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Davis v. Hulick

October 31, 2008

MEYUNTOE DAVIS, PETITIONER,
v.
DONALD A. HULICK, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, District Judge

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Meyuntoe L. Davis' Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (d/e 1-2) (Petition). For the reasons stated below, the Court finds a hearing unnecessary and denies the Petition.

FACTS

Davis currently is incarcerated at the Illinois Department of Corrections Menard Correctional Center, where he is serving a thirty-year sentence on a conviction for first-degree murder. In November of 1999, a jury in the Circuit Court of Sangamon County, Illinois, convicted him of murdering Angela Willis in an incident at a party. Davis asks the Court to reduce his conviction to one for involuntary manslaughter and credit him the time he has already served.

On the night of January 15, 1999, Tanicka McCool and two of her friends hosted a party at McCool's house. Between 75 and 100 people attended, including Davis and Willis. McCool testified that the attendees congregated in the living room, kitchen, dining room, and the stairs in the dining room. McCool's brother testified that during the party, people were packed into the dining room shoulder-to-shoulder. Multiple witnesses told the jury that shortly after midnight, shots were fired at the house. An unidentified individual fired two shots into the ceiling while standing at the base of the stairs in the dining room. The shooter then ran up the stairs. After a brief pause, additional shots were fired.

McCool's mother stated that just before the shots were fired, she walked through the house and observed 30 to 40 people, including Willis, in the dining room. McCool's brother testified that after he heard the initial set of shots, he looked into the house from where he was standing on the porch and saw Davis fire several shots in Willis' direction. Tanicka McCool told the jury that when she heard the shots, she was in the dining room with about 40 people. Someone pushed her to the floor, and she crawled to the kitchen and ran to the basement. When she came back upstairs, she saw Willis lying on the floor near the dining room stairs; Willis had been shot in the head.

A young woman named Annaji McLemore also testified at trial. McLemore lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, but was visiting family and friends in Springfield at the time of the shooting. She considered Tanicka McCool a best friend. McLemore told the jury that she attended McCool's party that night, and shortly after midnight, four girls walked into the living room where she was standing. The girls said that there was going to be a fight. McLemore looked into the dining room and then heard shots coming from near the stairs. Chaos erupted, with people running everywhere, dropping to the ground, and huddling in corners. She then saw a man backpedal toward her and fire a gun toward the area near the stairs. McLemore stated that while the backpedaling man was shooting, people were on the stairs and on a dresser near the stairs, lined up against the walls, lying on the floor, and huddled in corners of the dining room. She saw Willis try to hide behind the dresser near the stairs. At trial, McLemore identified Davis as the man who backpedaled toward her and fired a gun toward the stairs. The morning after the party, however, Springfield Police Sergeant Doug Williamson showed McLemore a mug shot book that included Davis' photograph, and Williamson testified that she was not able to identify Davis from the book.

The day after the party, Springfield police officers also interviewed Davis. Williamson testified that Davis denied having a gun at the party. Two days later, however, the officers interviewed Davis again. This time, Davis admitted that because he was angry that someone shot at him, he fired six shots in the direction of the stairs. He said he did not think he could have hit anyone because by the time he started firing, everyone still in the dining room was on the ground. Lab tests found that the bullet that struck Willis and the bullets recovered from the dresser near the stairs came from a gun belonging to Davis.

In closing argument, the State argued that while Davis never intended to kill Willis, he nonetheless committed first degree murder under two theories viable in Illinois. First, he created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm by firing into a crowded room. Second, he committed a felony -- aggravated discharge of a firearm -- and death resulted.

The defense, however, contended that while Davis did kill Willis, when he shot his gun he did not believe anyone was in the line of fire, which would make conviction under either theory of murder improper. The defense argued that because he did not believe anyone was in the direction he was firing, he did not create a strong probability of death or great bodily harm, and he did not commit aggravated discharge of a firearm.

The State relied in part on McLemore's testimony in countering the defense argument. In closing argument, defense counsel told the jury that McLemore had "very little credibility," "no credibility whatsoever," and "finally did admit she didn't know where people were." Answer (d/e 11), Exhibit N-4, Trial Transcript, at 66; Answer, Exhibit N-5, Trial Transcript, at 99, 101. In its rebuttal closing, the State asserted that McLemore had no reason to give false testimony:

She is the one person who comes to this area once or twice a year to visit relatives. She's moved, she doesn't live in this area anymore, she doesn't talk to people in this area, hang out with the people in this area, socialize with the people in this area. She's not friends with the Defendant's group, she's not friends with the victim's group at this point.

She's in Las Vegas and she's got her own life out there. She was brought back in because of the fact she has no reason to lie, no reason to fabricate, no reason for bias in this case. She's only in the area a couple times a year; she just happened to be there that day.

Answer, Exhibit N-5, Trial Transcript, at 106-07. The State also noted that McLemore had been frustrated during the defense's cross-examination of her. Toward the end of her testimony, the defense attorney challenged her on her memory of where people were during the shooting. They had the following exchange:

Q: Do you know where those people are or are you just guessing?

A: Do I know where who is?

Q: Those individuals that were at the dresser.

A: No, I don't know where they went to. I told you everybody was looking. You got to explore your options.

Q: You don't really know where anybody was, do you? You're just guessing today.

A: Yeah, I'm just guessing, ...


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