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Edwards v. Evans

December 17, 2009

KEVIN EDWARDS, PETITIONER,
v.
JOHN EVANS, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Kevin Edwards, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. On September 23, 2008, he filed a petition for habeas corpus relief and after receiving an extension to file a reply, he instead moved to amend his petition. That motion was denied and he was ordered to file his reply by August 31, 2009, which he failed to do. The case is ready to be decided and the petition is denied for the reasons that follow.

FACTS

The following facts come from the Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court's Rule 23 Order denying Mr. Edwards's direct appeal (Doc. 14, Ex. A).

Mr. Edwards was convicted of killing his estranged wife's lover, Clarence Jordan, on December 18, 1999. Mr. Edwards and his wife, Latasha, had ongoing marital problems. In November 1999, after several failed attempts at reconciling, Mr. Edwards moved out of their apartment in Belleville, Illinois, taking some furniture, including their bed. Latasha continued to live in the apartment with their young daughter (Ex. A at 6-8).

On the evening of December 17, 1999, Mr. Edwards and Latasha attended a basketball game and did some Christmas shopping. At some point, Latasha received a page from Clarence Jordan; she told Mr. Edwards the page was from her sister. Latasha then dropped Mr. Edwards off at his parents' house and told him she was going to pick up her sister at the Metrolink station. Mr. Edwards expected Latasha would return to his parents' house later. Latasha instead met Jordan at the Metrolink station and they went to Latasha's sister's home where Latasha left her car. Latasha and Jordan then took Jordan's car to Latasha's apartment where they spent the night. Because Mr. Edwards had previously removed the bedroom furniture from the apartment, they slept on the floor (Ex. A at 1-2).

Shortly after 6:00 a.m. on December 18, 1999, Latasha heard a door open, but she did not think it was the door to her apartment. Latasha and Jordan were lying naked on the bedroom floor. Suddenly, Latasha saw Mr. Edwards standing over her with a rifle. According to Latasha, Mr. Edwards said, "Your sister told me you was [sic] fucking Dre [(a prior lover of Latasha's)]." Mr. Edwards then turned and shot Jordan (Ex. A at 2). The state's evidence established that the murder weapon was an SKS rifle, which is a semiautomatic assault rifle (Ex. A at 4).

According to Mr. Edwards, he and Latasha had separated in July 1999, because Latasha was seeing a man named Dre. They reconciled but then separated again in November 1999, at which time Mr. Edwards moved out of their apartment. Mr. Edwards testified that he bought the SKS rifle for a "trophy" a few months before December 1999. He put the rifle under the loveseat in his parents' house without their knowledge. However, on December 16, 1999, Mr. Edwards's mother discovered his rifle and told Mr. Edwards to get the rifle out of her house immediately (Ex. A at 5, 7).

Mr. Edwards testified that on the evening before the murder, his father was drunk and angry that Mr. Edwards had not yet removed the rifle. As such, Mr. Edwards put the rifle into a black duffle bag and hid it in the woods outside his parents' house. Mr. Edwards then attempted to contact Latasha several times. When Latasha did not return his calls, he drove to Latasha's sister's home around 1:30 a.m. on December 18, 1999, where he saw Latasha's car. Latasha's sister, Beatrice, told him that Latasha was out with female friends.*fn1 Around 5:45 a.m., Mr. Edwards left Beatrice's home and returned to his parents' home. He picked up the keys to Latasha's apartment and retrieved the rifle from the woods. He testified that he intended to go to Latasha's apartment to "get some sleep and to secure the rifle there." He further testified that he did not expect to find anyone there, that he did not know about Jordan, and that he was not angry (Ex. A at 7-8).

After letting himself into the apartment, Mr. Edwards first looked into his daughter's bedroom because he knew his daughter was not there, and he thought that if Latasha were home she would be sleeping in their daughter's bed. He then heard a noise from behind the closed door of the master bedroom, and thought that someone had broken into the apartment, although he admitted that there was no sign of forced entry. He took the gun out of the duffle bag and opened the bedroom door. He then saw Latasha and Jordan lying naked on the floor. According to Mr. Edwards, Jordan started to get up and said, "What the fuck?" In response, Mr. Edwards claimed he did not say anything, but that he "automatically pulled the trigger." He explained that shooting the rifle was not an accident, but was the result of many emotions in that he was very tired, he thought that someone had broken into the house, and he feared for his safety because Jordan was "jumping up so fast" (Ex. A at 8).

According to Latasha, Mr. Edwards then pointed the gun at her and demanded that she leave with him (Ex. A at 2). According to Mr. Edwards, he simply told Latasha that he was leaving, and she voluntarily went with him. First, they went to Mr. Edwards's uncle's home where he left the rifle and duffle bag without his uncle's knowledge. Next, they went to Mr. Edwards's cousin's house. His cousin gave him money and took him to the bus station in St. Louis. Mr. Edwards then stayed in a hotel in St. Peters, Missouri, until December 21, 1999, when he turned himself in to the police (Ex. A at 9).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Mr. Edwards's conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. His petition for leave to appeal (PLA) to the Illinois Supreme Court was denied. He then filed a petition for post-conviction relief. After appointed counsel filed an amended petition, the court granted the state's motion to dismiss (Doc. 14, Exs. H, I, J). The dismissal was affirmed (Doc. 14, Ex. N), and the PLA was denied on November 29, 2007 (Doc. 14, Ex. R).

While the appeal from the dismissal of the post-conviction petition was pending, Mr. Edwards filed a successive post-conviction petition (Doc. 14, Ex. S). It was summarily dismissed. Mr. Edwards appealed, and his appointed counsel moved to withdraw pursuant to Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551 (1987) (Doc. 14, Ex. T). Counsel's motion to withdraw was granted, and the Appellate Court affirmed the dismissal in a Rule 23 Order (Doc. 14, Ex. V). Mr. Edwards's successive PLA was denied on September 24, 2008 (Doc. 14, Ex. X).

GROUNDS FOR HABEAS RELIEF

Mr. Edwards asserts the following grounds for habeas relief:

(1) His conviction for first-degree murder was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

(2) Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce evidence in support of second-degree murder ...


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