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United States ex rel Wright v. Briley

September 28, 2007

UNITED STATES EX REL., TYRELLIS D. WRIGHT PETITIONER,
v.
KENNETH BRILEY RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Petitioner Kenneth Briley's motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is before this Court. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

I. FACTS*fn1

The statement of facts in this case as presented in the opinion of the Illinois Appellate Court is presumed correct for the purpose of federal habeas review. 28 U.S.C. §2254(e)(1); Summer v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 547 (1981). A summary of the pertinent facts follow.

In 1995, Petitioner, Tyrellis D. Wright, was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder. The State sought to prove that Petitioner, who was angry at the victim, Ami Faro, for interfering with his relationship with a girlfriend, lured the victim to a building where his grandmother lived and thereafter strangled the victim and bludgeoned her to death with a fire extinguisher. In 1997, a jury convicted Petitioner of committing the offense. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court found that the murder was accompanied by brutal and heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty, and it imposed an extended-term sentence of 85 years' imprisonment. Petitioner filed a timely notice of appeal. On direct appeal, Petitioner alleged, inter alia, that (1) the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it granted the State's motion in limine seeking exclusion of evidence; and (3) the trial court abused its discretion when it denied defendant's motion in limine seeking exclusion of evidence of "other bad acts" allegedly committed by defendant prior to the instant offense. The Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence. Petitioner filed a petition for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Illinois, which was denied.

In February 2000, Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition pursuant to the Illinois Post Conviction Hearing Act. Petitioner later filed an amended post-conviction petition and a second amended post-conviction petition. The trial court summarily dismissed Petitioner's second amended post-conviction petition as patently without merit, and Petitioner filed a timely notice of appeal. On appeal, Petitioner alleged, inter alia, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when defense counsel failed to 1) allow Petitioner to testify in his own defense at trial; (2) make a record of possible undue influence by the trial court; (3) obtain medical records and present medical evidence of defendant's grandmother; and (4) dismiss a juror. The state appellate court affirmed. Petitioner then filed for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Illinois; the petition was denied.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

28 U.S.C. §2254 empowers federal district courts to hear petitions for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in state custody on the ground that he or she is in custody in violation of the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) (1996); see Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 77 (1977). A federal court may only consider the merits of a writ of habeas corpus after the petitioner has (1) exhausted all available state court remedies; and (2) first presented any federal claim in state court. See 28 U.S.C. §2254(c) (1996); Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731 (1991); Jones v. Washington, 15 F.3d 671, 674 (7th Cir. 1994). A federal court will not grant relief on claims that have been decided on the merits by state courts unless the state court's decision "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) (1996), or "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)(2) (1996).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Exhaustion of State Court Remedies

The question of exhaustion "refers only to remedies still available at the time of the federal petition," such that an applicant for federal could still obtain relief if he sought it in the state system. Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 125-26 (1982); O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 851-52 (1999). Under such circumstances, where state remedies are still available at the time of the federal petition, the federal court must generally abstain from intervening in the interest of comity. Id. In the present case, there is no argument as to exhaustion; Respondent has already conceded that petitioner has exhausted his state court remedies.

B. Insufficiency of Evidence

Petitioner's habeas petition must be evaluated under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, where habeas relief is warranted when the state court's adjudication of a claim "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) (1996), or "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)(2) (1996). A state court decision is contrary to Supreme Court precedent if it is inconsistent with the Supreme Court's treatment of a materially identical set of facts, or if the state court applied a legal standard that is inconsistent with the rule set forth in the relevant Supreme Court precedent. Gilbert v. Merchant, 488 F.3d 780, 790 (7th Cir. 2007). A state-court decision constitutes an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent within the meaning of § 2254(d)(1) when, although it identifies the correct legal rule, it applies that rule in a way that is objectively unreasonable. Id. A federal habeas court's own disagreement with a state court's analysis is not sufficient to meet this standard; rather, the state court's analysis must lie well outside the boundaries of permissible differences of opinion in order for the habeas court to characterize it as an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent. Id.

Petitioner claims insufficiency of evidence to prove that Petitioner was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For a sufficiency of evidence issue, "the relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979). In the present case, the evidence reflects that, on June 16, 1995, Petitioner telephone victim at 8:40 p.m. and 8:52 p.m. from 917 Shiloh. Petitioner had asked victim for a ride earlier in the day. Victim's brother heard victim on the phone, and then leave shortly after. At approximately 9:08pm, a witness saw a very attractive female with long brown hair drive through the alley and park at 917 Shiloh. The victim was later found in the laundry room, just across from the Petitioner's grandmother's apartment at 917 Shiloh. Blood that matched the victim's blood was found on the grandmother's apartment doorknob and door plate. When Valisha Gomez arrived at the grandmother's apartment some time after 9 p.m., Petitioner was in the shower. Gomez waited for approximately 15 minutes, but Petitioner did not come out of the bathroom. Victim's blood was found on the grandmother's shower curtain. A rational trier ...


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