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U.S. EX REL. PAGE v. MOTE

November 16, 2004.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ex rel. PATRICK PAGE, Petitioner,
v.
STEPHEN MOTE,[fn1] Warden, Pontiac Correctional Center, Respondent.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN GOTTSCHALL, District Judge

*fn1 As Stephen Mote is currently the Warden at Pontiac Correctional Center, the court substitutes him as respondent. See Rule 2(a) of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Following separate jury trials in the circuit court of Cook County, Illinois, Petitioner, Patrick Page ("Page"), was twice convicted of murder and sentenced to death. After the Illinois Supreme Court denied his direct and post-conviction appeals, Page petitioned this court for a writ of habeas corpus. Before the court are Page's two petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, one for each murder conviction, which the court has consolidated for purposes of this opinion. For the reasons stated below, the court denies both petitions in their entirety.

  I. BACKGROUND

  A. Procedural History

  Page's habeas claims regard separate murder convictions in the circuit court of Cook County, Illinois. In May 1990, Page was tried for the killing of John Goodman ("Goodman"), and the jury found him guilty of murder ("Goodman murder"). After a two-stage sentencing hearing, the court sentenced Page to death. Seven months later, Page was tried for the murder of Charles Howell ("Howell"), and the jury returned a guilty verdict ("Howell murder"). Following a two-stage sentencing hearing, the court again sentenced Page to death.

  Page appealed both decisions to the Illinois Supreme Court, and both were affirmed. People v. Page, 155 Ill.2d 232 (1993) ("Page I"); People v. Page, 156 Ill.2d 258 ("Page II") (1993). Page then filed a pro se post-conviction petition in the Cook County Circuit Court regarding the Goodman murder. Soon afterwards, appointed counsel filed a second post-conviction petition in the same court regarding the Howell murder. The trial court consolidated the petitions, and, on August 8, 1997, dismissed the consolidated petition. Page appealed, and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. People v. Page, 193 Ill.2d 120 (2000) ("Page III"). Subsequently, Page filed separate habeas petitions with this court, one for each murder conviction and death sentence.

  On January 11, 2003, former Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted Page's death sentences to natural life in prison without the possibility of parole. Thereafter, on September 4, 2003, Page amended his petitions to remove those claims challenging his death sentences. Thus, pending before this court are Page's challenges to his convictions for both the Goodman and Howell murders. As many of these claims overlap and repeat, the court has consolidated Page's claims into this single opinion.

  B. Trial Testimony

  Before reviewing the facts underlying the Goodman and Howell murders, some additional background is necessary. The Goodman murder was not Page's first murder conviction. Rather, in September of 1988, Page was tried for the murder of Dale Andrew Devine ("Devine") in Will County, Illinois, and received a 60-year term of imprisonment ("Devine murder"). Although the Will County proceedings are not the subject of this review, certain facts regarding the case are relevant to the present claims, and will be referenced throughout this opinion.

  The following recitation of facts is drawn from the Illinois Supreme Court's ruling on Page's direct and post-conviction appeals, which facts Page does not challenge. 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).

  1. Goodman Murder

  The details surrounding Goodman's murder derive mainly from Page's court reported-confession, which was admitted at trial. Page stated that, on Wednesday, May 6, 1987, he and Gerald Feinberg*fn2 ("Feinberg") made plans to rob and kill Goodman, because Page held a grudge against Goodman. On the next day, Page and Feinberg visited Goodman's house in Olympia Fields, Illinois. Once inside the house, Page cornered Goodman in the bathroom and asked him about some pornographic photographs. When Goodman began to laugh, Page revealed a large knife, and stabbed Goodman four times in the chest, killing him. Page and Feinberg then put Goodman's body in the bathtub, wiped the house clean of their fingerprints, and stole Goodman's credit cards. Page and Feinberg proceeded to wrap the victim's body in a sheet and a rug, and placed it in the trunk of Goodman's car. The pair then drove to a rural area in Wisconsin, dug a hole, and buried the body. Over that weekend, Page and his friends drove around in Goodman's car, stole the television from Goodman's empty house, and used the stolen credit cards. The following week, Page abandoned the car at a nearby train station.

  Numerous trial witnesses corroborated Page's confession. One witness testified to seeing Page and Feinberg at Goodman's home shortly before the murder. Other witnesses admitted to using Goodman's credit cards and stealing his television. Police witnesses testified that they found significant quantities of blood in the bathroom and in several other areas of Goodman's house. Additionally, investigators lifted Page's fingerprints from various items in the house. The police also found Goodman's car at a train station, and a pool of blood in the trunk. Lastly, police found Goodman's body buried in a rural area in Wisconsin, and an autopsy revealed that the victim had sustained nine stab wounds to the chest, four of which had entered Goodman's heart and caused his death. Page did not present any evidence in his defense.

  2. Howell Murder

  Page also confessed to the murder of Charles Howell. Page stated that he and Feinberg killed Howell in the fall of 1985, and buried the body in an Illinois forest preserve. Page explained that he murdered Howell after killing Howell's roommate, Devine, because he feared that Howell would become suspicious of Devine's disappearance.*fn3 Page also explained that prior to the murder, he and Feinberg drew a map on Page's basement floor of where they would bury Howell, went to the proposed burial site, and dug a hole. The two then lured Howell to the site under the pretense of having a party. When they arrived, Page stabbed Howell. When the victim tried to run, Feinberg beat him in the head with a large stick. After Howell died, Page and Feinberg dumped his body in the hole, covered it with dirt and branches, and started a fire over the grave.

  Trial witnesses corroborated Page's confession. The victim's mother testified that on the night of the murder, her son received a telephone call, got in his car, and she never saw him again. That same night, Page's ex-girlfriend testified that she, Page, Feinberg, and Howell were hanging out in the basement of Page's mother's house. She stated that the group was sitting around and then Page said he had arranged for a drug deal in a nearby forest preserve. Page, Feinberg, and Howell left together at around 9:00 p.m. She then explained that the following morning, at around 2:00 a.m., Page and Feinberg returned with Howell's car, but without Howell. She also testified that Page looked "scuffed up" when he returned home. In addition, police investigators found a drawing on Page's basement floor of the burial site Page referred to during his confession. Police later recovered Howell's body from the grave site, and also found a piece of wood nearby with hair and clothing fibers attached to it. An autopsy revealed that Howell's clothes showed numerous cuts consistent with stab wounds and the medical examiner opined that the cause of death was multiple stab wounds. Page did not present any evidence in his defense.

  II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

  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. 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." Williams, 529 U.S. 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 application of Supreme Court precedent must be more than incorrect or erroneous. Rather, it must be "objectively" unreasonable. Lockyer v. Andrade, 123 S.Ct. 1166, 1174 (2003); Hardaway v. Young, 302 F.3d 757, 762 (7th Cir. 2002) (state court decision must lie "well outside the boundaries of permissible differences of opinion"); see also Rice v. McCann, 339 F.3d 546, 548 (7th Cir. 2003) (state court application of federal law is reasonable if state decision is at least minimally consistent with facts and circumstances of case).

  But before a federal court will consider a habeas corpus petition, a petitioner must satisfy several procedural requirements. First, a petitioner must exhaust state remedies — that is, the petitioner must give the state's highest court an opportunity to address each claim. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 839 (1999). To satisfy this requirement, a petitioner must fairly present to the state judiciary both the operative facts and legal principles that control each claim. Wilson v. Briley, 243 F.3d 325, 327 (7th Cir. 2001). A petitioner's failure to fairly present each habeas claim to the state's highest court in the time and manner required leads to a default of the claim, thus barring the federal court from reviewing the claim's merits. Boerckel, 526 U.S. at 848. A federal court, however, may excuse a procedural default if a petitioner can show either cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, or can demonstrate that failure to consider the claim will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991).

  III. HABEAS CLAIMS

  A. Misapplication of Collateral Estoppel

  Page first argues that the Goodman and Howell trial courts incorrectly applied the doctrine of collateral estoppel to prevent him from challenging the voluntariness of his confessions. In both cases, Page moved to suppress his statements. And in both cases, the court denied Page's motion, finding that the issue had already been determined by a Will County trial court. Page challenges these decisions.

  Before considering the claim's merits, some background is necessary. In the four days following Page's arrest, from May 16th through 20th, 1987, Page confessed to three murders. On May 16th, 17th, and 18th, and the morning of the 19th, Page made a number of statements regarding the Goodman murder. Then, during the afternoon of the 19th, Page provided authorities with formal confessions concerning the Devine and Howell murders. The first of these three murders tried was the Will County prosecution of the Devine murder. In that proceeding, Page moved to suppress his custodial statements. The Will County motion did not specify what statements were being challenged by Page. But following a six-day hearing, at which parties introduced extensive testimony covering the entire period of time Page spent in custody, and concerning the circumstances of all the statements made by Page while in custody, the Will County judge denied Page's suppression motion. The statements were admitted, the jury convicted, and Page did not challenge the ruling on appeal. People v. Page, 553 N.E.2d 753 (1990).

  The next case tried was the Goodman murder. The State sought to introduce Page's statements involving his participation in the murder, and Page moved to suppress claiming that his statements were not voluntarily given. Specifically, Page contended that police investigators prevented him from seeing his family, promised him leniency in exchange for a confession, deprived him of food, and continued the interrogation after he invoked his right to counsel. Page also claimed that he was prepared to call witnesses who did not testify in the Will County case, but who could have provided testimony of similar police misconduct while they were held in connection with the Goodman investigation. The State responded by moving to strike Page's motion, arguing that the voluntariness of Page's statements had already been decided by the Will County court. The trial judge agreed. Page advanced the same argument in the Howell prosecution, and that court similarly invoked the doctrine of collateral estoppel to deny Page's challenges. Page appealed both rulings to the Illinois Supreme Court, and the court twice affirmed the trial judges' decisions. Page I, 155 Ill.2d at 246-59; Page II, 156 Ill.2d at 284-86. Page now appeals to this court for relief.

  Page's argument to this court is twofold, and in the alternative. First, he claims that the Goodman and Howell courts applied the doctrine of collateral estoppel too broadly because the Will County hearing concerned only the circumstances surrounding the Devine statements, and did not determine the admissibility of the statements he made with respect to the Goodman and Howell murders. Second, Page claims that even if the Will County hearing determined the admissibility of all his statements, he raised "new allegations" in support of his motion in the Goodman and Howell cases, and the trial courts should have conducted separate hearings to consider previously undetermined matters.

  This court's review begins with Illinois Supreme Court analysis of the claims to determine if that court's decisions were contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). In reviewing the Goodman conviction, the Illinois Supreme Court began by outlining the doctrine of collateral estoppel, and cited relevant authority, including United States Supreme Court precedent, to show that collateral estoppel is often invoked in a criminal context. Page I, 155 Ill.2d at 248-49. The court also reviewed the specific constitutional concerns raised when collateral estoppel is used to defeat a motion to suppress. Id. at 249-50. After a thorough analysis, the court found that the doctrine could be invoked by the prosecution against the accused in the context of a suppression motion. Id. at 250.

  The court then conducted an extensive discussion of the doctrine's requirements and concluded that all the requirements had been met. Page I, at 250-60. In reaching this conclusion, the court reviewed the entire Will County record and found that the admissibility of each of Page's statements was actually litigated and determined by the Will County trial court. The court noted that the witnesses who testified at the Will County hearing spoke to the circumstances surrounding all of the statements, not just the Devine statements. The court also noted that the Will County motion to suppress did not specify which particular set of statements was being challenged, and did not limit its scope to the statements concerning the Devine murder. Lastly, the court pointed out that even the language used by the Will County trial judge in his ruling did not distinguish between different sets of statements. The court therefore concluded that the Will County court, in rejecting Page's claims, "necessarily determined issues pertinent to all three sets of statements made by [Page] while in police custody." Id. at 254. Accordingly, the Illinois Supreme Court found that the Goodman trial court properly applied the doctrine of collateral estoppel. Id. at 259.

  The Illinois Supreme Court revisited the issue again in reviewing the Howell conviction. The court again examined the Will County record, and the Howell record, and found nothing to dissuade it from its earlier conclusion that the Will County judge's ruling on the admissibility of the Devine statements also resolved the factual issues pertinent to the Goodman and Howell statements. Page II, 156 Ill.2d at 284-85. And the court once again affirmed the trial court's decision invoking collateral estoppel. The Illinois Supreme Court's decisions in both the Goodman and Howell cases are not unreasonable. As the Illinois Supreme Court's extensive discussion reveals, the Will County judge considered all of the statements when he was assessing the voluntariness of the Devine Statement. Thus, it was appropriate for the Cook County trial court to decline to retry this issue. Collateral estoppel is often applied in criminal cases, with "realism and rationality." Ashe v. Swenson, 397 U.S. 436, 444 (1970). The collateral estoppel doctrine bars re-litigation of an issue of ultimate fact between the same parties, once that issue has been determined by a valid and final judgment. Id. at 443. For the doctrine to apply, the following elements must be met: (1) the issue sought to be precluded is ...


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