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Stewart v. Trierweiler

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 14, 2017

Larry Devel Stewart, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
Tony Trierweiler, Warden, Respondent-Appellant.

          Argued: August 3, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:15-cv-11843-Gerald E. Rosen, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Scott R. Shimkus, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Edmund S. Sauer, BRADLEY ARANT BOULT CUMMINGS LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          ON BRIEF:

          Andrea M. Christensen-Brown, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Edmund S. Sauer, Jessica Jernigan-Johnson, Brian R. Epling, Kimberly M. Ingram, BRADLEY ARANT BOULT CUMMINGS LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: SUTTON, McKEAGUE, and THAPAR, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SUTTON, Circuit Judge.

          In this habeas case, Larry Stewart claims that a Confrontation Clause violation and prosecutorial misconduct undermined the fairness of his murder trial. But because the state court did not unreasonably reject these claims, we must reject his petition. We reverse the district court's contrary decision.

         I.

         On the morning of December 19, 2011, Kevin Brown arrived at an apartment to pick up Reynatta Hamilton for what he thought was a date. Unbeknownst to Brown, Hamilton's boyfriend, Larry Stewart, was waiting for him. A struggle ensued. Shots were fired. The two men grappled with each other down a stairwell and out the door of the apartment complex. At the end of a trail of blood, Brown lay dead on the grass with several gunshot wounds in his chest. Stewart was gone.

         Michigan charged Stewart and Hamilton with felony murder, felon in possession of a firearm, armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. The court held a joint trial.

         The evidence at trial showed that Stewart and Hamilton planned to rob Brown. Hamilton, who had met Brown while she was working at a McDonald's drive-through, would call Brown to her cousin's apartment for a supposed date. Stewart would wait with a gun to demand Brown's money. Witnesses testified that Stewart was with Hamilton at the apartment the night before the murder; that Stewart brandished a gun, asserted it was his, said he was "going to rob somebody, " and invited others to help him that night, R. 8-8 at 35; that Hamilton warned Stewart to hide the gun from her cousin and then put it in her purse; that Stewart was going in and out of the apartment in the early morning; that Stewart left the apartment for good just five minutes before scuffling and gunshots were heard in the hallway; and that, after she'd been hit by a stray bullet, the first person Hamilton called was Stewart.

         Hamilton's phone records, as well as statements she made to police, corroborated the witnesses' testimony. In the two days leading up to the shooting, Hamilton's phone made 127 different contacts with Stewart's phone and 28 contacts with Brown's. In the last minutes before the murder, Hamilton was on the phone with both men. Brown called Hamilton at 8:30 AM and hung up five minutes later. But Stewart connected to Hamilton's line at 8:31 AM. For nearly all of Brown's call, Stewart and Hamilton were connected via call waiting. Hamilton admitted reaching out to Brown ...


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