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U.S. EX REL. GUEST v. PAGE

March 22, 2004.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ex rel., ANTHONY GUEST, # N-32658, Petitioner
v.
THOMAS PAGE, Warden, Menard Correctional Center, Respondent



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM J. HIBBLER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

After a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, petitioner, Anthony Guest ("Guest"), was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. After his direct and post-conviction appeals failed, Guest petitioned this court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On January 11, 2003, former Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted Guest's death sentence to natural life in prison without the possibility of parole. Before this court is Guest's petition for a writ of habeas corpus amended after the commutation of his death sentence. For the reasons stated below, the court denies Guest's habeas petition in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND

 A. Procedural History

  Following a bench trial before Judge Maurice Pompey in the Circuit Court of Court County, Illinois, Guest was convicted of the murder of John Geever, attempted murder, aggravated battery and two counts of unlawful weapons use. At a separate sentencing hearing, Judge Pompey found Guest eligible for the death penalty on the grounds that Guest had been convicted of a prior California murder, which is a statutory aggravating circumstance. Judge Pompey concluded that there were no Page 2 mitigating factors sufficient to preclude imposition of the death penalty, and therefore sentenced Guest to death.*fn1

  Guest filed a direct appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court, which upheld Guest's conviction and death sentence on December 19, 1986. People v. Guest, 503 N.E.2d 255 (1986) (Guest I). Guest then filed a post-conviction petition with the Circuit Court of Cook County. On March 11, 1992, the Cook County Circuit Court granted the State's motion to dismiss Guest's post-conviction petition. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the Circuit Court's dismissal of Guest's post-conviction petition on May 18, 1995. People v. Guest, 655 N.E, 2d 873 (1995) (Guest II). On April 16, 1997, Guest filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in this court.

 B. Trial Testimony

  The following facts, which Guest does not challenge, are drawn from the Illinois Supreme Court's ruling on Guest's direct and post-conviction appeals. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Mahaffey v. Schomig, 294 F.3d 907, 915 (7th Cir. 2002) (unless a habeas petitioner provides clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, a determination of a factual issue by a state court is presumed correct for the purposes of habeas review). On February 5, 1981, Guest entered a Chicago grocery store with friend, John Marlow. Ferris King, a security guard, observed Guest place toothpaste and a toothbrush in his pocket. King approached Guest, identified himself, and asked Guest to accompany him to his office located in the basement of the building. Guest complied. When the two men arrived at the office, Guest confronted King with a handgun. Page 3

  Guest then led King from the office to an employee's cafeteria also located in the basement. Three employees — Joanne Bailey, Marlean Washington, and Gary Henderson — were in the cafeteria when the two men entered. When two of the employees attempted to flee, Guest began firing in their direction. King then reached for his gun, exchanged several shots with Guest, and was hit once in the shoulder. Guest then fled down a south corridor, up a flight of stairs, and out the store's front door. King chased Guest but abandoned his pursuit upon finding John Geever, another employee, wounded and lying in the south corridor. Geever subsequently died of a gunshot wound. After the shooting, King detained Marlow, the individual who accompanied Guest to the store. Marlow provided the police with information that established Guest's identity as the gunman.

  At trial, Bailey testified that she saw Geever exit the cafeteria shortly before King and Guest arrived. The parities stipulated that if Washington were to testify she would state that she was in the cafeteria with Baily and Henderson when Guest fired the first shot. The parties also stipulated that on the day after the shooting, employees Henderson, King, Bailey, and Washington identified Guest's picture from a photo array, and that King and Washington identified Guest from a lineup before trial. The parties also stipulated that the bullet recovered from Geever's body was not fired from King's gun.

 II. MOOT SENTENCING CLAIMS

  On January 11, 2003, former Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted Guest's death sentence to natural life in prison without the possibility of parole. Since Guest's commutation, the Illinois Supreme Court has issued decisions on direct appeal and modified decisions on the denial of rehearing in other capital cases. In each case, the Illinois Supreme Court concluded that former Governor Ryan's commutation of the defendant's death sentence rendered moot any capital sentencing claims. See, e.g., People v. Ceja, 204 Ill.2d 332 (2003) (commutation removes judicially Page 4 imposed sentence replacing it with a lesser, executively imposed sentence); People v. Lucas, 203 IIL2d 410 (2003) (same); People v. Miller, 203 IIL2d 433 (2003) (same). The Seventh Circuit has similarly decided the issue. See, e.g., Wilson v. Mote, No. 03-1943, slip. op. at 1 (7th Cir. June 18, 2003) (commutation mooted prisoner's habeas claims based on his death sentence). Accordingly, Guest has amended his habeas petition to delete the claims challenging his death sentence and leaves only two claims for the court to address, each relating to the guilt phase of Guest's trial. The court considers the merits of these claims under the following standards.

 III. HABEAS STANDARDS

  Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), a habeas petitioner is not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus unless the challenged state court decision is either "contrary to" or "an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) (1); see also Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 404-05 (2000). A state court's decision is "contrary to" clearly established Supreme Court law "if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Court on a question of law" or "if the state court confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and arrives at a result opposite to ours." Id. at 404. To demonstrate an "unreasonable application" of clearly established federal law, a habeas petitioner must establish that the state court unreasonably applied the controlling legal rule to the facts of the case. Id. at 407. Moreover, the state court's unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent must be more than ...


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