Quinn #442411 v. Curtin
OPINION; Order and Judgment to issue; signed by Judge Janet T. Neff (Judge Janet T. Neff, clb)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN SOUTHERN DIVISION DUJUAN LANARD QUINN, Petitioner, v. CINDI S. CURTIN, Respondent. _______________________________/ OPINION This is a habeas corpus action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Promptly after the filing of a petition for habeas corpus, the Court must undertake a preliminary review of the petition to determine whether "it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court." Rule 4, RULES GOVERNING § 2254 CASES; see 28 U.S.C. § 2243. If so, the petition must be summarily dismissed. Rule 4; see Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970) (district court has the duty to "screen out" petitions that lack merit on their face). A dismissal under Rule 4 includes those petitions which raise legally frivolous claims, as well as those containing factual allegations that are palpably incredible or false. Carson v. Burke, 178 F.3d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1999). After undertaking the review required by Rule 4, the Court concludes that the petition must be dismissed because it fails to raise a meritorious federal claim. Case No. 1:09-cv-983 Honorable Janet T. Neff
Factual Allegations Petitioner is incarcerated in the Oaks Correctional Facility. He pleaded nolo contendere in the Muskegon County Circuit Court to carjacking, failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in serious injury or death, uttering and publishing, second-degree fleeing and eluding a police officer and resisting a police officer. On January 28, 2008, the trial court sentenced him as a fourth habitual offender to prison terms of twenty-five to seventy-five years for the car jacking conviction, twenty-five to seventy years for the failure to stop conviction, five to twenty-five years for the uttering and publishing conviction, five to twenty years for the fleeing and eluding a police officer conviction and three to fifteen years for the resisting a police officer conviction. The Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court denied his applications for leave to appeal on June 17, 2008 and October 27, 2008, respectively. Petitioner now raises the following two grounds for habeas corpus relief: I. PETITIONER IS ENTITLED TO RESENTENCING BECAUSE THE STATUTORY SENTENCING GUIDELINES WERE MISSCORED AS TO THE OFFENSE VARIABLES, WHICH AFFECTED THE STATUTORY SENTENCING GUIDELINES RANGE. THE INTERPRETATION OF THE SENTENCE CREDIT STATUTE TO PRECLUDE SENTENCE CREDIT FOR PERSONS COMMITTING OFFENSES WHILE ON PAROLE IS INCONSISTENT WITH THE PLAIN LANGUAGE OF THE STATUTE AND SHOULD PETITIONER BE GRANTED CREDIT.
(Pet., 6-7, docket #1.) Standard of Review This action is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, PUB. L. 104-132, 110 STAT. 1214 (AEDPA). See Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792 (2001). The AEDPA "prevents federal habeas `retrials'" and ensures that state court convictions are given effect -2-
to the extent possible under the law. Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693-94 (2002). The AEDPA has "drastically changed" the nature of habeas review. Bailey v. Mitchell, 271 F.3d 652, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). An application for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person who is incarcerated pursuant to a state conviction cannot be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the adjudication: "(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 upon an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Discussion I. Sentence Scoring
In his first ground for habeas corpus relief, Petitioner contends that the trial court misscored Offense Variables 4, 9, and 14 when calculating his sentence for the carjacking conviction. Claims concerning the improper scoring of sentencing guidelines are state-law claims and typically are not cognizable in habeas corpus proceedings. See Hutto v. Davis, 454 U.S. 370, 373-74 (1982) (federal courts normally do not review a sentence for a term of years that falls within the limits prescribed by the state legislature); Austin v. Jackson, 213 F.3d 298, 301-02 (6th Cir. 2000) (alleged violation of state law with respect to sentencing is not subject to federal habeas relief); Cheatham v. Hosey, No. 93-1319, 1993 WL 478854, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 19, 1993) (departure from sentencing guidelines is an issue of state law, and, thus, not cognizable in federal habeas review); Cook v. Stegall, 56 F. Supp. 2d 788, 797 (E.D. Mich. 1999) (the sentencing guidelines establish only rules of state law). There is no constitutional right to individualized sentencing. United States v. Thomas, 49 F.3d 253, 261 (6th Cir. 1995). Moreover, a criminal
defendant has "no federal constitutional right to be sentenced within Michigan's guideline minimum sentence recommendations." Doyle v. Scutt, 347 F. Supp. 2d 474, 485 (E.D. Mich. 2004); accord Lovely v. Jackson, 337 F. Supp. 2d 969, 977 (E.D. Mich. 2004); Thomas v. Foltz, 654 F. Supp. 105, 106-07 (E.D. Mich. 1987). Although state law errors generally are not reviewable in a federal habeas proceeding, an alleged violation of state law "could, potentially, `be sufficiently egregious to amount to a denial of equal protection or of due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.'" Koras v. Robinson, 123 F. App'x 207, 213 (6th Cir. Feb. 15, 2005) (citing Bowling v. Parker, 344 F.3d 487, 521 (6th Cir. 2003)). See also Doyle, 347 F. Supp. 2d at 485 (a habeas court "will not set aside, on allegations of unfairness or an abuse of discretion, terms of a sentence that is within state statutory limits unless the sentence is so disproportionate to the crime as to be completely arbitrary and shocking.") (citation omitted). A sentence may violate due process if it is based upon material "misinformation of constitutional magnitude." Koras, 123 F. App'x at 213 (quoting Roberts v. United States, 445 U.S. 552, 556 (1980)); see also United States v. Tucker, 404 U.S. 443, 447 (1972); Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 741 (1948). To prevail on such a claim, the petitioner must show (1) that the information before the sentencing court was materially false, and (2) that the court relied on the false information in imposing the sentence. Tucker, 404 U.S. at 447;United States v. Polselli, 747 F.2d 356, 358 (6th Cir. 1984). Koras, 123 F. App'x at 213 (quoting United States v. Stevens, 851 F.2d 140, 143 (6th Cir. 1988)). A sentencing court demonstrates actual reliance on misinformation when the court gives "explicit attention" to it, "found[s]" its sentence "at least in part" on it, or gives "specific consideration" to the information before imposing sentence. Tucker, 404 U.S. at 444, 447.
Petitioner's sentence of twenty-five to seventy-five years for carjacking clearly is not so disproportionate to the crime as to be arbitrary or shocking. Doyle, 347 F. Supp. 2d at 485. Further, Petitioner does not even argue that the facts found by the court at sentencing were either materially false or based on false information. Tucker, 404 U.S. at 447. Instead, Petitioner argues only that the court's sentencing findings were not sufficiently supported. Such claims clearly fall far short of the sort of egregious circumstances implicating due process. The state-court's rejection of Petitioner's claim was not based on an unreasonable determination of the facts and was neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of established Supreme Court precedent. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Petitioner further claims that the trial court sentenced him in violation of Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004). Blakely concerned the State of Washington's determinate sentencing system, which allowed a trial judge to elevate the maximum sentence permitted by law on the basis of facts not found by the jury but by the judge. Applying the Washington mandatory sentencing guidelines, the trial judge found facts that increased the maximum sentence faced by the defendant. The Supreme Court found that this scheme offended the Sixth Amendment, because any fact that increases or enhances a penalty for the crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum for the offense must be submitted to the jury and proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Blakely, 542 U.S. at 301 (citing Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 490 (2000)). Unlike the State of Washington's determinate sentencing system, the State of Michigan has an indeterminate sentencing system in which the defendant is given a sentence with a minimum and a maximum term. The maximum sentence is not determined by the trial judge, but is set by law. See People v. Drohan, 715 N.W.2d 778, 789-92 (Mich. 2006) (citing MICH. COMP. LAWS § 769.8). Only the minimum sentence is based on the applicable sentencing guideline range. -5-
Id.; and see People v. Babcock, 666 N.W.2d 231, 237 n.7 (Mich. 2003) (citing MICH. COMP. LAWS § 769.34(2)). Therefore, under Michigan law, the trial judge sets the minimum sentence (within a certain range), but can never exceed the maximum sentence. See Chontos v. Berghuis, _F.3d_ , 2009 WL 3734675, at *1 (6th Cir. Nov. 10, 2009) (Apprendi line of cases does not apply to Michigan's indeterminate sentencing scheme because judicial factfinding affects only the minimum sentence); Drohan,715 N.W.2d at 789. Because the trial court can never exceed the maximum sentence set by statute, Michigan's indeterminate sentencing scheme, unlike the determinate sentencing scheme at issue in Blakely, does not infringe on the province of the finder of fact, and, thus, does not run afoul of Blakely. Blakely, 542 U.S. at 304-05, 308-09. Because the trial court in the present case sentenced Petitioner well within the parameters of Michigan's indeterminate sentencing scheme, it did not violate his Sixth Amendment rights. See Chontos, 2009 WL 3734675, at *1; Tironi v. Birkett, 252 F. App'x 724, 725 (6th Cir. 2007) (affirming district court's dismissal of prisoner's claim under Blakely v. Washington because it does not apply to Michigan's indeterminate sentencing scheme); see also Gray v. Bell, No. 1:06-cv-611, 2007 WL 172519, at *3 (W.D. Mich. Jan. 19, 2007); Pettiway v. Palmer, No. 1:06-cv-132, 2006 WL 1430062, at *1 (W.D. Mich. May 23, 2006); Stanley v. Jones, No. 1:06-cv-49, 2006 WL 1459832, at *2 (W.D. Mich. May 23, 2006); Jones v. Trombley, No. 2:07-cv-10139, 2007 WL 405835, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 31, 2007); Mays v. Trombley, No. 2:06-cv-14043, 2006 WL 3104656, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 31, 2006); Worley v. Palmer, No. 2:06cv-13467, 2006 WL 2347615, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 11, 2006); George v. Burt, No. 2:04-cv-74968, 2006 WL 156396, at *5 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 20, 2006); Walton v. McKee, No. 2:04-cv-73695, 2005 WL 1343060, at *3 (E.D. Mich. June 1, 2005). Petitioner, therefore, is not entitled to habeas corpus relief. -6-
II. Interpretation of Sentence Credit Statute Petitioner's second ground for habeas relief concerns the interplay between two state sentencing statutes. The sentence credit statute, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 769.11b, provides that if a sentencing court has before it a convict who has served time in jail before sentencing because he or she could not afford or was denied bond, the court must credit that person with time served. The second statute, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 768.7a(2), directs that sentences of persons convicted of felonies committed while on parole for earlier offenses "begin to run at the expiration of the remaining portion of the term of imprisonment imposed for the previous offense." Applying these statutes together, the Michigan Court of Appeals has held: "When a parolee is arrested for a new criminal offense, he is held on a parole detainer until he is convicted of that offense, and he is not entitled to credit for time served in jail on the sentence for the new offense." People v. Seiders, 262 Mich. App. 702, 705, 686 N.W.2d 821 (2004). Instead, a parole detainee convicted of a new offense is entitled to have jail credit applied exclusively to the sentence from which parole was granted. Id. Credit is not available to a parole detainee for time spent in jail attendant to a new offense because "bond is neither set nor denied when a defendant is held in jail on a parole detainer." Id. at 707, 686 N.W.2d 821. People v. Stead, 716 N.W.2d 324, 326 (Mich. Ct. App. 2006). Because Petitioner was on parole at the time he committed the offenses at issue in this case, the trial court denied him credit for time served on the new offenses. In his habeas petition, Petitioner maintains the Michigan courts' interpretation of the sentence credit statute is contrary to the plain language of the statute and seeks credit for time served. The extraordinary remedy of habeas corpus lies only for a violation of the Constitution. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991). Petitioner's claim challenging the state court's interpretation of a state sentencing statute is not cognizable as a matter of federal habeas corpus review. See Hack v. Elo, 38 F. App'x 189, 194 (6th Cir. 2002) -7-
("The interpretation of state statutes and legislative intent by state appellate courts is a matter of state law which is not reviewable in habeas corpus."); see also Cristini v. McKee, 526 F.3d 888, 897 (6th Cir. 2008) ("We must accept as valid a state court's interpretation of the statutes and rules of practice of that state.") Conclusion In light of the foregoing, the Court will summarily dismiss Petitioner's application pursuant to Rule 4 because it fails to raise a meritorious federal claim. Certificate of Appealability Under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), the Court must determine whether a certificate of appealability should be granted. A certificate should issue if Petitioner has demonstrated a "substantial showing of a denial of a constitutional right." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). This Court's dismissal of Petitioner's action under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases is a determination that the habeas action, on its face, lacks sufficient merit to warrant service. It would be highly unlikely for this Court to grant a certificate, thus indicating to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that an issue merits review, when the Court has already determined that the action is so lacking in merit that service is not warranted. See Love v. Butler, 952 F.2d 10 (1st Cir. 1991) (it is "somewhat anomalous" for the court to summarily dismiss under Rule 4 and grant a certificate); Hendricks v. Vasquez, 908 F.2d 490 (9th Cir. 1990) (requiring reversal where court summarily dismissed under Rule 4 but granted certificate); Dory v. Comm'r of Corr. of the State of New York, 865 F.2d 44, 46 (2d Cir. 1989) (it was "intrinsically contradictory" to grant a certificate when habeas action does not warrant service under Rule 4); Williams v. Kullman, 722 F.2d 1048, 1050 n.1 (2d Cir. 1983) (issuing certificate would be inconsistent with a summary dismissal).
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has disapproved issuance of blanket denials of a certificate of appealability. Murphy v. Ohio, 263 F.3d 466 (6th Cir. 2001). Rather, the district court must "engage in a reasoned assessment of each claim" to determine whether a certificate is warranted. Id. at 467. Each issue must be considered under the standards set forth by the Supreme Court in Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473 (2000). Murphy, 263 F.3d at 467. Consequently, this Court has examined each of Petitioner's claims under the Slack standard. Under Slack, 529 U.S. at 484, to warrant a grant of the certificate, "[t]he petitioner must demonstrate that reasonable jurists would find the district court's assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong." Id. "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). In applying this standard, the Court may not conduct a full merits review, but must limit its examination to a threshold inquiry into the underlying merit of Petitioner's claims. Id. The Court finds that reasonable jurists could not conclude that this Court's dismissal of Petitioner's claims was debatable or wrong. Therefore, the Court will deny Petitioner a certificate of appealability. An Order and Judgment consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: November 19, 2009
/s/ Janet T. Neff Janet T. Neff United States District Judge
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