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United States ex rel Spraggins v. Zimmerman

July 31, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen District Judge


This case is before the court on Myron Spraggins' petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons set forth below, the habeas petition is denied.


On February 1, 1993, a jury in the Circuit Court of Cook County found petitioner Myron Spraggins guilty of first degree murder. At trial, the prosecution alleged that Spraggins and another man killed Kevin Jones, a rival gang member. The victim, Kevin Jones, was killed on March 23, 1991 on the fourth floor of a Chicago Housing Authority building located at 5041 South Federal Street. The evidence revealed that Jones was shot numerous times and that two different weapons were used in the attack.

A. Trial Testimony

At trial, the State presented eyewitness testimony from Eugenia Pryor, Priest Pryor and Kenneth Hunter. Each testified that he or she was with a group of friends outside an apartment on the fourth floor of the 5041 building and that Jones ran into an open air hallway or gallery on the fourth floor pursued by Spraggins and another man. The witnesses testified that they were familiar with both the victim and Spraggins because they had known them since attending the same grammar school. The witnesses testified that Spraggins and the other man fired numerous shots at the victim as the witnesses fled down a nearby stairwell. When they reached the ground floor the witnesses separated. None of the eyewitnesses contacted the police.

At trial, Priest Pryor and Hunter, members of the same gang as Jones, testified that Spraggins attempted to silence them the day after the murder. According to the witnesses' trial testimony, Spraggins confronted them and shot himself in the leg when attempting to remove a handgun from the waistband of his pants. However, at trial, Spraggins claimed that it was, in fact, Hunter who had shot him. At trial, the State argued that Spraggins confronted Priest Pryor and Hunter to silence them as witnesses to Jones' murder and, when Spraggins was unsuccessful, he decided to falsely accuse Hunter of shooting him.

Spraggins, on the other hand, argued that it was Hunter who shot him and falsely accused Spraggins of shooting Jones to avoid prosecution for shooting him. At trial, the State supported its theory of the case with the testimony of Dr. Timothy Sanders, the emergency room doctor who treated Spraggins' gunshot wound. Dr. Sander's testified that the angle of the gunshot wounds suggested that Spraggins shot himself.

Spraggins was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to thirty-five years in prison. Spraggins appealed his conviction and sentence to the Illinois Appellate Court. The Appellate Court affirmed his conviction and sentence on February 21, 1995. The Illinois Supreme Court denied his petition for leave to appeal on December 6, 1995.

B. Post-Conviction Hearing

On April 12, 1996, Spraggins filed a post-conviction petition based on ineffective assistance of counsel, perjured testimony and newly discovered evidence, among other issues. The post-conviction petition remained pending for reasons unknown until the court ruled in 2002. The post-conviction court dismissed the ineffective assistance claim and the newly discovered evidence claim without an evidentiary hearing. As to the claim relating to the alleged perjured testimony, the post-conviction court granted an evidentiary hearing.

At the hearing, Eugenia Pryor testified pursuant to a subpoena. Eugenia answered several preliminary questions, but invoked her privilege against self incrimination when asked whether she testified truthfully at the trial. The post-conviction court held that the question clearly would expose Eugenia to charges of perjury and that she was entitled to invoke the privilege. The post-conviction court denied Spraggins's request to admit a videotaped statement Eugenia gave to a public defender's office investigator recanting her trial testimony.

Kenneth Hunter testified at the hearing and stated that he was the same person who testified at Spraggins's trial. Hunter testified that he was lying when he testified that he saw Spraggins shoot Jones and that he was not present on the fourth floor of the 5041 building at the time of the shooting. Hunter testified that the morning after the shooting he was standing under the 5041 building with a group of people discussing Jones' death and that some people reported that a rival gang was responsible for the shooting. Hunter testified that he saw Spraggins walking past the building and fired a shot in retaliation. Hunter then testified that the next day he was arrested for shooting Spraggins and was taken to the police station and placed in a holding area. Hunter stated he used a payphone to call Priest and Eugenia Pryor. Hunter claimed that Priest's girlfriend answered the telephone and Hunter asked to speak to Priest Pryor. Hunter testified that he concocted a story about Spraggins shooting Jones and that he asked Priest and Eugenia to lie for him and tell the same story.

On cross-examination, Hunter testified that he spoke to Priest for about 10 minutes and then spoke to Eugenia for about 10 minutes. Hunter testified that he did not know how many shooters were involved or where Jones had come from prior to being shot. Hunter further testified that he spoke with Priest and Eugenia Pryor after detectives brought them to the police station. Hunter testified that he could not recall when this conversation occurred in relation to conversations he had with police detectives and ...

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