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U.S. EX REL. DAVIS v. WATERS

August 27, 2003

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL, WILLIE DAVIS, PETITIONER
v.
KEVIN L. WATERS[FN1], RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Hibbler, District Judge

Following a bench trial, Willie Davis was convicted in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, of first degree murder and armed robbery and sentenced to serve concurrent terms of 50 and 30 years, respectively. After Davis's challenges to his conviction and sentences were denied on direct appeal and in state post-conviction proceedings, he filed this pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, asserting four possible grounds for relief. Many of Davis's claims are procedurally defaulted and those that are not do not warrant habeas corpus relief. Accordingly, Davis's petition is denied.

Factual Background

Charles Scott was robbed and beaten to death in his Chicago apartment building on December 17, 1993, Davis became a suspect after Chicago Police detectives observed footage from [ Page 2]

a bank's video surveillance that revealed a person attempting to use the deceased's ATM card from a vehicle similar to Davis's. On December 21, 1993, Chicago Police Detectives Abreu and Webb went to Davis's apartment, located in the same building as the victim's, and took him and his girlfriend Vickie Penny, to the police station for questioning related to Scott's murder. According to Detective Webb, shortly into the questioning, he noticed a red spot on the back of Davis's jacket, and Davis then confessed that he had killed the victim. Davis told the detectives that he approached the victim around 2 p.m. on December 17 in the basement of the apartment building and asked the victim to lend him $20. Davis then told the detectives that he picked up "something like a crowbar" and hit the victim with it until he stopped moving, took the victims wallet, and disposed of the murder weapon and a cloth used to wipe his hands in a dumpster in Pottawattomie Park on the north side of Chicago, Illinois. After two unsuccessful attempts to use the victim's ATM card, he threw the victim's Wallet from his car window. The officers then showed Davis a photograph of a person attempting to use the victim's ATM card at a drive-up ATM, and asked him if that person was his girlfriend, Penny

The police recovered the murder weapon, which turned out to be a tire iron and not a crowbar, from the dumpster indicated by Davis. Davis then revised his confession and stated that after the victim refused to lend him $20, he went to his car and retrieved the tire iron, threatened the victim, and began beating him after the victim continued to refuse to lend him $20. A short time later, Davis repeated his confession to Assistant State's Attorney Kelly Chevalier.

Before trial, Davis attempted to suppress his confessions. He alleged that the police told him that they knew he killed the victim and that if he did not confess to the murder, they would incarcerate his girlfriend and take away their children. Detective Webb testified in rebuttal that [ Page 3]

neither he nor Detective Abreu ever told Davis that if he did not confess they would charge his girlfriend or that the couple would lose custody of their children. The trial court heard both Davis's and the Detective's testimony and denied the motion to suppress.

At trial, Detective Webb testified that the police began investigating Davis when the bank videotape showed Davis's car at the drive-up ATM. Davis objected to the detective's testimony on hearsay grounds, but the trial judge overruled Davis's objection because Detective Webb's testimony was not being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. After all of the evidence had been presented, the court found Davis guilty of robbery and first degree murder.

On appeal, Davis argued that the state trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his oral confessions and in admitting the testimony of Detective Webb that police began to investigate Davis because of the footage from the bank video surveillance. Finally, Davis argued that the state had not proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because no independent evidence corroborated his confession. The state appellate court affirmed Davis's conviction and the Illinois Supreme Court denied leave to appeal.

Before filing his state court petition for post-conviction relief, Davis attempted to obtain the common law record, transcript, and street file, but the state trial court denied his request without elaboration. Davis's petition for post-conviction relief raised two issues: (1) that he was denied meaningful access to the courts because he was not provided with the common law record and transcripts; and (2) his appellate counsel was ineffective in failing to raise multiple instances of trial counsel's ineffectiveness. The trial court summarily denied Davis's petition for post-conviction relief. Davis appealed, and the appellate court dismissed his appeal. First, the state appellate court held that Davis's claims that he was denied access to the court were not cognizable under Illinois' [ Page 4]

Post-Conviction Hearing Act because he made his request after his conviction became final and the Act requires that a petitioner allege a substantial deprivation of constitutional rights that resulted in his conviction. Second, the appellate court found that Davis's claims of ineffectiveness were insufficient to require further proceedings. In his petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, Davis raised two issues: (1) that the lower state courts abused their discretion when they failed to hold a hearing regarding the claims contained in his post-conviction petition; and (2) that appellate counsel was ineffective when he failed to argue that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to argue mat his confession was uncorroborated. The Illinois Supreme Court denied the petition for leave to appeal.

On April 26, 2000, Davis filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, raising four potential grounds for relief: (1) his oral statements to the detectives and prosecutor should have been suppressed as involuntary; (2) the state court erred in admitting hearsay statements of Detective Webb; (3) he was denied meaningful access to the courts because the state court denied his request for a copy of the common law record during post-conviction proceedings; (4) and he was denied ineffective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel.

II. Analysis

Federal courts have the power to grant a writ of habeas corpus if a state prisoner is restrained in violation of the Constitution or laws and treaties of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254(a). Habeas corpus relief shall not be granted, however, with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings unless the resultant effect is (1) a decision that is contrary to, or involves an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as ...


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