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U.S. EX REL. GREER v. WINTERS

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ex rel. MARVIN GREER, Petitioner,
v.
KEVIN L. WINTERS, Respondent.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MATTHEW KENNELLY, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Following a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Marvin Greer was found guilty of first degree murder, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, burglary, and escape. He was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for murder and to concurrent terms of seven years on each of the other charges. This matter is before the Court on Greer's petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Greer's petition.

Background

  The Court takes the following account from the decision of the Illinois Appellate Court People v. Greer, No. 1-99-2505 (Ill. App. Dec. 4, 2000). The Court presumes the facts set forth by the Appellate Court to be correct for purposes of habeas corpus review. Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 547 (1981); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

  On December 23, 1996, Arthur Frierson was killed when Greer, who was driving a stolen pickup truck and being pursued by police, hit Frierson's car at the intersection of Hamlin and Madison on the west side of Chicago. Greer was charged with first degree murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated possession of a stolen motor vehicle, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, burglary, aggravated fleeing or attempt to elude a police officer, and escape.

  At trial, the state introduced evidence showing that shortly after 1 a.m. on the date in question, Chicago Police officers Jeffrey Pawlak and William Bartkowicz were on routine patrol, driving a marked vehicle westbound in the 3800 to 3900 block of West Washington Street, where they saw Greer driving a pickup truck headed eastbound directly toward them, even though they were in the westbound lanes. The officers swerved to avoid being hit by Greer, and as Greer passed them, Officer Pawlak saw the brake lights go on. Then, as Pawlak made a u-turn to pull Greer over, the brake lights went off and Greer accelerated. The officers activated the rotating blue lights and flashing headlights on their vehicle and pursued Greer.

  Greer drove through a red light at the intersection of Hamlin and Washington, turning southbound on Hamlin. The officers sped up, and when they reached the same intersection, they saw Greer go through the red light at Madison and hit a small car, driven by Frierson, that was already in the intersection. Greer made no attempt to slow down, stop, or avoid the car, and Pawlak never saw the brake lights of the truck go on again. Greer's vehicle continued forward after the crash. Greer rolled out of the passenger side door and ran westbound near Monroe. Pawlak and his partner chased Greer to a vacant lot and surrounded him. Greer ignored their order to get down on the ground, and a struggle ensued. The officers managed to place one handcuff on Greer before he upended Pawlak and ran away. The officers radioed for help and began a yard-to-yard search for Greer, but they were unable to find him.

  The officers returned to the scene of the crash, where they observed that the opera window behind the driver's side of the truck Greer was driving had been broken out and taped. The steering column had also been broken, and the driver's side door lock had been removed. The officers also noticed that the driver's side door of Frierson's car had been completely smashed in. The driver's side seat was also completely broken, and Frierson was still inside.

  Chicago police officer Dimitrios Lamperis testified that around 3:20 a.m., he responded to a dispatch reporting a suspicious person on the roof of a building at 3841 West Monroe Street; he requested that the fire department offer assistance. Lamperis used the fire department's ladder to climb to the roof of the building, where he observed that the handle on the roof hatch had been broken, and the hatch had been completely removed. Through the opening, he saw Greer with a handcuff on his left wrist. When Lamperis and his partner went through the opening, Greer ran downstairs. After a floor-to-floor search of the building, the officers found Greer in the basement. Greer resisted the officers' attempts to restrain him. With the help of several officers, Lamperis subdued Greer and put him in a squad car. Pawlak and his partner identified Greer as the person who had fled the crash scene earlier that morning. Lamperis testified that the owner of the building did not give Greer permission to enter it.

  Pawlak testified that he completed a case report and an alcohol incident report. He observed that Greer was frightened, unable to turn around, and had bloodshot eyes. Greer admitted to Pawlak that he had been using cocaine continuously for four days prior to the car crash. Pawlak acknowledged that he had issued Greer a number of traffic citations as a result of the incident, but that none of them were for fleeing or eluding police.

  Chicago Police Detective Dennis Walsh, who investigated the crash, testified that he saw no skid marks at or near the intersection where the crash occurred. He also testified to his familiarity with the area and estimated that it would have taken Greer approximately 15 to 20 seconds to drive down Hamlin from Washington to Madison if he were traveling at the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour. The parties stipulated to the report of the Cook County medical examiner which concluded that Frierson's death was caused by multiple injuries resulting from the crash.

  The trial court granted Greer's motion for a directed finding of not guilty as to count two, felony murder based on burglary, and count seven, aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer. At the conclusion of argument, the trial court reviewed the evidence and found Greer guilty of first degree murder, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, burglary, and escape. The trial court determined that the prosecution had not proven Greer guilty of the second count of felony murder based on aggravated possession of a stolen motor vehicle or the count alleging that underlying aggravated possession offense.

  On direct appeal, Greer argued only the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his conviction of first degree murder. He argued that there was insufficient proof that he was fleeing from the police and thus he should have been ...


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