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United States ex rel Fife v. Ryker

January 21, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL. TYRESE FIFE, PETITIONER,
v.
LEE RYKER, WARDEN, LAWRENCE CORRECTIONAL CENTER, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In 1998, following a bench trial, an Illinois judge convicted Tyrese Fife of first degree murder, armed robbery, and possession of a controlled substance. The trial judge sentenced Fife to three concurrent terms totaling twenty-five years imprisonment. Fife has petitioned the Court for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He alleges that his constitutional rights were violated by the denial of effective assistance of trial counsel and the prosecution's failure to provide evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland. For the following reasons, the Court denies Fife's petition.

Background

Factual findings by the state court are presumed correct in a federal habeas corpus proceeding unless they are rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. Mahaffey v. Schomig, 294 F.3d 907, 915 (7th Cir. 2005); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

Because Fife has not rebutted the Illinois Appellate Court's factual findings, the Court adopts the following account from the decision of that court in People v. Fife, No. 1-05-3397 (Ill. App. June 22, 2007):

Within minutes of a fatal shooting, the police arrested defendant, who was then 15 years old, around 4 a.m. on December 21, 1995, in Harvey, Illinois. The following day, defendant provided an inculpatory statement in which he admitted that he had been read his constitutional rights, understood them, and gave this statement voluntarily. Defendant confessed that he was involved in a plan to rob a man of two kilos of cocaine in Harvey on December 21, 1995. Defendant set out that night from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he lived, with two companions, Andre Childs and a man named Brown. When they arrived in Harvey, a girl named Kim paged a man to deliver the drugs. After parking the car a block away, defendant waited on one side of a house while his two companions waited on the other side. When the man arrived, Childs jumped out, told the man to give up the drugs, and shot him at least four times. Defendant grabbed the man's bag containing cocaine and ran. He heard Brown fire one shot. Defendant cut through an alley and threw the cocaine into a garage. The police arrested him two blocks away.

Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to suppress his statement on the basis, in relevant part, that he was not able to understand the Miranda warnings because of his low intellectual functioning. At the suppression hearing, numerous witnesses testified, including police officers who had questioned defendant in prior criminal investigations in April 1992 (possession of narcotics), January 1993 (burglary and armed robbery), December 1993 (stolen car), January 1994 (stolen motor vehicle), August 1995 (possession of a controlled substance), and October 1995 (narcotics). Each police officer testified that defendant understood the Miranda rights given to him. Both the youth officer who questioned defendant about the present crimes on December 21, 1995, and the assistant State's Attorney who took defendant's statement testified that defendant understood in the simplified manner in which they were explained.

Three expert witnesses (Drs. Dawna Gutzmann, Michael Rabin, and Philip Pan) opined that defendant was not capable of knowingly waiving his Miranda rights. Their testimony revealed that defendant had tested at two different IQ levels, 59 and 71. Their opinions were based on a review of various reports, including psychological assessments, and sessions with the defendant.

The trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress, noting that it had watched and listened to defendant at an earlier proceeding on defendant's unsuccessful motion to quash arrest. The trial court found that defendant was able to understand and decide to waive the Miranda rights.

Following a bench trial, defendant was convicted of murder, armed robbery, and possession of a controlled substance. The parties had stipulated that the tested contents of the bag which defendant had taken and thrown into a garage amounted to 1,003 grams of cocaine and the untested remainder weighed 533 grams. The court denied defendant's motion for a new trial and stated:

This defendant had, as I said before, and I will say it again, this defendant had been around the block so many times, it is my opinion that he was malingering. It is my opinion that he was manipulating the system, and it is my opinion after listening to everyone testify with respect to this motion that I have respectfully declined, I have reconsidered it, and motion to reconsider was denied, the same ruling by the Court, that the statement goes in, there is reliability. This defendant is absolutely capable of waiving those rights. I watched him during the motion to suppress the evidence. I listened to everything.

Id., slip op. at 1-4.

Discussion

1. Ineffective Assistance of ...


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