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United States ex rel Coker v. Mathy

August 6, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL. ALFONTAINE COKER, PETITIONER,
v.
JOSEPH MATHY, WARDEN, PONTIAC CORRECTIONAL CENTER, RESPONDENT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In 2001, following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, petitioner Alfontaine Coker was convicted of two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault, and one count of attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault. The trial court sentenced Coker to twenty-five years for the aggravated criminal sexual assault and ten years for one of the aggravated kidnapping counts, to be served consecutively, as well as concurrent sentences on the other two counts.

Coker has petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 2254. The state moved to dismiss Coker's petition as barred by the statute of limitations. The Court denied the state's motion. See Coker v. Jones, No. 07 C 5988, 2008 WL 4372395 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 24, 2008). After the state answered Coker's petition, the Court appointed counsel to represent Coker who, to that point, had represented himself. Up to that time, and following the appointment of counsel, Coker filed a number of memoranda and letters that were either duplicative of his original petition or unintelligible. The Court struck the pro se filings that Coker made after counsel had been appointed. Coker's appointed counsel filed a reply brief stating that, after reviewing the state's answer, Coker had nothing further to say and would stand on the arguments raised in his original petition. The matter is now fully briefed. For the following reasons, the Court denies Coker'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. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Mahaffey v. Schomig, 294 F.3d 907, 915 (7th Cir. 2005). Because Coker 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. Coker, No. 1-01-3821 (Ill. App. Sept. 30, 2003) (unpublished order, attached as Exhibit A to the state's motion to dismiss).

In the early morning hours of February 7, 1998, two minor women, Jonelle J. and Edwina E., were walking outside when a car approached them. Id. at 2. Two men inside the car began to speak with Jonelle and Edwina and forced them to enter the car at gunpoint. Id. At trial, Jonelle and Edwina identified Coker as the driver of the car.

Id. at 2-3. After Jonelle and Edwina were forced into the car, Coker and his accomplice, Anthony Durant, drove around with them for four to five hours. Id. at 2. Coker eventually parked the car in the driveway of an apparently abandoned house, and he and Durant took the two women inside. Id. On the second floor of the house, Coker forced Jonelle to undress, placed a condom on his penis, and attempted to force sexual intercourse with Jonelle. When Coker went to investigate loud noises coming from an adjoining room where Durant held Edwina, Jonelle, still naked, jumped out of a window from the second floor to the ground. Id. She ran to a nearby house where a resident took her inside and called the police. Id. at 2-3. Edwina escaped a short time later and ran to the same house as Jonelle. Id. at 4.

Detective Ernest Bell investigated the attack. Id. at 5. He interviewed Jonelle and Edwina at St. Francis hospital, taking down their descriptions of their assailants. Id. at 5-6. The police recovered a used condom from a toilet in the upstairs bathroom at the crime scene. Id. at 6. That condom contained semen, and DNA testing showed a match to Coker's DNA. Id. at 7.

On July 22, 1998, Jonelle and Edwina independently identified Durant from a photo array shown to them by the police. Id. at 3-4. On October 9, 1998, Jonelle and Edwina independently identified Durant in a lineup at the police station and also identified Coker from a second photo array. Id. Finally, on July 25, 2000, Jonelle identified Coker in a lineup at a police station. Id. at 3. At the time of the lineup identification by Jonelle, Coker wore his hair in braids, though it had been cut straight on the night of the assaults. Coker was the tallest individual in the lineup in which Jonelle identified him and the only individual who wore his hair in braids.

Coker testified at trial. Id. at 6. He testified that he was not with Jonelle, Edwina, or Durant on the night in question. Id. Coker also claimed he was not at the house where the condom was found on the day Jonelle and Edwina were attacked, though he acknowledged that he had been there previously. Id. He testified that he occasionally took dates there to engage in sexual intercourse and had done so in late January or early February 1998. Id. Despite his denials, the jury found Coker guilty of two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault, and one count of attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault.

On direct appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court, Coker contended he was entitled to reversal of his convictions based on alleged problems with Jonelle's and Edwina's identifications of him, ineffective assistance of counsel, his inability to cross examine Durant, Illinois' one-act one-crime rule, the jury instruction regarding identification evidence, and whether the evidence was sufficient to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The appellate court rejected each of these contentions, finding they were either meritless or that Coker had forfeited them. The Illinois Supreme Court denied Coker's petition for leave to appeal.

Discussion

A district court may grant a writ of habeas corpus only if the state court's adjudication of petitioner's claim "resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the ...


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