Michigan Court of Appeals found on direct appeal that
the remarks and questions were not improper. See Finkes v. TimmermanCooper, 159 F. App’x 604, 611 (6th Cir. 2005); Campbell v. United States,
266 F. Supp. 2d 587, 589-90 (E.D. Mich. 2003). Petitioner is not entitled
to relief on his first claim.
In his third claim, Petitioner argues that trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to offer a private investigator or crime scene expert
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3816 Filed 11/17/20 Page 31 of 35
A majority of the Michigan Court of Appeals on remand rejected
this claim, by noting that Petitioner failed to provide any affidavits or
indication as to how the experts would have helped his case. People v.
VanCallis, 2018 WL 6422091, at *3.
Petitioner has failed to show that counsel would have obtained
beneficial information had he presented an investigator at trial as a
witness, thus, he failed to establish that he was prejudiced by counsel’s
failure to call such an investigator or expert to testify. See Welsh v. Lafler,
444 F. App’x 844, 851 (6th Cir. 2011) (Defense counsel’s failure to hire
private investigator during prosecution for criminal sexual conduct did
not prejudice defendant, and thus was not ineffective assistance;
defendant failed to present sufficiently detailed and convincing account
of what additional facts investigator could have discovered in support of
defendant’s innocence). Petitioner is not entitled to relief on his third
b. The photograph claim.
Petitioner next claims that he was denied a fair trial when the
prosecutor was permitted to introduce photographs of the victim from the
autopsy which petitioner claims was “gruesome.”
The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the claim:
After viewing the photos, we are convinced that their sole
purpose was not to inflame the jury. Instead, the photographs
were relevant to show the extent of April’s injuries and
identify defendant as the killer through comparable tread
patterns. The photographs were also relevant to explain the
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3817 Filed 11/17/20 Page 32 of 35
absence of physical evidence at the scene. The trial court
carefully considered the photos before it determined that they
were relevant and not substantially more prejudicial than
probative. Its decision did not fall outside the principled range
People v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at *14.
It is “not the province of a federal habeas court to reexamine statecourt determinations on state-court questions.” Estelle v. McGuire, 502
U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991). A federal court is limited in federal habeas review
to deciding whether a state court conviction violates the Constitution,
laws, or treaties of the United States. Id. Thus, errors in the application
of state law, especially rulings regarding the admissibility of evidence,
are usually not questioned by a federal habeas court. Seymour v. Walker,
224 F.3d 542, 552 (6th Cir. 2000).
Petitioner’s claim that the trial court admitted photographs of the
murder victim fails to state a claim upon which habeas relief can be
granted. See e.g. Franklin v. Bradshaw, 695 F.3d 439, 456-57 (6th Cir.
2012) (state court’s determination, that petitioner’s right to fair trial was
not denied by admission of 18 gruesome autopsy photographs of his
victims that were shown to jurors on large projector screen during trial
for aggravated arson, aggravated robbery, and aggravated murder, was
not contrary to clearly established federal law). In particular, the
introduction of graphic or gruesome photographs of a murder victim does
not entitle a petitioner to habeas relief where there is some legitimate
evidentiary purpose for the photographs’ admission. See e.g., Biros v.
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3818 Filed 11/17/20 Page 33 of 35
Bagley, 422 F.3d 379, 391 (6th Cir. 2005) (upholding the admission of
photographs depicting a victim’s severed head, severed breast, and
severed body parts placed near the victim’s torso; the photos were highly
probative of the prosecutor’s claim that the petitioner beat the victim
severely and meticulously dissected her body); Frazier v. Huffman, 343
F.3d 780, 789 (6th Cir. 2003) (finding acceptable the admission of
multiple photographs of the victim used by the coroner to illustrate the
nature of the encounter preceding the victim’s death); Cooey v. Coyle, 289
F.3d 882, 893 (6th Cir. 2002) (observing that “although the photographs
were gruesome, they were highly probative”).
The Michigan Court of Appeals determined that “the photographs
were relevant to show the extent of April’s injuries and identify defendant
as the killer through comparable tread patterns. The photographs were
also relevant to explain the absence of physical evidence at the scene.”
People v. VanCallis, 2018 WL 341433, at *14. Because the photographs
served a proper evidentiary purpose, the trial court’s decision to admit
them did not render Petitioner’s trial fundamentally unfair or entitle him
to habeas relief. Petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief on his second
The Court will deny 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
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3819 Filed 11/17/20 Page 34 of 35
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. The Court will
deny Petitioner a certificate of appealability because of the reasons stated
above and because he has failed to make a substantial showing of the
denial of a federal constitutional right.
Although this Court denies a certificate of appealability, the
standard for granting an application for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis (IFP) is lower than the standard for certificates of appealability.
See Foster v. Ludwick, 208 F. Supp. 2d 750, 764 (E.D. Mich. 2002). While
a certificate of appealability may only be granted if petitioner makes a
substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right, a court may
grant IFP status if it finds that an appeal is being taken in good faith. Id.
at 764-65; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Fed. R.App.24 (a). “Good faith” requires
Case 2:19-cv-13644-TGB-PTM ECF No. 10, PageID.3820 Filed 11/17/20 Page 35 of 35
a showing that the issues raised are not frivolous; it does not require a
showing of probable success on the merits. Id. at 765. Although jurists of
reason would not debate this 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.
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
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Petitioner is GRANTED leave
to appeal in forma pauperis.
Dated: November 17, 2020
/s/Terrence G. Berg_________
HONORABLE TERRENCE G. BERG
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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