facts allegedly demonstrating ineffective assistance, these allegations were never before the state courts. It is axiomatic that before a federal court may entertain federal constitutional issues, state courts must first have a fair opportunity to review the claim. Id.; Farrell, 939 F.2d at 410. Accordingly, Petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is procedurally defaulted.
However, even if the court considered the merits of Petitioner's claim, it still lacks merit. Petitioner identifies three instances where his trial counsel was allegedly ineffective: (1) preparing for trial, (2) cross-examining witnesses, and (3) encouraging Petitioner to waive a jury trial in favor of a bench trial. As discussed below, these alleged errors do not effect nor diminish the overwhelming evidence of guilt.
To establish a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel, a petitioner must prove that: (1) his attorney's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and (2) the attorney's deficient performance prejudiced the defense. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 104 S. Ct. 2052 (1984). The petitioner "bears a heavy burden when seeking to establish an ineffective assistance of counsel claim." Jones v. Page, 76 F.3d 831, 840 (7th Cir.1996) (quoting Drake v. Clark, 14 F.3d 351, 355 (7th Cir. 1994)).
To satisfy the first prong of the Strickland test, the performance element, a defendant must identify the acts or omissions of counsel that form the basis of his ineffective assistance claim. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690. The review of a counsel's performance is highly deferential, presuming reasonable judgment and declining to second-guess strategic choices. Id. at 689; United States v. Williams, 106 F.3d 1362, 1367 (7th Cir.1997) (citing cases). With regard to the second prong, the prejudice element, "the defendant must show that there is a probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. Because a Petitioner must establish both the performance and prejudice elements of Strickland, courts are excused from examining each prong when one cannot be satisfied. Milone v. Camp, 22 F.3d 693, 701 (7th Cir. 1994).
Assuming arguendo, that trial counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, Petitioner fails to demonstrate that the outcome would have been different but for trial counsel's deficiencies. First, Adams observed Petitioner initiate an argument with Gilbert, pull a knife, and stab him. Second, although Brown did not actually see Petitioner stab the decedent, she did observe Petitioner initiate an argument with Gilbert, chase him with the knife, and return to the area with a bloody knife. Finally, Petitioner admitted that he stabbed Gilbert. Thus, the question before the trier of fact was whether Petitioner acted out of anger or self-defense. Because the trial court found Petitioner guilty of first degree murder, it necessarily rejected Petitioner's testimony. This court will not second guess the state trial court on issues of witness credibility. Stone v. Farley, 86 F.3d 712, 718 (7th Cir. 1996) ("Federal courts do not reevaluate the credibility of witnesses when conducting habeas review of state trials.") Therefore, Petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel lacks merit.
Before addressing the substance of the remaining claims, the court notes as a preliminary matter that Petitioner's petition is reviewed under the stricter habeas standards promulgated in the Antiterrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1219 (1996) ("AEDPA").
The recently amended § 2254(d) of the AEDPA provides in relevant part:
An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim--