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U.S. EX. REL. WILLIAMS v. WINTERS

July 9, 2004.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, EX. REL., RONALD WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
KEVIN L. WINTERS,[fn1] Warden Respondent.



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

*fn1 Ronald Williams has been transferred to Western Illinois Correctional Center where Kevin L. Winters is the Warden. He is thus the proper respondent in this habeas action. See Rule 2(a) of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The Court hereby substitutes Kevin L. Winters as the respondent. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(d)(1).

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Petitioner, Ronald Williams, a prisoner in state custody, filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Williams raises ten claims, including ineffective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel, abuse of discretion by the trial court, and prosecutorial misconduct. For the following reasons, Williams' request for relief under § 2254 is denied.

  I. Factual Background

  Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1), the state court's determination of factual issues is presumed correct for the purposes of habeas review, although a petitioner may rebut the presumption of correctness through the provision of clear and convincing evidence. Davis v. Litscher, 290 F.3d 943, 946 (7th Cir. 2002). As Williams provides no such evidence, this Court will adopt the underlying facts as set forth by the Illinois Appellate Court in People v. Williams, No. 94-10282 (1st Dist. Dec. 24, 1997) (unpublished order). In 1973, Ronald Williams met Mary Cross, and in 1977 they had a daughter. In the late 1970's, Williams went to California, abandoning Cross and his daughter. He did not return to Illinois until approximately 1983. After his return, Williams and Cross had a sporadic relationship, and Williams proposed to Cross in December 1993. She declined, and the next month she told Williams she did not want to see him anymore. On March 21, 1994, Williams approached Cross as she was leaving her place of work, a bridal salon in a downtown Chicago shopping district. He wanted to talk to her, but she refused to speak with him. Williams then attacked Cross with a hatchet he had concealed in a brown paper bag, striking her repeatedly about the head. Cross testified that Williams said he was going to kill her as he raised the weapon over his head. Attempting to evade Williams, Cross ran into the street screaming. Her screams drew the attention of several others, who tried to intervene and restrain Williams. However, Williams kept swinging the hatchet wildly at the crowd, and managed to keep the would-be rescuers at bay, all the while continuing to attack Cross. A German tourist snapped a photo of Williams hacking at Cross. Williams then fled down Michigan Avenue, chased by onlookers, who tackled Williams on a side street and held him until the police arrived a few moments later.

  Following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Williams was convicted of attempted first-degree murder. On April 12, 1995, the court sentenced him to the maximum extended term of sixty years' imprisonment. In imposing the maximum extended sentence, the court cited Williams' previous convictions, the brutal and heinous nature of his crime, and the occurrence of the crime in an area frequented by tourists.

  II. Procedural History

  On April 12, 1995, the trial court denied Williams' motion for a new trial. Williams then appealed his conviction to the Illinois Appellate Court. In his appeal, Williams raised six claims: (1) the trial court erred in prohibiting defense counsel from impeaching a witness; (2) the trial court erred in ruling Williams' prior convictions would be admissible if he testified; (3) the prosecution's use of inflammatory rhetoric and unsupported assertions deprived Williams of a fair trial; (4) ineffective assistance of trial counsel for conceding guilt and failing to object during closing argument; (5) the prosecution failed to prove intent to kill beyond a reasonable doubt; and (6) the trial court improperly sentenced Williams to an extended term of sixty years. The Illinois Appellate Court held that Williams had waived his first two claims of trial court error and his claim of prosecutorial misconduct. The court also found that none of these claims merited review under the plain error doctrine, as the evidence was not closely balanced and the alleged error did not deprive Williams of a fair trial. The court addressed the remaining claims on the merits, and found nothing to warrant remand to the trial court. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed Williams' conviction on December 24, 1997. People v. Williams, No. 1-95-1616. On January 29, 1998, Williams filed a pro se petition for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Illinois, in which he raised the same six claims brought on direct appeal. The Supreme Court denied his petition on April 1, 1998.

  Williams next filed a pro se post-conviction petition, pursuant to the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act, 725 ILCS 5/122-1. He raised sixteen claims in this petition, including seven counts of ineffective assistance of trial counsel,*fn2 six counts of abuse of discretion by the trial court,*fn3 prosecutorial misconduct resulting in jury tampering, conspiracy between prosecutors and police, and ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to investigate Williams' claims. The Circuit Court of Cook County dismissed the petition as "frivolous and patently without merit" on April 14, 1998. After the petition was denied, the State Appellate Defender moved to withdraw pursuant to Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551 (1987), stating that Williams had raised no viable claims. In spite of Williams' objection, the Illinois Appellate Court granted the motion. In its order, the court also affirmed the judgment of the trial court, finding no issues of arguable merit. Williams then petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court for leave to appeal the dismissal, limiting his claims to four counts of ineffective assistance of trial counsel*fn4 as well as ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The Supreme Court denied his petition on July 5, 2000.

  On March 27, 2001, Williams filed a second pro se post-conviction petition alleging the determination by the trial court that the crime was exceptionally brutal and heinous and indicative of wanton cruelty was not charged in the indictment nor submitted to the jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Again, Williams' petition was denied as without merit. On July 14, 2003, Williams advised this Court that the remaining state proceedings were concluded, and that his appeals had been denied. Therefore, the Court granted Williams' request to proceed with the instant habeas petition and lift the stay in this matter.

  III. Standard of Review

  The statute governing this Court's analysis of Williams' petition for writ of habeas corpus is the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See also Hardaway v. Young, 302 F.3d 757, 761 (7th Cir. 2002). The AEDPA provides that a petitioner is entitled to a writ of habeas corpus if the state court ruling is "contrary to" or "an unreasonable application of" clearly established federal law as established by the Supreme Court. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 404-05 (2000). In Williams, the Supreme Court held that a state court decision may be "contrary to" federal precedent if the state court reaches an opposite conclusion on a point of law, or if the state court "confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and it arrives at a result opposite to ours." Id. at 406. Alternatively, an unreasonable application of federal law occurs when a state court "identifies the correct governing principle but unreasonably applies [it]" to the facts of the case. Id. at 413. The mere fact that the reviewing court may have decided differently does not render a state court ruling unreasonable; rather, the decision must lie "well outside the boundaries of permissible differences of opinion." Hardaway, 302 F.3d at 762.

  Additionally, in conducting habeas review, federal courts should not reexamine state court determinations of state law issues. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991). The sole question for the Court's consideration is whether the petitioner's conviction violates the laws, treaties or Constitution of the United States. Id. Therefore this Court will not consider Williams' claims concerning state court error.

  Williams raises ten grounds in his habeas petition. He alleges that his constitutional rights were violated because: (1) the trial court refused to allow him to impeach the victim's testimony; (2) the prosecution presented insufficient evidence to establish requisite intent to kill; (3) the trial court ruled that his criminal record would be admissible if he took the witness stand; (4) the trial court failed to prohibit the prosecution from using inflammatory rhetoric, engaging in improper speculation, and calling the jury's attention to Williams' lack of testimony; (5) Williams was improperly and erroneously sentenced to an extended term of sixty years; (6) his trial counsel was ineffective in fourteen instances;*fn5 (7) his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise all of his trial counsel's deficiencies; (8) ...


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