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United States, ex rel Edwards v. Austin

December 27, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge


Xavier Edwards ("Edwards") has filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2254*fn1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus - Person in State Custody ("Petition"), seeking relief from his conviction and sentence of 20 years for second degree murder and 10 years for aggravated battery with a firearm. This Court has reviewed the Petition in accordance with Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 cases in the United States District Courts ("Rule 4"), and it finds the Petition insufficient as a matter of law. But before this memorandum opinion and order turns to that subject, two procedural matters should be addressed.

First, Edwards has accompanied the Petition with an In Forma Pauperis Application ("Application"), apparently unaware of the modest $5 fee that applies to Section 2254 petitions. On that score a copy of this memorandum opinion and order is being sent to the Pinkneyville Correctional Center, where he is now in custody, with a direction that a check for the $5 fee payable to the Clerk of the United States District Court be transmitted forthwith to the Clerk's office (with the check to bear a reference to this Case No. 07 C 7196):

Office of The Clerk

United States District Court 219 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60604 Attention: Fiscal Department Next, the Petition has been submitted more than a year after November 29, 2006, when the Illinois Supreme Court denied leave to appeal from Edwards' unsuccessful effort to obtain reversal on his direct appeal before the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District.*fn2 But because the 90 days after that denial within which Edwards could have applied to the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari is added to the November 29 date (Andersen v. Litscher, 281 F.3d 672, 674-75 (7th Cir. 2002)), that brings his current filing within the one-year period of limitations specified in Section 2244(d)(1)(A).

On then to the substantive claim that Edwards advances. According to the Petition, he was 16 when he committed the murder of Maurice Davis. When he was then charged with first degree murder and tried as an adult, Cook County Judge Colleen McSweeney Moore conducted a bench trial and found him not guilty of first degree murder because he had acted on serious provocation (the victim had attacked him), but she convicted him of second degree murder. According to Edwards, the state then moved for a juvenile hearing in the Cook County Criminal Court, and that hearing resulted in his being sentenced as an adult.

That procedure conformed exactly to the carefully structured Illinois statutes governing such situations. First, 705 ILCS 405/5-130(1)(a)*fn3 excludes from the definition of "delinquent minor" a minor who at the time of an offense was at least 15 years old and who is charged with first degree murder (as already indicated, that was Edwards' situation). That section goes on to provide:

These charges and other charges arising out of the same incident shall be prosecuted under the criminal laws of this State.

Next, Section 5-130(c)(ii) specifies that where (as here) the minor is found not to have committed that charged offense, "that finding shall not invalidate the verdict or the prosecution of the minor under the criminal laws of the State"--but the State must then request a hearing if it wishes the minor to be sentenced in the same manner as an adult: that is, "under Chapter V of the Unified Code of Corrections."

Edwards expressly acknowledges that the prescribed procedure was adhered to in his case, but his quarrel is that the state court assertedly applied the statute incorrectly because it "did not considered[sic] all of the criteria required under such hearing." Edwards' problem in that respect is that even if such were the case, he has not identified a federal constitutional violation--the prerequisite to Section 2254 relief. No denial of equal protection of the laws is implicated by a state court's commission of an error in its application of state law--the most that Edwards claims.*fn4

Accordingly, "it plainly appears from the petition...that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court" (Rule 4). And that being the case, Rule 4 dictates that the Petition ...

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