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United States ex rel Medrano v. Pierce

May 10, 2010

UNITED STATES EX REL. JOSE MEDRANO (#A51233), PETITIONER,
v.
GUY PIERCE, WARDEN, PONTIAC CORRECTIONAL CENTER, RESPONDENT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

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

BACKGROUND

Medrano does not present clear and convincing evidence challenging the statement of facts set forth in the Illinois Appellate Court's opinions, and thus the Court presumes those facts are correct for purposes of its habeas review. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Pole v. Randolph, 570 F.3d 922, 934 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court adopts the underlying facts as set forth by the Illinois Appellate Court in People v. Medrano, No. 01-94-2069 (Ill.App.Ct. 1996) (unpublished), People v. Medrano, Nos. 01-97-3718 & 01-97-4612 (Ill.App.Ct. 1998) (unpublished), People v. Medrano, No. 01-00-0857 (Ill.App.Ct. 2002) (unpublished), and People v. Medrano, No. 01-05-1634 (Ill.App.Ct. 2008) (unpublished). The Court begins with a brief recounting of the relevant facts as determined by the Illinois Appellate Court. See Easley v. Frey, 433 F.3d 969, 970 (7th Cir. 2006).

I. Factual Background

On May 15, 1992, at approximately 1 a.m., Medrano attacked nineteen-year-old T.B., who was working at the front desk of the Forest Lodge Motel in Prospect Heights, Illinois. More specifically, Medrano, who was an occupant of the motel at that time, approached T.B. and asked whether some jewelry had been found and whether he could have a cash advance on his credit card. Thereafter, Medrano ordered a bottle of champagne and when T.B. turned to get it, he attacked her, forced her to the floor, pulled out a knife, and fondled her breasts. Medrano then forced her at knifepoint to open the cash register from which he took approximately $130.00. Medrano also tied T.B.'s hands behind her back and placed a gag around her mouth. He then thrust his penis in her face.

Shortly thereafter, Medrano pulled T.B., who remained tied and gagged, to a field outside the motel. He threw her to the ground and placed his penis in her hands and then placed his penis under the mouth gag so that it came in contact with her lips, teeth, and tongue. Medrano stated that he would have to kill T.B. because he did not want to "go back to jail." Medrano strangled T.B. until she was unconscious, put her in the trunk of his car, and drove to another location. While in the trunk, T.B. regained consciousness. Her mouth gag had slipped, and she had untied her hands. When Medrano opened the trunk, T.B. pretended to be dead. Medrano then pulled her from the trunk, threw her to the ground, and began cutting her neck with the knife. T.B. first resisted and then pretended to be dead. Medrano also pushed her down a hill and kicked her into a small creek.

After Medrano left, T.B. staggered to a nearby apartment complex after which she was taken to a hospital. Later, she did not recall any of the conversations she had with medical and police personnel prior to her medical treatment, which included surgery for her neck wounds. The following day, while in intensive care, T.B. identified Medrano as her assailant from a police photo array and the police arrested Medrano that evening.

When the police arrested Medrano, he stated: "How did you figure it out so fast?" He subsequently gave the police a complete statement admitting to the crimes. The police reduced his statement into writing, which Medrano corrected, but then refused to sign because it included the fact that he had said to T.B. that he would have to kill her to avoid police identification.

II. Procedural Background

On March 3, 1994, following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, the jury convicted Medrano of attempted first degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, aggravated kidnaping, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and aggravated battery. The trial court sentenced Medrano to a total of ninety years of imprisonment, which included (1) concurrent terms of sixty years for attempted murder and fifteen years for aggravated kidnaping, and (2) two concurrent terms of thirty years for aggravated criminal sexual assault and armed robbery with the concurrent thirty-year terms ordered to run consecutively to the concurrent terms of sixty and fifteen years.

Medrano appealed his convictions and sentences arguing that: (1) the trial court should have excluded his statement to the victim that he had to kill her to avoid returning to jail; (2) he was prejudiced by the prosecutor's comments that he had bought cocaine on the day before the crime; (3) the prosecutor made improper arguments relating to the drug evidence and Medrano's verbal threat to the victim; (4) the prosecutor improperly shifted the burden of proof; (5) there was insufficient evidence to support the aggravated criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse charges; and (6) the trial court improperly entered judgment on three aggravated criminal sexual assault counts because they were all based on a single act of penetration. The Illinois Appellate Court vacated two of Medrano's aggravated criminal sexual assault convictions, but affirmed the remaining convictions. The Illinois Appellate Court also remanded the case to the trial court for re-sentencing because certain aspects of Medrano's sentence violated Illinois' consecutive terms of imprisonment statute, 730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(a). Medrano then filed a petition for leave to appeal ("PLA") that the Supreme Court of Illinois denied on December 4, 1996.

On remand, the trial court again imposed an aggregate ninety-year term of imprisonment after restructuring Medrano's sentence in accordance with the Illinois Appellate Court's instructions. While the trial court's decision was pending on remand, Medrano filed a petition pursuant to the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act, 725 ILCS 5/122-1, et seq., arguing that he was denied his right to due process because he was unfit to stand trial. The post-conviction trial court dismissed Medrano's petition of September 26, 1997.

Medrano filed separate appeals concerning the trial court's sentencing order and the trial court's dismissal of his post-conviction petition. The Illinois Appellate Court consolidated Medrano's two appeals, vacated Medrano's sentence and the order dismissing his post-conviction petition, and then remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing and for further proceedings in accordance with the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act.

Following the Illinois Appellate Court's remand for resentencing, the trial court again sentenced Medrano to an aggregate term of ninety years of imprisonment. Medrano appealed arguing that his sentence was unconstitutional under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000). The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed Medrano's sentence. Medrano then filed a PLA that the Supreme Court of Illinois denied on February 5, 2003.

Meanwhile, following the Illinois Appellate Court's remand for further post-conviction proceedings, Medrano filed a supplemental post-conviction petition arguing that: (1) he was denied his right to due process because the trial court failed to conduct a fitness hearing; (2) he was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel failed to request a fitness hearing; (3) he was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel on direct appeal because his appellate counsel did not raise the trial court's failure to hold a fitness hearing or its denial of his motions to suppress statements and quash his arrest; (4) his sentence violated Apprendi; (5) the trial court failed to conduct a fair sentencing hearing; and (6) the trial court erroneously sentenced petitioner on a charge on which he was not convicted. On May 5, 2005, the trial court dismissed Medrano's post-conviction petition.

Medrano appealed the dismissal of his post-conviction petition raising arguments related to his fitness to stand trial, namely: (1) he was denied his right to due process because the trial court failed to conduct a fitness hearing; (2) he was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel failed to request a fitness hearing; and (3) he was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel on direct appeal because his appellate counsel did not raise the trial court's failure to hold a fitness hearing. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed on the ground that Medrano waived his fitness claim and related trial counsel claims by failing to raise them on direct appeal. The Illinois Appellate Court, however, did not address Medrano's claim that he was denied ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. Thereafter, Medrano filed a PLA raising the same issues that he raised on appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court. The Supreme Court of Illinois denied Medrano's PLA on September 24, 2008.

III. Habeas Petition

On August 28, 2009, Medrano filed the present pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254(d)(1). Construing his pro se allegations liberally, see McGee v. Bartow, 593 F.3d 556, 565-66 (7th Cir. 2010), Medrano's habeas claims include: (1) the trial court improperly admitted evidence of uncharged conduct; (2) the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt as to his aggravated criminal sexual abuse or aggravated criminal sexual assault charges; (3) the State improperly shifted the burden of proof and vouched for its witnesses during closing arguments; (4) he was denied his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights because: (a) he was unfit to stand trial; (b) he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel in regard to his fitness to stand trial; and (c) he was denied effective assistance of appellate ...


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