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Cosby v. Sigler

January 18, 2006


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 04 C 2077-Blanche M. Manning, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Manion, Circuit Judge.


Before BAUER, MANION, and EVANS, Circuit Judges.

Monica Cosby was convicted in Illinois state court of first-degree murder for helping her boyfriend kill his mother and conceal her body. After pursuing a direct appeal and seeking collateral relief in the Illinois courts, Cosby filed a petition for a writ of habeas OE Mary Sigler, the current warden of the Dwight Correctional Center, has been substituted for Alyssa B. Williams as respondent pursuant to Fed. R. App. P. 43(c). corpus in federal court. The district court denied the petition. Cosby appeals. We affirm.


The gruesome facts of this case challenge the imagination. Monica Cosby began living with her boyfriend, Kmuel (or Kevin) King shortly after Halloween in 1995. They shared an apartment that Cosby thought was Kmuel's, but it actually belonged to Kmuel's mother, Bobbie Jean King. Cosby's three children, ages seven, four, and one at the time, who had been staying with Cosby's parents, joined her there shortly before Thanksgiving. Kmuel's mother soon returned to reside in the apartment with her own infant son. This combination left three adults and four young children in the one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. Bobbie relinquished use of the bedroom and slept in another area on the floor next to her own infant's crib.

Not surprisingly, tensions peaked around Christmas because Bobbie, who was not a Christian, did not want a Christmas tree in her home. Bobbie was already highly irritated by the overcrowded conditions imposed upon her apartment. Although Cosby testified that Bobbie never objected to the additional residents, other evidence suggested that Bobbie insisted that Cosby and her children leave. Regardless, Cosby testified that she planned to leave anyway because of a breakdown in her relationship with Kmuel shortly after Christmas.

What happened next is gleaned primarily from Cosby's testimony at trial. In the early hours of December 27, 1995, Cosby and Kmuel ingested alcohol and marijuana at a gathering in another apartment. After they returned, Bobbie was upset due to their late arrival. Cosby testified that Kmuel and his mother began to argue, while Cosby ate cake with her children in the kitchen and listened to the radio. Kmuel then entered the kitchen and informed Cosby that he had just killed his mother, doing it "for [her]."

Cosby and Kmuel then went to the bathroom, where they viewed the body. Blood from Bobbie's beaten head covered the floor. At Kmuel's request, Cosby fetched a plastic bag. Although in a statement to the police Cosby stated that she placed the bag over Bobbie's head, at trial she testified that Kmuel did it. Kmuel tied an electrical cord around the bag. Together, they maneuvered the body into the bathtub, placing plastic bags of laundry over her. They also bound Bobbie's arms and legs. Cosby and Kmuel then engaged in sexual relations on the living room floor while the children were asleep in the bedroom.

The next morning the body remained in the bathtub, even as the children used the bathroom. Several times during the day, while Cosby was present in the apartment, Bobbie's daughter came looking for Bobbie. The police also visited to investigate the disappearance. In the wake of these inquiries, Cosby and Kmuel decided to relocate and ultimately dispose of the body. They placed the victim in a shopping cart piled with laundry bags, laundry detergent, and fabric softener. They then moved the shopping cart to a neighbor's closet, claiming that they needed a place to store some dirty laundry. Cosby later led a friend to the body. The police were alerted and arrested both Cosby and Kmuel on the evening of December 27, 1995.

Cosby's mother arranged for an attorney, a family friend who did not practice criminal law, to visit her at the police station that night. The attorney conferred with Cosby for approximately forty-five minutes. As the attorney departed at 12:45 a.m., he advised the officers that Cosby was invoking her right to remain silent. Cosby also asserted this right. The officers returned about two hours later, informed her of her Miranda rights, and confronted Cosby with statements made by Kmuel. Cosby made two statements, one at 3:00 a.m. and another, after again being informed of her Miranda rights, at 9:00 a.m. The two statements each recounted the preceding events in substantially identical detail, except that in the 9:00 a.m. statement, Cosby stated that she placed the bag over the victim's head. Cosby was subsequently charged with first-degree murder and concealment of a homicidal death.

Cosby's trial counsel prepared a motion to suppress the statements, but filed it with an incorrect case number. The motion was never re-filed or decided by the court. At the bench trial, the prosecution offered the 9:00 a.m. statement, but not the 3:00 a.m. statement, into evidence. Cosby's counsel did not object. Instead, Cosby's counsel pursued a defense that was consistent with the statements: a mistake-of-fact defense. He argued that Cosby believed Bobbie to be dead when she or Kmuel placed the bag over Bobbie's head and bound her limbs. Since Cosby believed the victim was dead, counsel argued, she could not be guilty of first-degree murder. At the bench trial, the medical examiner testified that Bobbie was still alive when the bag and bindings were secured. She died as a result of strangulation, with blunt force trauma to the head as a major contributing factor. Cosby testified and, contrary to her earlier statement, claimed that Kmuel placed the bag over Bobbie's head. The judge found Cosby to be incredible and found her guilty on both counts.

After her direct appeal and state collateral proceedings, Cosby filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254. In her petition, she asserted her actual innocence and claimed ineffective assistance of counsel, as well as violations of her right to remain silent, her right to counsel, and her right to due process. The ...

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