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United States ex rel Goings v. Gaetz

June 9, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge


Before the Court is Petitioner Robert Goings' petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). For the following reasons, the Court denies Goings' habeas petition.


I. Factual Background

On March 23, 1997, the police found Walter Stevenson dead near 6848 South Honore in Chicago, Illinois, with lacerations to his hands, neck and face. Thereafter, the police found Stevenson's van, which he used as a cab, in a parking lot across from 4738 South Federal Street in Chicago. Stevenson's autopsy revealed six stabs wounds -- two over the face area, three over the neck area, and one under the left hand. According to the forensic pathologist who testified at trial, these wounds were consistent with Stevenson trying to use his hand to grab or protect himself from being stabbed in the body or face.

At Goings' bench trial, the State presented a theory that Goings approached Stevenson with a BB gun to steal his van. At trial, Detective John Polluszny testified that after the police learned that Stevenson carried a cellular telephone, they subpoenaed the telephone records and tracked the phone to Renee Gresham. After speaking to Gresham on April 10, 1997, the police arrested Goings and brought him in for questioning.

Initially, Goings denied any knowledge of Stevenson's murder or his cellular telephone. On April 11, 1997, Detective Pollusnzy, along with Detective Riley, spoke to Goings again and Goings admitted to killing Stevenson. Specifically, Goings stated that on the day of the crime he was depressed and wanted to die. Goings told the detectives that he knew that the older cab drivers at the cab stand carried guns. Thereafter, Goings went over to Stevenson pointed a BB gun at him and told him to get into his vehicle. Goings told the detectives that he then pointed the gun at the Stevenson, told him to drive, and hoped Stevenson would pull out a gun and shoot him. Instead, Stevenson took Goings' BB gun, pulled out a knife, and started swinging the knife at him. Goings stated that he got the knife from Stevenson and stabbed him in the head and neck area. After Goings drove to the area of 69th and Honore Streets in Chicago, he pushed Stevenson out the door, drove off, and took Stevenson's cellular phone.

At trial, Renee Gresham testified that she had known Goings for several years and that on March 23, 1997, Goings came to her apartment and gave her Stevenson's cellular telephone. Gresham further testified that Goings told her that earlier that day "he had got into it with a man," that they struggled, and that he stabbed him. Further, Vickie Klegman, an Assistant Cook County State's Attorney, testified at trial that she spoke to Goings, along with Detective Riley, in the early morning hours of April 12, 1997. Klegman stated that the explanation Goings provided to her mirrored the explanation that Goings gave Detectives Pollusnzy and Riley.

At trial, Goings presented a theory of self-defense. Goings specifically testified that he and Stevenson worked at a cab stand at 39th and State Streets. Further, Goings testified that Stevenson had loaned him $50, which he wanted Goings to repay. On March 23, 1997, Stevenson drove Goings to a friend's house to get the $50. Goings testified that when he returned to the van with nothing, Stevenson insisted that Goings pay him double. After Goings objected, Stevenson grabbed a knife with his left hand and brought it toward Goings. Goings further testified that they struggled with the knife and that during the struggle Stevenson was cut in the face, in the jaw, and on the neck. Stevenson then dropped the knife, reached for the door, and got out of the van. Goings testified that he immediately drove off because he "was scared knowing that cab drivers have guns."

Goings further testified that he drove to the parking lot of the cab stand and unsuccessfully tried to reach someone to tell them what happened. Goings stated that he then went to a friend's apartment and told her "I just got into it with a man at the cab stand and he ended up getting stabbed." Subsequently, another cab driver told Goings that Stevenson had been killed. Goings testified that he then went to a hotel with two acquaintances and "was really scared about what happened." In the hotel room, Goings attempted suicide. Thereafter, he was taken to the hospital by ambulance. After being released, he went to his brother's house where the police arrested him on April 11, 1997. Goings admitted that his trial testimony differed from his statement to the police.

II. Procedural Background

On July 16, 1999, following a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Goings was convicted of first degree murder and vehicular hijacking after which the Circuit Court sentenced him to consecutive terms of sixty and thirty years, respectively. (R. 13-1, Resp.'s Rule 5 Exs., Ex. C.) On direct appeal, Goings raised three sentencing issues: (1) his due process rights were violated when the Circuit Court imposed consecutive sentences; (2) the mandatory consecutive sentencing provision of the Unified Code of Corrections was unconstitutional under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 520 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000); and (3) the sentence imposed was excessive due to his age, 24, and lack of an adult criminal background. (Ex. A.) On November 26, 2001, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the Circuit Court. (Ex. C.) Thereafter, Goings did not file a petition for leave to appeal ("PLA") to the Supreme Court of Illinois.

On April 25, 2002, Goings filed a pro se post-conviction petition in the Circuit Court of Cook County pursuant to 725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq., asserting multiple claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. (Ex. D.) On April 14, 2003, Goings filed a supplemental post-conviction petition raising additional allegations of constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel. (Ex. E.) The Circuit Court then appointed counsel for Goings and counsel filed a supplemental post-conviction petition augmenting some of the issues raised in Goings' earlier pro se filings. (Ex. I.) On November 3, 2005, after an evidentiary hearing, the Circuit Court dismissed Goings' post-conviction petition. (Ex. F.)

Goings then appealed the denial of his post-conviction petition arguing that the Circuit Court erred in dismissing his post-conviction petition because: (1) his allegation that trial and appellate counsel were ineffective for failing to argue that the police lacked probable cause to arrest him raised the gist of a meritorious constitutional claim; and (2) post-conviction trial counsel's performance was unreasonable when she abandoned the probable cause issue to focus on the warrantless arrest claim. (Ex. F.) On June 30, 2008, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the denial of Goings' post-conviction petition. (Ex. I.) Goings then filed a PLA to the Supreme Court of Illinois raising three claims: (1) the post-conviction appellate court improperly used evidence adduced at trial to justify its probable cause finding; (2) his post-conviction trial counsel's performance was unreasonable; and (3) his post-conviction appellate counsel was constitutionally ...

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