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U.S. EX REL. JOHNSON v. CHANDLER

September 16, 2004.

United States of America ex rel. GREGORY JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
NEDRA CHANDLER, Warden, Dixon Correctional Center[fn1] Respondent.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES NORGLE, District Judge

*fn1 In his petition, Johnson named Gary Knop, Warden, Pinckneyville Correctional Center, as respondent. Johnson was transferred to the Dixon Correctional Center on September 25, 2002. Nedra Chandler is the Warden of that facility and therefore is the proper respondent in this petition. See Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, Rule 2 (requiring that the state officer who has custody of the petitioner be named as the respondent in habeas corpus actions brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254).

OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is Gregory Johnson's petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner, Gregory Johnson ("Johnson"), challenges his conviction for aggravated battery of a child, in violation of 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/12-4.3 (West 1997). For the reasons stated below, the petition is denied.

  I. BACKGROUND*fn2

  The State of Illinois charged Johnson by a five count information with attempted first degree murder, two counts of aggravated battery of a child, and two counts of aggravated battery for injuries inflicted upon his infant son, Terrell Johnson. In the Circuit Court of Cook County, Johnson entered a blind plea of guilty to one count of aggravated battery of a child. During the plea colloquy, the trial court informed Johnson that a hearing would be held concerning aggravation and mitigation, and the sentence would be determined based on that hearing. After an extensive plea colloquy, at which time the trial court informed Johnson of his rights, the State recited the facts that it would prove if the case proceeded to trial.

  The facts provided that Johnson's infant son, Terrell Johnson, was the victim of child abuse. The facts indicated at least two instances of child abuse. The first instance of child abuse occurred on May 24, 1997, when Terrell was admitted to Cook County Hospital and diagnosed with an orbital fracture of the tibia. Based on the manner of injury, medical personnel at Cook County Hospital believed Johnson's explanation of Terrell's injuries to be unworthy of credence and indicative of child abuse. Medical personnel reported the matter and took Terrell into protective custody. Following a custody hearing in the State court, Johnson was allowed to have only supervised visits with Terrell while in the supervision of the infant's mother. The second instance of child abuse occurred on June 27, 1997. Contrary to the custody ruling of the State Court, Terrell's mother left the infant in the sole custody of Johnson. While Terrell was in Johnson's unlawful custody, Terrell was again admitted to Cook County Hospital. Terrell arrived at the hospital in a comatose state. Terrell suffered a depressed skull fracture, frontal lobe bleeding, and swelling of brain tissue. Medical personnel questioned Johnson as to the source of Terrell's injuries. Johnson provided a few versions of the cause, but then admitted to having given the infant a forceful karate chop to the back of the head because he was frustrated by the infant's crying. Medical personnel subsequently summoned the Chicago Police Department, and after their arrival, Johnson gave a written admission. Johnson stipulated to the facts as recited by the State. Johnson pled guilty to one count of aggravated battery of a child, and the State dismissed the remaining counts. The trial court continued the matter for the aggravation and mitigation hearing.

  At the aggravation and mitigation hearing, the State called medical personnel from Cook County Hospital. The medical personnel testified that Johnson explained that Terrell's first injury, the orbital fracture of the tibia, was caused when the infant fell from his shoulders. The medical personnel testified that Johnson's explanation was not plausible based on the manner of the infant's injury; rather, the injury was indicative of child abuse and it was recommended that the infant be taken into protective custody. Additionally, the medical personnel testified that Terrell's second injury, the head trauma, was similarly indicative of child abuse because a great amount of force would have to be applied in order to caused the depressed skull fracture that Terrell suffered. The testimony indicated that Terrell was comatose upon arrival and had to be placed on a respirator. A CAT scan was performed, which revealed that the infant suffered massive swelling of brain tissue and internal bleeding, including retinal hemorrhages in the left eye. Medical personnel testified that a significant amount of force was required to cause the depressed skull fracture Terrell suffered. Medical personnel also testified that Terrell would experience long term effects from his injuries, including a loss of vision and mental retardation.

  Based on the evidence at the hearing concerning aggravation and mitigation, the Circuit Court of Cook County sentenced Johnson to a term of imprisonment of twenty-six years.

  Cisero filed a direct appeal from his conviction and sentence to the Illinois Appellate Court, First Judicial District. While on appeal, his appellate counsel filed a motion to withdraw pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), asserting that there were no meritorious issues warranting appeal. See Resp.'s Answer Ex. A. Johnson filed a response to appellate counsel's motion to withdraw, raising the following issues: (1) the arresting officers used coercive tactics and failed to advise Johnson of his right to counsel under Miranda; (2) his statements were involuntary; (3) the State failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; (4) ineffective assistance of counsel; (5) the trial court coerced him into pleading guilty; (6) his sentence was based on fabricated evidence of a prior conviction; (7) the trial court failed to consider his potential for rehabilitation; and (8) the infant's injuries were not permanent. See Resp.'s Answer Ex. B. The Illinois Appellate Court granted appellate counsel's motion to withdraw, and on May 31, 2000, affirmed Johnson's sentence and conviction. See Resp.'s Answer Ex. C.

  Johnson then filed a petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, raising the same issues as raised before the Illinois Appellate Court. See Resp.'s Answer Ex. D. On January 29, 2001, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Johnson's petition for leave to appeal. See Resp.'s Answer, Ex. E.

  Johnson filed his petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus, brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in the federal district court on February 4, 2002, within the one-year deadline provided by 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1).*fn3 In his petition, Johnson raised the following issues, which were raised before both the Illinois Appellate Court and Illinois Supreme Court: (1) his sentence was based on fabricated evidence of a prior conviction; (2) the arresting officers used coercive tactics and failed to advise Johnson of his right to counsel under Miranda; (3) ineffective assistance of counsel; (4) the infant's injuries were not permanent; and (5) the trial court coerced him into pleading guilty. On April 26, 2002, Respondent filed an answer to the § 2254 petition, arguing that Johnson's claims are procedurally defaulted or not cognizable on habeas review.

  II. ANALYSIS

  A. Standard of Decision

  Johnson's petition is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), which sets a high hurdle for habeas relief. The statute states:
(d) 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 —
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). A state court's decision is contrary to clearly established Supreme Court precedent "if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] 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 [it]." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000). A state court's decision is an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court law "if the state court identifies the correct governing legal rule from this Court's cases but unreasonably applies it to the facts of a particular prisoner's case" or "if the state court either unreasonably extends a legal principle from our precedent to a new context where it should not apply or unreasonably refuses to extend that principle to a new context where it should apply." Id. In ...

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