holding that an objection that merely states a disagreement with the R R's resolution, or simply summerize what has been presented before, is not an objection and has the same effect as a failure to objectSummary of this case from Nolan v. Money
Case No. 03-CV-71599-DT.
April 14, 2004
Kyall Aldrich, Freeland, MI, Petitioner Pro Se.
Laura G. Moody, Brenda E. Turner, Michigan Department of Attorney General, Lansing, MI, for Respondent.
ORDER ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
On April 24, 2003, Petitioner Kyall Aldrich filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus, which was referred to Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub for a report and recommendation. Magistrate Judge Majzoub filed her report and recommendation on March 19, 2004, recommending that Petitioner's application be denied. Petitioner filed objections to the report on April 8, 2003. For the reasons set forth below, the court rejects Petitioner's objections and will adopt the magistrate judge's report and recommendation.
On November 2, 1998, after a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted on one count of involuntary manslaughter committed with a motor vehicle, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.321. On December 2, 1998, Petitioner, a habitual offender under Michigan law, was sentenced to 15-30 years imprisonment. The offense for which Petitioner was convicted involved a two-car collision that occurred during, or just after, a drag race between Petitioner and his brother, which resulted in the death of a fifteen-year-old girl.
II. STANDARDThe filing of timely objections requires the court to "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667 (1980); United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947 (6th Cir. 1981). This de novo review, in turn, requires this court to re-examine all the relevant evidence previously reviewed by the magistrate to determine whether the recommendation should be accepted, rejected, or modified in whole or in part. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court may "receive further evidence" if desired. Id.
A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented is not sufficient to alert the court to alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge. An "objection" that does nothing more than state a disagreement with a magistrate's suggested resolution, or simply summarizes what has been presented before, is not an "objection" as that term is used in this context. A party who files timely objections to a magistrate's report in order to preserve the right to appeal must be mindful of the purpose of such objections: to provide the district court "with the opportunity to consider the specific contentions of the parties and to correct any errors immediately." United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947, 949-50 (6th Cir. 1981). The Supreme Court upheld this rule in Thomas v. Am, 474 U.S. 140 (1985), a habeas corpus case. The Supreme Court noted that "[t]he filing of objections to a magistrate's report enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues — factual and legal — that are at the heart of the parties' dispute." Id. at 147 (footnote omitted).
Further, "[o]nly those specific objections to the magistrate's report made to the district court will be preserved for appellate review; making some objections but failing to raise others will not preserve all the objections a party may have." Smith v. Detroit Federation of Teachers, Local 231, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th Cir. 1987).
A general objection to the magistrate's report has the same effect as a failure to object. The district court's attention is not focused on any specific issues for review, thereby making the initial reference to the magistrate useless. The functions of the district court are effectively duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court perform identical tasks. The duplication of time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates Act. Howard v. Secretary of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991).
Petitioner's first objection curiously argues that the magistrate judge incorrectly determined that he failed to exhaust his state remedies and thus could not pursue habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The magistrate judge, however, made no such finding in her report and recommendation. Rather, she concluded that Petitioner was "rais[ing] the five claims that he raised in the state courts," including the leave for appeal filed with the Michigan Supreme Court. There was no exhaustion analysis in the report, and the magistrate judge thoroughly considered the substance of each claim. Accordingly, the court rejects Petitioner's first objection as moot.
Even if the magistrate judge had concluded that Petitioner failed to exhaust his § 2254 claims in state court, such a conclusion would have been warranted because Petitioner admitted that he did not raise certain claims before the state courts. See Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509 (1982) (to obtain habeas consideration a petitioner must fairly present his claims to state court). There is no authority to support his claim that his co-defendant brother's appeal of certain issues should be ascribed to Petitioner for exhaustion purposes.
Petitioner's objection #2 also is rejected. The objection merely restates the arguments, and the same facts, presented to and rejected by the magistrate judge. The court, however, agrees with the magistrate judge's suggestion that no constitutional error occurred by way of prosecutorial misconduct or through a Brady violation. The Win Crash test "results" that Petitioner claims were improperly withheld by the prosecution amounted to nothing more than a message that an error occurred during the attempted reconstruction test. The results were meaningless, and thus immaterial. See Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 280 (1999) (citation omitted) ("evidence is material if there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different."). Further, the magistrate judge correctly recommended that the court reject Petitioner's prosecutorial misconduct claim. Petitioner claims that one fleeting comment by the prosecutor, equivocally suggesting that Petitioner and his brother were intending to engage in sexual activity with a minor, rendered his trial unfair. As the magistrate judge concluded, "the prosecutor's isolated, oblique reference to sexual activity did not deprive petitioner of a fair trial," where it was "one sentence in a trial involving over 40 witnesses and encompassing over 1300 transcript pages of testimony." (03/19/04 RR at 15-16.)
Further, the "result" would likely be inadmissible as irrelevant under state law. See Mich. R. Evid. 401 ("Relevant evidence means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable that it would be without the evidence."); see also Wood v. Bartholomew, 516 U.S. 1, 5-6 (1995) (finding that evidence that is inadmissible under state law is not material for purposes of establishing a Brady violation).
In his third objection, comprising only one sentence, Petitioner argues that the magistrate judge erred in concluding that the testimony regarding the rescue of the vehicle's occupants was not so prejudicial as to render his trail unfair. Petitioner provides no new argument or facts with this objection. Rather, he simply expresses his disagreement with the magistrate judge's conclusion. Such a conclusory statement cannot be characterized as an objection. In any event, the court has thoroughly reviewed the magistrate judge's reasoning and will adopt her recommendation for the reasons set forth in the report and recommendation.
Petitioner's objection #4 also does not object to the magistrate judge's recommendation with any specificity. The magistrate judge is correct that Petitioner's acquittal on the second-degree murder charge renders the trial court's denial of his motion to dismiss that charge harmless. Further, sufficient evidence existed to permit the court to present this charge to the jury for consideration. ( See 03/19/04 RR at 23-24 (detailing the evidence supporting the second-degree murder charge).) Accordingly, the court rejects this objection.
Finally, Petitioner objects to the magistrate judge's suggestion that the trial court did not err in refusing to instruct on the defense of abandonment or intervening causation. Again, this objection does nothing more than state Petitioner's disagreement with the magistrate judge's proposed resolution of his habeas claim, and thus should not be considered an "objection" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Nonetheless, the court has considered the merits of Petitioner's habeas claim, and, for the reasons set forth in the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, finds that no constitutional error occurred as a result of the trial court's refusal to give the relevant instructions. Thus, Petitioner will be denied habeas relief.
IT IS ORDERED that the magistrate judges Report and Recommendation [Dkt. # 29] is ADOPTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Petition for habeas relief [Dkt. # 1] is DENIED.