Williams v. Warren
OPINION and ORDER Denying 1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Denying a Certificate of Appealability and Denying Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis on Appeal. Signed by District Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis. (THal)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
ANTHONY LEE-VICTOR WILLIAMS,
Case No. 2:18-CV-12916
Stephanie Dawkins Davis
United States District Judge
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR
A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DENYING A CERTIFICATE
OF APPEALABILITY, AND DENYING LEAVE TO
PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS ON APPEAL
This is a habeas case brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Michigan
prisoner Anthony Lee-Victor Williams (“Petitioner”) was convicted of first-degree
criminal sexual conduct, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.520b(1)(c), and kidnapping,
MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.349, following a jury trial in the Wayne County Circuit
Court. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of 30 to 50 years imprisonment and
15 to 30 years imprisonment on those convictions in 2015. In his pleadings,
Petitioner raises claims concerning the sufficiency of the evidence and the validity
of his sentence. For the reasons stated herein, the Court denies the habeas petition,
denies a certificate of appealability, and denies Petitioner leave to proceed in forma
pauperis on appeal.
II. Facts and Procedural History
Petitioner’s convictions arise from his restraint and sexual assault of a
woman in Detroit, Michigan on December 22, 2013. The Court adopts
Respondent’s summary of the trial facts and testimony to the extent it is consistent
with the record. Those facts are as follows:
At 7:00 pm on December 22, 2013, Erica Jackson was
attending a going-away party at her friend’s house in
Detroit. (7/23/15 Trial Tr., pp. 137-38.) At some point,
Jackson ran out of cigarettes, and left the party to go to
the store to purchase more. (Id. at p. 139.) Rather than
go to the store that was across the street from her friend’s
house, Jackson decided to walk a few blocks to the
Vinewood Express liquor store, because she knew the
owners of that store and wanted to stop in to say hello.
(7/23/15 Trial Tr., p. 139; 7/27/15 Trial Tr., p. 9, 22.)
While on the way to the store, a man approached Jackson
from behind and asked her for directions to Clark Park.
(7/23/15 Trial Tr., p. 139.) To describe where the man
needed to go, Jackson took a few steps forward and
pointed. (Id. at pp. 140-41.) The man followed Jackson
as she walked, and when the two approached an alley, the
man grabbed Jackson’s arm and dragged her into the
alley. (Id. at p. 141.) Jackson attempted to get away, but
the man put a knife to her neck and warned her that, if
she screamed, he would kill her. (Id. at p. 142.)
Once they got into the alley, the man told Jackson to turn
around and face the brick wall. (7/23/15 Trial Tr., p.
144.) The man also told Jackson that he wanted to “cut
[her] face.” (Id. at pp. 144-45.) Jackson attempted to
humanize herself by telling the man that she was a mother
to five children and that her father was dying. (Id. at p.
145.) In response, the man told Jackson to pull her pants
down. (Id.) Jackson complied. (Id.)
The man then put his arm around the front of Jackson,
put his penis in Jackson’s vagina, and raped her from
behind. (7/23/15 Trial Tr., pp. 145-46.) After
ejaculating, the man threw Jackson to the ground, told her
to count to 50, kicked her in the back of the head, told her
not to tell anyone, and ran away. (Id. at pp. 146-47.)
Jackson waited until she no longer heard his footsteps, got
up, pulled her pants back on, and ran in the opposite
direction. (Id. at p. 147.)
After running a short distance, Jackson saw a police
squad car, so she ran up to the car and, while hysterically
crying, reported to the officer that she had been raped.
(7/23/15 Trial Tr., p. 147; 7/27/15 Trial Tr., pp. 39-40.)
The officer called Jackson an ambulance,1 and while they
waited, Jackson described what happened. (7/23/15 Trial
Tr., p. 148.) The ambulance arrived and took Jackson to
the hospital, where a sexual assault nurse examiner
performed a rape kit on Jackson. (Id. at pp. 148-49;
7/27/15 Trial Tr., pp. 50, 61.) The nurse and a police
officer also took photos of Jackson’s injuries, which
included scraped knees and elbows, a bruised chin, a
busted lip, and a knot on her head. (7/23/15 Trial Tr., p.
150; 7/27/15 Trial Tr., pp. 50-60, 80.)
The police eventually picked up the rape kit from the
hospital and tested the samples to determine whether any
male DNA was present. (7/27/15 Trial Tr., pp. 62, 8687.) All of the samples tested positive for male DNA.
(Id. at p. 88.) The police then chose the sample with the
most male DNA present—the vaginal swab—for further
Because the area was known for prostitution, the officer also ran Jackson’s name
through a book of known prostitutes in the area. (7/27/15 Trial Tr., pp. 41-42, 46). The search
revealed that the police had no previous contact with Jackson. (Id. at p. 42.)
testing. (Id. at pp. 88-89, 91.) Further testing on the
swab revealed an “unidentified male [DNA] profile.” (Id.
at p. 95.) The police entered the unidentified male profile
into the Combined DNA Index System (“CODIS”)
database, and there was a match: Anthony Lee-Victor
Williams. (Id. at pp. 96–97.)
The police then obtained a DNA sample from Williams,
and performed testing on that sample. (7/27/15 Trial Tr.,
pp. 97-99.) The police compared the resulting DNA
profile from Williams’ sample to that of the unidentified
male, and determined “that in the absence of identical
twins or close relatives, it c[ould] be concluded to a
reasonable degree of scientific certainty that the DNA
from the sperm fraction of the vaginal swab sample and
from Anthony Williams are from the same individual.”
(Id. at pp. 99-100.)
Jackson learned from the police in October or November
of 2014 that there was a DNA match for the samples
taken from her for the rape kit. (7/23/15 Trial Tr., pp.
153-54.) The police met with Jackson for a photo
line-up, but, from the photos, Jackson was unable to
identify the man who kidnapped and raped her because
the photos were black and white and were not clear, and
because Jackson did not want to point someone out unless
she was 100% sure it was the perpetrator. (Id. at pp. 15455; 7/27/15 Trial Tr., pp. 127-28.) However, Jackson
was subsequently able to identify Williams during his
preliminary examination and at trial. (7/23/15 Trial Tr.,
Williams testified at trial that, on the night of December
22, 2013, he approached Jackson on the street and asked
her what she was doing outside, and Jackson replied that
she was trying to make some money. (7/27/15 Trial Tr.,
pp. 141–42.) Williams stated that he and Jackson then
went into the alley and had sex, and Williams gave her
$20. (Id. at p. 142.) According to Williams, Jackson
stated that she wanted $40, and began to argue with him
about payment. (Id. at pp. 142, 144.) However, during
jail calls played at trial, Williams stated a “Mexican
chick” that he “beat up” was “accusing [him] of all these
things” because he “wouldn’t f*** with her.” (Id. at pp.
Resp. Answer, pp. 4-8, ECF No. 7, PageID.77-81.
Following his convictions and sentencing, Petitioner filed an appeal of right
with the Michigan Court of Appeals raising the same claims contained in his
current petition, as well as an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The Michigan
Court of Appeals denied relief on those claims and affirmed Petitioner’s convictions
and sentences. People v. Williams, No. 329447, 2017 WL 652163 (Mich. Ct. App.
Feb. 16, 2017) (unpublished). Petitioner then filed an application for leave to
appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which was denied in a standard order.
People v. Williams, 501 Mich. 975, 906 N.W.2d 775 (2018).
Petitioner thereafter filed his federal habeas petition. He raises the following
His convictions should be reversed because there was
insufficient and incompetent evidence that he committed
He is entitled to re-sentencing because the scoring of the
offense variables occurred through improper judicial factfinding and his sentences are unreasonable.
Respondent filed an answer to the habeas petition contending that it should be
denied for lack of merit. Petitioner filed a reply to that answer.
III. Standard of Review
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”),
codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2241 et seq., sets forth the standard of review that federal
courts must use when considering habeas petitions brought by prisoners challenging
their state court convictions. The AEDPA provides in relevant part:
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
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.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) (1996).
“A state court’s decision is ‘contrary to’ ... clearly established law if it
‘applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court
cases]’ or if it ‘confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a
decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from
[that] precedent.’” Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam)
(quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)); see also Bell v. Cone,
535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). “[T]he ‘unreasonable application’ prong of § 2254(d)(1)
permits a federal habeas court to ‘grant the writ if the state court identifies the
correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court but unreasonably
applies that principle to the facts of petitioner’s case.” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S.
510, 520 (2003) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 413); see also Bell, 535 U.S. at
694. However, “[i]n order for a federal court find a state court’s application of
[Supreme Court] precedent ‘unreasonable,’ the state court’s decision must have
been more than incorrect or erroneous. The state court’s application must have
been ‘objectively unreasonable.’” Wiggins, 539 U.S. at 520-21 (citations omitted);
see also Williams, 529 U.S. at 409. 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, 521 U.S. at 333, n. 7); Woodford v. Viscotti, 537
U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam).
A state court’s ruling 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)). The Supreme Court has emphasized “that
even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court’s contrary conclusion was
unreasonable.” Id. (citing Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)). Pursuant
to § 2254(d), “a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported
or ... could have supported, the state court’s decision; and then it must ask whether
it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are
inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision” of the Supreme Court. Id. Thus,
in order to obtain habeas relief in federal court, a state prisoner must 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.” Id; see also White v. Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, 419-20
(2014). Federal judges “are required to afford state courts due respect by
overturning their decisions only when there could be no reasonable dispute that they
were wrong.” Woods v. Donald, 575 U.S. 312, 316 (2015). A habeas petitioner
cannot prevail as long as it is within the “realm of possibility” that fairminded
jurists could find the state court decision to be reasonable. Woods v. Etherton, __
U.S. __, 136 S. Ct. 1149, 1152 (2016).
Section 2254(d)(1) limits a federal habeas court’s review to a determination
of whether the state court’s decision comports with clearly established federal law
as determined by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision.
Williams, 529 U.S. at 412; see also Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111, 122
(2009) (noting that the Supreme Court “has held on numerous occasions that it is
not ‘an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law’ for a state court
to decline to apply a specific legal rule that has not been squarely established by this
Court”) (quoting Wright v. Van Patten, 552 U.S. 120, 125-26 (2008) (per curiam));
Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71-72 (2003). Section 2254(d) “does not require
a state court to give reasons before its decision can be deemed to have been
‘adjudicated on the merits.’” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 100. Furthermore, it “does
not require citation of [Supreme Court] cases–indeed, it does not even require
awareness of [Supreme Court] cases, so long as neither the reasoning nor the result
of the state-court decision contradicts them.” Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8
(2002); see also Mitchell, 540 U.S. at 16. The requirements of clearly established
law are to be determined solely by Supreme Court precedent. Thus, “circuit
precedent does not constitute ‘clearly established Federal law as determined by the
Supreme Court’” and it cannot provide the basis for federal habeas relief. Parker v.
Matthews, 567 U.S. 37, 48-49 (2012) (per curiam); see also Lopez v. Smith, 574
U.S. 1, 2 (2014) (per curiam). The decisions of lower federal courts, however, may
be useful in assessing the reasonableness of the state court’s resolution of an issue.
Stewart v. Erwin, 503 F.3d 488, 493 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Williams v. Bowersox,
340 F.3d 667, 671 (8th Cir. 2003)); Dickens v. Jones, 203 F. Supp. 354, 359 (E.D.
A state court’s factual determinations are presumed correct on federal habeas
review. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). A habeas petitioner may rebut this
presumption only with clear and convincing evidence. Warren v. Smith, 161 F.3d
358, 360-61 (6th Cir. 1998). Moreover, habeas review is “limited to the record that
was before the state court.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).
A. Sufficiency of the Evidence Claim
Petitioner first asserts that he is entitled to habeas relief because the
prosecution failed to present sufficient, competent evidence to support his
convictions. Respondent contends that this claim lacks merit.
The federal due process clause “protects the accused against conviction
except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute
the crime with which he is charged.” In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970).
The question on a sufficiency of the evidence claim is “whether, after viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact
could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979). The Jackson standard must be
applied “with explicit reference to the substantive elements of the criminal offense
as defined by state law.” Brown v. Palmer, 441 F.3d 347, 351 (6th Cir. 2006)
(quoting Jackson, 443 U.S. at 324 n. 16).
A federal habeas court views this standard through the framework of 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d). Martin v. Mitchell, 280 F.3d 594, 617 (6th Cir. 2002). Thus,
under the AEDPA, challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence “must survive two
layers of deference to groups who might view facts differently” than a reviewing
court on habeas review – the factfinder at trial and the state court on appellate
review – as long as those determinations are reasonable. Brown v. Konteh, 567
F.3d 191, 205 (6th Cir. 2009). “[I]t is the responsibility of the jury – not the court –
to decide what conclusions should be drawn from the evidence admitted at trial.”
Cavazos v. Smith, 565 U.S. 1, 2 (2011) (per curiam). “A reviewing court does not
re-weigh the evidence or re-determine the credibility of the witnesses whose
demeanor has been observed by the trial court.” Matthews v. Abramajtys, 319 F.3d
780, 788 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Marshall v. Lonberger, 459 U.S. 422, 434 (1983)).
The “mere existence of sufficient evidence to convict ... defeats a petitioner’s
claim.” Id. at 788-89.
Under Michigan law, the elements of first-degree criminal sexual conduct as
relevant to this case are: (1) sexual penetration with another person, (2) under
circumstances involving the commission of another felony. See MICH. COMP.
LAWS § 750.520b(1)(c); People v. Waltonen, 272 Mich. App. 678, 686, 728
N.W.2d 881, 886 (2006). The elements of kidnapping as relevant to this case are:
(1) the defendant knowingly restrains another person, (2) with the intent to engage
in criminal sexual penetration or criminal sexual conduct with that person. See
MICH. COMP. LAWS § 750.349(1)(c); People v. Willis, No. 344561, 2019 WL
7206064, *7 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 26, 2019). “Restrain” means “to restrict a
person’s movements or to confine the person so as to interfere with the person’s
liberty without the person's consent or without legal authority.” MICH. COMP. LAWS
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant
committed the charged offense. People v. Kern, 6 Mich. App. 406, 409, 149
N.W.2d 216 (1967). Direct or circumstantial evidence and reasonable inferences
arising from that evidence may constitute satisfactory proof of the elements of an
offense, People v. Jolly, 442 Mich. 458, 466, 502 N.W.2d 177 (1993), including
the identity of the perpetrator, Kern, 6 Mich. App. at 409; see also People v.
Johnson, 146 Mich. App. 429, 434, 381 N.W.2d 740 (1985), and the defendant’s
intent or state of mind. People v. Dumas, 454 Mich. 390, 398, 563 N.W.2d 31
(1997); see also People v. Nowack, 462 Mich. 392, 402-03, 614 N.W.2d 78
Applying the Jackson standard, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the
prosecution presented sufficient evidence to support Petitioner’s convictions and
denied relief on this claim. The court explained in relevant part:
Defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of the
evidence in support of the specific elements of
kidnapping and first-degree CSC. Instead, he asserts that
the victim’s testimony was incompetent or incredible, and
he also suggests that there was insufficient evidence that
he was the perpetrator of the offenses. “[I]dentity is an
element of every offense.” People v. Yost, 278 Mich.
App. 341, 356; 749 N.W.2d 753 (2008).
Defendant argues that the victim’s testimony was not
“competent” because she changed her story, she could not
initially identify him, she could only identify him in court,
and only one of eight samples from the victim was
DNA-tested. The alleged deficiencies in the victim's
testimony relate to her credibility, and the fact that only
one of the samples from the victim was DNA-tested goes
to the weight of the evidence. “This Court will not
interfere with the trier of fact’s determinations regarding
the weight of the evidence or the credibility of witnesses.”
People v. Stevens, 306 Mich. App. 620, 628; 858
N.W.2d 98 (2014).
Further, defendant admitted to having sex with the victim,
but claimed that he paid her for sex; thus, defendant’s
challenge regarding the DNA evidence linking him to the
victim is not persuasive. Moreover, the victim testified
that she was unable to identify defendant from the
pre-trial photographic lineup because of the poor quality
of the black and white photographs. However, she saw
and spoke to defendant before he attacked her and she
testified that she was 100 percent certain that defendant
was her attacker. Viewing the evidence in the light most
favorable to the prosecution, Bailey, 310 Mich. App. at
713, the jury could have reasonably found beyond a
reasonable doubt that defendant committed the charged
crimes of kidnapping and first-degree CSC based on the
victim’s identification of defendant, police testimony, and
the DNA evidence indicating that defendant’s DNA
matched the DNA from the victim's vaginal swab.
Williams, 2017 WL 652163 at *1.
The state court’s decision is neither contrary to Supreme Court precedent nor
an unreasonable application of federal law or the facts. The evidence presented at
trial, viewed in a light favorable to the prosecution, established that Petitioner
committed the offenses of which he was convicted. The victim testified that
Petitioner grabbed her, forced her into an alley, and vaginally raped her against her
will. Such testimony, if believed, was sufficient to support Petitioner’s convictions
for first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping. A victim’s testimony
alone can be constitutionally sufficient to sustain a conviction. See Tucker v.
Palmer, 541 F.3d 652, 658-59 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing cases). Moreover, the DNA
evidence taken from the victim’s rape kit, the victim’s documented injuries, and the
police testimony describing her condition after the incident provided further
evidence of Petitioner’s guilt.
Petitioner argues his consent/prostitution defense and challenges the
credibility of the victim, the quality of the DNA evidence, and the jury’s evaluation
of the testimony and evidence presented at trial. However, it is the job of the
fact-finder at trial, not a federal habeas court, to resolve evidentiary conflicts.
Jackson, 443 U.S. at 326; Martin v. Mitchell, 280 F.3d 594, 618 (6th Cir. 2002);
see also Walker v. Engle, 703 F.2d 959, 969-70 (6th Cir. 1983) (“A federal habeas
corpus court faced with a record of historical facts that supports conflicting
inferences must presume – even if it does not affirmatively appear in the record 14
that the trier of fact resolved any such conflicts in favor of the prosecution, and
must defer to that resolution.”). The jury’s verdict, and the Michigan Court of
Appeals’ decision affirming that verdict, were reasonable. Habeas relief is not
warranted on this claim.
B. Sentencing Claim
Petitioner also asserts that he is entitled to habeas relief because several
offense variables of the state sentencing guidelines were scored through improper
judicial fact-finding and his sentences are unreasonable. Respondent contends that
this claim is not cognizable on habeas review and that it lacks merit.
A sentence imposed within the statutory limits is generally not subject to
federal habeas review. Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 741 (1948); Cook v.
Stegall, 56 F. Supp. 2d 788, 797 (E.D. Mich. 1999). Claims which arise out of a
state trial court’s sentencing decision are not normally cognizable upon habeas
review unless the petitioner can show that the sentence imposed exceeded the
statutory limits or is wholly unauthorized by law. Lucey v. Lavigne, 185 F. Supp.
2d 741, 745 (E.D. Mich. 2001). Petitioner’s sentences are within the statutory
maximums for his offenses. See MICH. COMP. LAWS §§ 750.520b, 750.349 (both
authorizing a sentence of any term of years or life imprisonment). Consequently,
his sentences are insulated from habeas review absent a federal constitutional
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that Petitioner’s sentences are
appropriate and denied relief on this claim. The court explained:
Whether a defendant’s sentence violates the Sixth
Amendment is reviewed de novo. People v. Lockridge,
498 Mich. 358, 373; 870 N.W.2d 502 (2015). “[A]
preserved, nonstructural error is subject to the harmless
beyond a reasonable doubt test.” People v. Terrell, 312
Mich. App. 450, 464; 879 N.W.2d 294 (2015), lv held in
abeyance _ Mich. _; 878 N.W.2d 480 (2016).
In Lockridge, 498 Mich. at 389, our Supreme Court
concluded that Michigan’s sentencing guidelines violate
the Sixth Amendment. To remedy the constitutional
violation, the Court held that the sentencing guidelines
are advisory only. Id. at 391. However, sentencing
courts must “continue to consult the applicable
guidelines range and take it into account when imposing
a sentence.” Id. at 392. Further, the sentencing court is
permitted to score the OVs based on facts not admitted
by defendant or found by the jury beyond a reasonable
doubt. Id. at 392 n 28.
When a defendant’s sentence is calculated using a
guidelines minimum sentence range in which OVs have
been scored on the basis of facts not admitted by the
defendant or found beyond a reasonable doubt by the
jury, the sentencing court may exercise its discretion to
depart from that guidelines range without articulating
substantial and compelling reasons for doing so. A
sentence that departs from the applicable guidelines
range will be reviewed by an appellate court for
reasonableness. [Id. at 391-392 (footnote omitted).]
Contrary to defendant’s assertion, then, the trial court
was required to score the OVs on the basis of
judicially-found facts under Lockridge, 498 Mich. at 392
n 28 (“Our holding today does nothing to undercut the
requirement that the highest number of points possible
must be assessed for all OVs, whether using judge-found
facts or not.”). As long as the trial court recognized and
treated the guidelines as advisory, any judicial
fact-finding did not violate the Sixth Amendment. And
it is apparent from the parties’ arguments and the court’s
remarks at sentencing that the trial court was aware that
the guidelines range should be treated as merely advisory
under Lockridge. Thus, the trial court did not err to the
extent that it relied on judicial fact-finding to score the
OVs, and it properly considered defendant’s guidelines
range based on those scores. Accordingly, there was no
We also reject defendant’s claim that his sentence is
unreasonable. The trial court sentenced defendant within
the guidelines range. Because there was no departure, it is
unnecessary to review defendant’s sentence for
reasonableness. See Lockridge, 498 Mich. at 392.
Williams, 2017 WL 652163 at *2 (footnotes omitted).
The state court’s decision is neither contrary to Supreme Court precedent nor
an unreasonable application of federal law or the facts. As an initial matter, to the
extent that Petitioner asserts that the state courts erred in interpreting Michigan law
and denying him relief under People v. Lockridge, 498 Mich. 358, 870 N.W.2d 502
(2015), or finding that his sentence was reasonable under Michigan law, he fails to
state a claim upon which federal habeas relief may be granted. State courts are the
final arbiters of state law and federal courts will not intervene in such matters.
Lewis v. Jeffers, 497 U.S. 764, 780 (1990); Oviedo v. Jago, 809 F.2d 326, 328 (6th
Cir. 1987); see also Bradshaw v. Richey, 546 U.S. 74, 76 (2005) (“a state court’s
interpretation of state law, including one announced on direct appeal of the
challenged conviction, binds a federal court sitting on habeas review”); Sanford v.
Yukins, 288 F.3d 855, 860 (6th Cir. 2002). Habeas relief does not lie for perceived
errors of state law. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991) (“it is not the
province of a federal habeas court to reexamine state-court determinations on
state-law questions”). Petitioner is thus not entitled to habeas relief on any such
state law issues.
Petitioner, however, also seems to assert that the trial court relied upon
judicially-found facts that were neither admitted by him nor proven to the jury
beyond a reasonable doubt in scoring several offense variables of the Michigan
sentencing guidelines in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. This claim arises
from the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530
U.S. 466 (2000), Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004); and Alleyne v.
United States, 570 U.S. 99 (2013). In Apprendi, the Supreme Court held that,
“[o]ther than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a
crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and
proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” Apprendi, 530 U .S. at 490. In Blakely, the
Supreme Court clarified “that the ‘statutory maximum’ for Apprendi purposes is the
maximum sentence a judge may impose solely on the basis of the facts reflected in
the jury verdict or admitted by the defendant.” Blakely, 542 U.S. at 303. In
Alleyne, the Supreme Court extended Apprendi to mandatory minimum sentences,
ruling that any fact that increases a mandatory minimum sentence is an “element”
of the offense that must be submitted to the jury and proven beyond a reasonable
doubt. Alleyne, 570 U.S. at 111-12.
In Lockridge, the Michigan Supreme Court held that, under Alleyne, the
Michigan sentencing guidelines violate the Sixth Amendment because the
guidelines “require judicial fact-finding beyond facts admitted by the defendant or
found by the jury to score offense variables that mandatorily increase the floor of
the guidelines minimum sentence range.” Lockridge, 870 N.W.2d at 506. The
court’s remedy was to make the guidelines advisory only. Id. at 520-21. The
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has since issued a decision
agreeing with Lockridge and ruling that Alleyne clearly established that Michigan’s
pre-Lockridge mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines scheme violated the Sixth
Amendment. See Robinson v. Woods, 901 F.3d 710, 716-18 (6th Cir. 2018). The
Sixth Circuit explained that “[a]t bottom, Michigan’s sentencing regime violated
Alleyne’s prohibition on the use of judge-found facts to increase mandatory
minimum sentences.” Id. at 716. This Court is bound by the Sixth Circuit’s
Alleyne applies to Petitioner’s case. Alleyne was decided on June 17, 2013
and Petitioner was sentenced on August 11, 2015. See 8/11/15 Sent. Tr., ECF No.
8-8. Alleyne was thus clearly established law before Petitioner’s convictions and
sentences became final and it governs his sentencing. Petitioner, however, was also
sentenced after Lockridge was decided on July 29, 2015. Lockridge made the
Michigan sentencing guidelines advisory, rather than mandatory. The application
of advisory sentencing guidelines does not violate the Sixth Amendment. Alleyne,
570 U.S. 116; Booker, 543 U.S. at 233; see also Clarmont v. Chapman, No. 201205, 2020 WL 5126476, *2 (6th Cir. July 13, 2020) (citing Alleyne and denying a
certificate of appealability on similar claim). Consequently, even if certain offense
variables were determined by judicially-found facts, Petitioner’s sentences do not
run afoul of Alleyne or the Sixth Amendment. Habeas relief is not warranted on
For the reasons stated, the Court concludes that Petitioner is not entitled to
federal habeas relief on his claims. Accordingly, the Court DENIES and
DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE the petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Before Petitioner may appeal this decision, a certificate of appealability must
issue. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(a); FED. R. APP. P. 22(b). A certificate of
appealability may issue only if the petitioner makes “a substantial showing of the
denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). When a court denies
habeas relief on the merits, the substantial showing threshold is met if the petitioner
demonstrates that reasonable jurists would find the court’s assessment of the claim
debatable or wrong. Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484-85 (2000). “A
petitioner satisfies this standard by demonstrating that ... jurists could conclude the
issues presented are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.”
Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 327 (2003). Petitioner makes no such
showing. Accordingly, the Court DENIES a certificate of appealability.
Lastly, the Court concludes that an appeal cannot be taken in good faith. See
FED. R. APP. P. 24(a). Accordingly, the Court DENIES Petitioner leave to proceed
in forma pauperis on appeal. This case is CLOSED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: June 7, 2021
s/Stephanie Dawkins Davis
Stephanie Dawkins Davis
United States District Judge
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