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United States ex rel Wadley v. Hulick

October 24, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George W. Lindberg


Noldon Wadley, a prisoner in custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, has filed a petition for federal habeas relief. For the reasons stated below, the petition is denied.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

The following facts are drawn from the opinions of the Illinois Appellate Court, People v. Wadley, 523 N.E.2d 1249 (Ill. App. Ct. 1988), and No. 1-00-1462 (Ill. App. Ct. Dec. 19, 2003), which the Court presumes are correct for the purpose of habeas review. See 28 U.S.C § 2254(e)(1).

On May 16, 1984, Cynthia Berrian was murdered in an alley near 47th and Langley Streets in Chicago. Wadley, 523 N.E.2d at 1251. One witness observed petitioner follow Berrian as she approached the alley, and immediately thereafter heard gunshots. Id. Another witness observed petitioner shoot Berrian. Id. at 1252. Both witnesses identified petitioner in lineups. Id. Petitioner admitted to police that he shot Berrian because "Gangster Larry" Crittendon, the head of his gang, threatened to shoot him if he did not do so. Id. Berrian had been scheduled to testify against one of petitioner's fellow gang members in a double murder trial, approximately two weeks after Berrian's murder. Id. at 1253.

Judge Thomas Maloney presided over petitioner's jury trial. The jury convicted petitioner of murder, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Wadley, 523 N.E.2d at 1251, 1253. Maloney was later convicted of conspiracy, racketeering, extortion, and obstructing justice, for taking bribes to fix other cases. See United States v. Maloney, 71 F.3d 645 (7th Cir. 1995).

Petitioner filed a direct appeal, in which he raised the following issues:

(1) Whether he was denied a fair trial by the denial of his motion for substitution of judge;

(2) Whether he was denied his right to confrontation by the admission of hearsay evidence regarding his gang membership;

(3) Whether the court's decision to allow the prosecution to question petitioner about his sale of drugs denied him a fair trial;

(4) Whether he was denied a fair trial by the prosecution's cross-examination of him regarding prior bad acts; and

(5) Whether he was denied a fair trial because the court sua sponte gave an oral instruction to the jury.

The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed petitioner's conviction on May 10, 1988. The Illinois Supreme Court denied petitioner's petition for leave to appeal on October 6, 1988.

Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief on April 6, 1993, raising the following issues:

(1) Whether petitioner was denied a fair trial by the trial court's admission of gang evidence;

(2) Whether petitioner's due process rights were violated by the trial court's jury instruction;

(3) Ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and

(4) Whether the trial court erred in sentencing him to natural life in prison.

After the petition languished in a dormant file repository of the Cook County Circuit Clerk's Office for more than four years, petitioner filed a supplemental petition for post-conviction relief on January 13, 1998, raising the following issues:

(1) Whether his Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when petitioner was compelled to participate in a pretrial lineup without counsel;

(2) Whether his due process rights were violated by police coercion of his confession through threats, intimidation, and physical abuse, and denial of his requests for counsel;

(3) Whether he was denied his right to a trial before an impartial judge because he was tried by a corrupt judge;

(4) Whether the state court's delay in ruling on his post-conviction petition violated his due process rights; and

(5) Ineffective assistance of trial counsel.

The trial court dismissed both petitions on March 22, 2000. On December 19, 2003, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the trial court's dismissal of the post-conviction petitions, and remanded for further proceedings. The petitions remain pending in the trial court.

Petitioner filed his petition for habeas corpus in this Court on January 17, 2006, and subsequently filed two amended petitions through appointed counsel. This Court excused petitioner's failure to exhaust state court remedies, on the basis of the inordinate and unjustifiable delay in the state court post-conviction proceedings, which the Court found was attributable to the State. See Docket Entry Nos. 23 & 45 (April 7, 2006 & Aug. 25, 2006 Orders).

In his second amended habeas petition, petitioner claims that he was denied his due process and equal protection rights because:

(1) The State failed to provide petitioner with complete trial transcripts;

(2) The trial court improperly admitted petitioner's statements during the trial;

(3) Petitioner was tried on a defective indictment;

(4) His trial and sentencing hearing did not take place before an impartial tribunal;

(5) The trial court admitted unreliable and irrelevant evidence; and

(6) The trial court improperly instructed the jury.

In addition, petitioner claims that he was denied his right to effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel (Claim VII). Finally, Petitioner claims that all of these violations cumulatively violated his due process and equal protection rights (Claim VIII). Petitioner requests that this Court hold an evidentiary hearing on his claims.

II. Analysis

A. Legal Standard

Under Section 2254, only claims that the petitioner is being held in state custody in violation of federal constitutional or statutory violations are appropriately raised in habeas petitions. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). In addition, a federal court cannot address the merits of a habeas petitioner's constitutional claims unless he raised them in the state court proceedings; claims that have not been raised in the state proceedings are procedurally defaulted. Farrell v. Lane, 939 F.2d 409, 410 (7th Cir. 1991).

The parties dispute the extent to which the deferential standard prescribed by Section 2254(d) of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), applies to any claims this Court reviews on the merits. Section 2254(d) only applies to a "claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings" because, as a practical matter, in those circumstances there is no state court decision to which to defer. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Canaan v. McBride, 395 F.3d 376, 382-83 (7th Cir. 2005) (internal quotes omitted). The requirement that a claim be adjudicated on the merits by a state court "is not an entitlement to a well-articulated or even a correct decision by a state court," however. Muth v. Frank, 412 F.3d 808, 815 (7th Cir. 2005). Indeed, several circuits have held that a state court need not offer any reasons, and that even a summary disposition constitutes an adjudication on the merits. See id. (collecting cases).

The Court finds that petitioner's fifth and sixth claims were adjudicated on the merits by the state court, and that the AEDPA standard applies to the extent that the Court reaches the merits of those claims. As respondent concedes, there has been no state adjudication on the merits of petitioner's remaining claims. Therefore, the AEDPA standard does not apply to any merits review of those claims.

Under Section 2254(d), a court may not grant relief unless the state court's adjudication:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the United States Supreme Court; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254(d). If Section 2254(d) does not apply, the Court must "dispose of the matter as law and justice require," ...

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