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Johnson v. Olson

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

January 30, 2017

JASON O. JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
KATHLEEN OLSON, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, (2) DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION TO STAY, (3) DECLINING TO ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY, AND (4) DENYING LEAVE TO APPEAL IN FORMA PAUPERIS

          ROBERT H. CLELAND UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Christopher Jason Johnson, (“Petitioner”), filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging his St. Clair County Circuit Court plea-based conviction for unarmed robbery. Petitioner was sentenced to a term of five to fifteen years. The petition will be denied because Petitioner's sole sentencing claim cannot be supported by clearly established Supreme Court law as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). The Court will also deny Petitioner's alternative request to stay the petition, deny a certificate of appealability, and deny leave to appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. Background

         Petitioner's conviction stemmed from an incident where he robbed the attendant at an Admiral Gas Station in Port Huron, Michigan. Petitioner pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery in exchange for dismissal of resisting arrest and habitual offender charges. (Dkt. #11-2, Pg. ID 82-83.) There was no sentencing agreement, and Petitioner was informed that his maximum sentence would be fifteen years. (Id., Pg. ID 85.)

         At the sentencing hearing the sentencing guidelines were calculated to call for a minimum sentencing term between 42 and 86 months. (Dkt. #11-3, Pg. ID 105.) Petitioner was sentenced to a minimum term of five years and a maximum term of fifteen years. (Id., Pg. ID 110.)

         Following sentencing, Petitioner was appointed appellate counsel who filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The appeal raised the following claims:

I. The trial court committed clear error in scoring Offense Variable 10.
II. Johnson has a constitutional right to have an ability to pay assessment before he is ordered to pay attorney fees.

         The Michigan Court of Appeals denied the application for leave to appeal “for lack of merit in the grounds presented.” People v. Johnson, No. 324771, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. Jan 5, 2015). Petitioner subsequently filed an application for leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court which raised the same claims as in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the application on June 30, 2015, because it was not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by the Court. People v. Johnson, 498 Mich. 854 (2015) (Table).

         II. Standard of Review

         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) curtails a federal court's review of constitutional claims raised by a state prisoner in a habeas action. Relief is barred under this section unless the state court adjudication was “contrary to” or resulted in an “unreasonable application of” clearly established Supreme Court law.

         “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 [this] precedent.'” Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam), quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000).

         “[T]he ‘unreasonable application' prong of the statute 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. “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), quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004); see also Woods v. Etherton, No. 15-723, 2016 WL 1278478, at *3 (U.S. Apr. 4, 2016) (habeas relief precluded if state court decision is “not beyond the realm of possibility [from what] a fairminded jurist could conclude.”)

         “Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal. . . . As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well ...


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