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United States ex rel Williams v. Hulick

March 25, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge David H. Coar


Petitioner Jason Williams's ("Petitioner") motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is before this Court. For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.


Petitioner was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping on December 1, 1992. He was sentenced on January 21, 1993 to consecutive terms of twenty-two and eight years. Michael Cole represented Petitioner during his trial and sentencing.

At trial, the victim testified that, on the morning of July 8, 1991, Petitioner approached her as she was walking to work. He placed a gun at her side and forced her to walk to a section of railroad tracks where he twice forced her to have sexual intercourse. Petitioner and the victim then walked to the victim's workplace, where the victim told her co-workers she had been raped.

Her supervisor, Kathy Voltz, called the police, and Petitioner was soon arrested. The victim testified that she had never met Petitioner before and did not know anyone named James Heath.

Petitioner claimed that Heath was the victim's boyfriend and that the two had attempted to frame Petitioner for rape. Petitioner testified that he had two altercations with Heath as a result of a gang's attempts to recruit him. During the second, which occurred sometime in 1990, Heath and others beat Petitioner. Petitioner filed a complaint against Heath but could not appear in court to testify against Heath because he had been arrested for raping the victim.

At trial, Petitioner further testified that he had met the victim on a bus in late June of 1991 and asked her for her phone number. She told him he could meet her at her job in Archer Park, and he visited her twice. Petitioner denied kidnapping and sexually assaulting the victim and stated that it was the victim's idea to go to the railroad tracks.

During the trial, Petitioner's mother, Thelma Howell, came into the courtroom in violation of an order excluding all witnesses. The trial court allowed the trial to continue, but when Howell again violated the order, she was precluded from testifying on Petitioner's behalf.

Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Illinois Appellate Court, First District. On appeal, he was represented by Greg Koster of the Cook County Public Defender's Office. Koster filed a motion to withdraw pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967). Petitioner's pro se response to the motion claimed that: 1) he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; 2) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to interview and call James Heath as a witness, among other strategic decisions; 3) the prosecutor made improper arguments that denied him a fair trial; and 4) his sentence was excessive. The state appellate court granted the appellate counsel's motion to withdraw and affirmed the convictions and sentences on March 17, 1995.

Petitioner then submitted a petition for leave to appeal ("PLA") to the Illinois Supreme Court, making the following claims: 1) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to interview and call several witnesses, object to improper comments made by the prosecutor, and present mitigating evidence at sentencing; 2) he was not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; 3) the prosecutor made improper remarks during the trial; and 4) his sentences were excessive. The PLA was denied on October 4, 1995.

Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court of Cook County on December 1, 1995. He argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to 1) present witnesses and documents to establish that Petitioner had been attacked by James Heath; 2) interview or call passersby who witnessed the incident and could have testified that the sex was consensual; 3) have Petitioner's mother testify that she spoke with someone who told her the victim and Heath "set up" Petitioner; and 4) interview or call a witness to testify that Heath was the victim's boyfriend and that the two conspired to frame Petitioner. Petitioner's appointed counsel added claims that 1) Petitioner's sentence violated Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000); 2) Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate witnesses and making cumulative errors; and 3) Petitioner's appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that the trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and call witnesses. On May 23, 2002, Petitioner filed another petition alleging that new evidence presented by Clifton Williams, whom Petitioner met in prison, established that the victim and Heath knew each other and had conspired against Petitioner to keep him from testifying against Heath.

On May 28, 2003, Clifton Williams, Howell, and Petitioner's friend Meartice Guyton testified at an evidentiary hearing regarding the post-conviction petition and petition for post-judgment relief. Clifton Williams testified that he saw the victim and Heath together and overheard Heath instruct the victim to have sex with Petitioner. The court sustained the State's objection that this testimony was hearsay. Clifton Williams acknowledged that, although he had written two previous affidavits and a declaration regarding Petitioner's case in May 2002, he first mentioned overhearing the conversation in a third affidavit dated October 11, 2002. Guyton testified that he had seen the victim with James Heath over twenty times and that he saw the victim with Petitioner multiple times during June and July 1991. He had difficulty, however, identifying the victim from pictures. Howell testified that Heath had threatened and injured Petitioner in 1990 and 1991, that she and Petitioner had filed complaints against Heath on two occasions, and that Petitioner had told her he was dating a girl with the victim's first name. At the close of the evidentiary hearing, defense counsel submitted a copy of a petition to impose discipline on Michael Cole, Petitioner's trial attorney, by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. Cole was under investigation at the time of Petitioner's trial and was later suspended from practicing law, but Petitioner's case was not listed as one Cole had neglected.

The post-conviction petitions were denied on July 28, 2003. The court held that the testimony given during the evidentiary hearing would not have changed the trial's outcome, noting that the credibility of Clifton Williams and Guyton was tarnished by their criminal histories and that the admissibility of Clifton Williams's evidence was questionable because it was hearsay. The court also noted that Petitioner lied to the police about his name and residence, and had given "four different stories as to what happened" on the date of the rape: that he had never seen the victim, that he knew her but they had never had sex, that he had initiated the sex, and that the sex was the victim's idea.

Petitioner appealed this ruling, arguing 1) ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to present Howell and Guyton as witnesses and 2) Clifton Williams' testimony constituted newly discovered evidence demonstrating Petitioner's innocence. On appeal, Petitioner was represented by Jennie Pinnous and Tomas Gonzalez from the Appellate Defender's Office. Petitioner also submitted a pro se "supplemental brief" arguing that the State intimidated a potential defense witness, Anthony Cooper. The state appellate court declined to accept this brief on the ground that a criminal defendant has no right to both self-representation and the assistance of counsel. The court did not address the claim raised in the brief. On September 6, 2005, the appellate court affirmed the lower court's ruling on the post-conviction petition.

Petitioner filed a PLA with the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing 1) ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to present witnesses; 2) ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel for failing to argue that the government had threatened defense witnesses; and 3) denial of a fair trial because the government had threatened a potential defense witness. The PLA was denied on March 29, 2006.

Petitioner filed the instant federal habeas petition on January 21, 2004, claiming:

I. Ineffective assistance of trial counsel ...

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