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United States ex rel Coleman v. Hardy

February 1, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer


Petitioner Lawrence Coleman was convicted of first-degree murder in Cook County, Illinois in October 2000. This court denied Coleman's pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus on July 1, 2009. Twenty-eight days later, Coleman filed a motion to reconsider, raising essentially the same arguments that he raised in his initial petition. Coleman subsequently also filed a second "supplemental motion to reconsider" on September 9, 2009, and a "motion to cite additional authority" on December 21, 2009, asserting that the court failed to adequately consider certain evidence and legal arguments in addressing his petition. For the reasons stated herein, all of Coleman's pending motions are denied. Coleman also filed a "motion for clarification," seeking the court's advice on how to proceed with his appeal. The court briefly addresses that request.


Coleman sought habeas relief in this court, claiming that (1) his confession was obtained in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966); (2) prosecutors in his case violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to inform him of an agreement with a witness; (3) his trial counsel was ineffective; (4) prosecutors in his case knowingly relied on perjured testimony; and (5) he was actually innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. Coleman also alleged that the prosecutors in his case paid witnesses for their testimony. The court discussed the underlying facts and legal issues at length in its denial of the petition, and it need not repeat itself here, except to observe that Coleman's claims were either procedurally defaulted or lacked merit. See U.S. ex. rel. Coleman v. Shaw, No. 06 C 184, 2009 WL 1904370, *1-13 (N.D. Ill. July 1, 2009).

On July 29, 2009, Coleman filed a motion to reconsider, asking the court to review "a few vital points" that Coleman believes were overlooked in denying his habeas petition. (Pet.'s Mot. 1.) The motion reiterates the arguments made in Coleman's habeas petition, claim by claim, and requests relief from the court's denial of his habeas petition. (Id.) Coleman's subsequent supplemental motion does the same, asking the court to reconsider his actual innocence claim in light of an affidavit that was before the court when it denied the writ, but which Coleman claims the court failed to adequately consider. (Pet.'s Sup. Mot. 1-2.) Likewise, Coleman's "motion to cite additional authority" is actually a request that the court reconsider the merits of his Brady claim.


I. Rule 60(b) Request for Relief

At the time that Coleman filed his initial motion, FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e) required that a motion to alter or amend a judgment be filed no later that ten days after the entry of the judgment.*fn1 In this Circuit, a motion to alter or amend a judgment after the Rule 59(e) period has expired is automatically construed as a motion for relief under Rule 60(b). Kiswani v. Phoenix Sec. Agency, Inc., 584 F.3d 741,724-43 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Talano v. Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, Inc., 273 F.3d 757, 762 (7th Cir. 2001). Accordingly, the court considers Coleman's motions under FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b).

Rule 60(b) provides that, upon a motion and just terms, a court may relieve a party from a final judgment for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial; (3) fraud, misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier vacated judgment; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief. FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b). The standards of Rule 60(b) apply to a motion in a habeas case, so long as the motion is indeed a genuine Rule 60(b) motion that does not "assert, or reassert, claims of error in the movant's state conviction," but instead challenges only proceedings before the federal court, such as "the District Court's failure to reach the merits." Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 538 (2005).

Coleman does not allege new facts, mistake or fraud in his Motion to Reconsider. Instead, he contends primarily that the court failed to accord sufficient weight to the evidence he presented in support of his claims. As the court explains in the next section, to the extent Coleman is simply attempting to re-argue his rejected habeas claims, the court lacks jurisdiction to consider his motions. The court also briefly addresses Coleman's arguments on the merits.

A. Miranda Claim

Coleman first contends that the court failed to sufficiently consider three pieces of evidence that he maintains are sufficient to support his Miranda claim: (1) Coleman's testimony that he called his lawyer from his home on the morning of arrest, (2) Coleman's testimony that he requested to speak to his attorney during questioning, (3) the undisputed fact that Coleman's in-custody interrogation lasted more than16 hours. The court did, in fact, consider this evidence; each of these matters are addressed in the July 1 opinion. Coleman, 2009 WL 1904370 at *2. As the court explained in its denial of the habeas petition, however, the state court's decision on Coleman's Miranda claim was based on its own credibility determinations. Id. at *5. Simply put, the state court did not believe Coleman's testimony that he asked to speak to his attorney, and a federal court will not revisit the state court's factual determinations on habeas review. The court's decision did not rest on an insufficient consideration of the evidence.

B. Brady Claim

Next, Coleman says the court erred by finding that he had procedurally defaulted his Brady claim. Coleman's Brady claim was based on an allegation that Alice Larue, a witness for the state in his case, made an undisclosed "deal" with prosecutors. (Pet. Mot. at 2.) In rejecting his petition, the court found that Coleman had offered little more than unsupported hearsay and conjecture as evidence for his allegations; the existence of any agreement between Larue and prosecutors was "speculative at best." Coleman, 2009 WL 1904370 at *5. The court also found that Coleman's claim was procedurally defaulted because he had failed to raise it before the state courts. Coleman's takes issue with this ruling, claiming that the evidence supporting his claim was not available until after he filed his habeas petition--but the "evidence" he refers to is the same speculation that this court ...

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