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UNITED STATES EX REL. HARTFIELD v. GRAMLEY

May 31, 1994

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ex rel. JOHN HARTFIELD, Petitioner,
v.
RICHARD B. GRAMLEY, Warden, Pontiac Correctional Center and ROLAND W. BURRIS, Attorney General of the State of Illinois, Respondents.


ALESIA


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES H. ALESIA

Pro se petitioner John Hartfield, an Illinois state prisoner, seeks habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

 I. FACTUAL HISTORY

 In February 1984, petitioner was convicted of rape and aggravated battery, the latter charge merging into the former, and after a separate sentencing hearing, was found to be an habitual offender within the purview of the Illinois Habitual Criminal Act, 720 ILCS 5 /33B-1. In accordance with the mandates of the statute, petitioner was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed this verdict in October 1985, People v. Hartfield, 137 Ill. App. 3d 679, 484 N.E.2d 1136, 92 Ill. Dec. 281 (1985). Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition under the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act, 725 ILCS 5/122-1, which the trial court denied. That decision was also affirmed on appeal. People v. Hartfield, 232 Ill. App. 3d 198, 596 N.E.2d 703, 173 Ill. Dec. 79 (1992). Petitioner was then denied leave to appeal by the Illinois Supreme Court. People v. Hartfield, 146 Ill. 2d 638, 602 N.E.2d 463, 176 Ill. Dec. 809 (1992). *fn1" Petitioner now seeks a writ of habeas corpus.

 Petitioner raises three general arguments in his petition. First, petitioner claims prosecutorial misconduct denied him his constitutional right to a fair trial. He contends the misconduct occurred when the prosecutor made allegedly improper statements during closing arguments. Next, petitioner alleges the Illinois Habitual Criminal Act, which, in short, mandates a life sentence for three-time violent felony offenders, is unconstitutional. Finally, petitioner claims that both the state appellate and supreme courts' decisions were gross miscarriages of justice that violated his constitutional right to due process of law.

 This court, after a thorough review of the record and pleadings, finds that petitioner has failed to present any claim meriting habeas corpus relief. Accordingly, the petition is denied. *fn2"

 The facts are set out in the appellate court's opinion on direct review, Hartfield, 137 Ill. App. 3d at 682-84, 484 N.E.2d at 1138-39, and will not be fully repeated here. However, some facts are worthy of mention as background.

 The complainant, a mentally handicapped woman, was entering her apartment on the afternoon of February 14, 1983. As she fumbled with the lock, she noticed petitioner was standing outside the next apartment. When the complainant finally succeeded in opening the door petitioner grabbed her, pushed her in, and raped and beat her. After the attack was completed, petitioner threatened to kill complainant if she told anyone about the attack.

 Two of the complainant's neighbors testified that they had heard the complainant scream and decided to pursue the matter. One witness said she saw petitioner running from the door of complainant's apartment, and found the complainant "bleeding and disheveled." Hartfield, 137 Ill. App. 3d at 683, 484 N.E.2d at 1138. After some soothing, the complainant acknowledged that she had been raped. A second witness, who also heard the screams, encountered petitioner in a stairwell of the building. He apprehended petitioner and brought him to complainant's apartment in order to allow the complainant to identify him. However, complainant refused to identify petitioner as the rapist; subsequently, the police arrived and arrested petitioner.

 At trial, the prosecutor introduced the aforementioned evidence, along with the testimony of a physician who treated the complainant following the incident. Petitioner neither testified at trial nor presented any witnesses in his defense. After he was convicted by a jury, the court proceeded to the sentencing hearing. During this phase, the prosecutor adduced testimony of two police officers and an Assistant State's Attorney, all of whom were present at petitioner's previous convictions for rape in 1974 and 1979. Additionally, the prosecution introduced certified copies of these convictions and petitioner's prison record. Petitioner was adjudged to be an habitual offender within the purview of the statute and was sentenced to natural life in prison without possibility of parole.

 Petitioner currently premises his petition on the following claims: (1) prosecutorial misconduct, consisting of improper statements made during closing arguments, denied him his constitutional right to a fair trial; (2) the Illinois Habitual Criminal Act is unconstitutional; (3) the Illinois Appellate Court committed a gross miscarriage of justice in violation of petitioner's constitutional right to due process of law; and (4) the Illinois Supreme Court committed a similar miscarriage of justice. Respondents contend the first two arguments have been procedurally defaulted, and, therefore, cannot be considered by this court. Furthermore, respondents claim the final two arguments are meritless.

 A. Background Law on Procedural Bars

 A state prisoner normally must exhaust all available state judicial remedies before a federal court wilt hear a petition for habeas corpus. Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275, 92 S. Ct. 509, 512, 30 L. Ed. 2d 438 (1971). The exhaustion doctrine, codified in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), gives the state the initial opportunity to correct any violations of a prisoner's federal rights. Picard, 404 U.S. at 275, 92 S. Ct. at 512. However, the requirement of state remedy exhaustion applies only to the remedies available at the time the petition is filed. United States ex rel. Johnson v. McGinnis, 734 F.2d 1193, 1196 (7th Cir. 1984). Thus, a petitioner seeking habeas corpus relief that has defaulted his federal claims in the state court system has exhausted his available state remedies because those claims are no longer ...


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