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United States ex rel Ramos v. Trancoso

August 2, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


This matter is before the Court on Respondent Carolyn Trancoso's motion to dismiss [14] Petitioner Maria Ramos' petition for habeas corpus on the ground that the petition is time barred under the one year statute of limitations that applies to federal habeas corpus petitions under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"). For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Respondent's motion [14].

I. Background

On March 25, 1993, Petitioner Maria Ramos was sentenced to extended consecutive prison terms of sixty years and twenty years after being found guilty of one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault and one count of aggravated battery of a child in the Circuit Court of Cook County. She is now in the custody of Respondent, the Warden of the Dwight Correctional Center in Dwight, Illinois.

On May 14, 1996, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, on direct appeal, affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentences. Petitioner then filed a petition for leave to appeal (PLA) in the Illinois Supreme Court that was denied on December 4, 1996. Petitioner does not appear to have filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.*fn1

On September 22, 1998, Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to 725 ILCS 5/122-1. Among other things, she alleged that her trial counsel provided ineffective assistance for failing to communicate the terms of a plea offer extended by the State. Related to this issue, Petitioner submitted three affidavits to the post-conviction trial court (also attached to her instant petition): (i) post-conviction counsel, Margaret Byrne, averred that on or about December 22, 1997, she had a conversation with trial counsel, Timothy Eckerman, who informed her that the State had extended a plea offer of approximately eight years but Eckerman did not communicate this offer to petitioner; (ii) Petitioner averred that trial counsel had never advised her about any plea offer; and (iii) Eckerman asserted that there was a plea offer of approximately eight years, but stated that he had informed Petitioner of the offer and she had declined it. The trial court dismissed the post-conviction petition as untimely, but the appellate court reversed, ordering the trial court to assess whether Petitioner's late filing should be excused because she was not "culpably negligent," and to conduct an evidentiary hearing on Petitioner's ineffective assistance claim. On remand, the State withdrew its statute of limitations defense and instead argued that no plea offer was made to Ramos.

The trial court granted an evidentiary hearing on the ineffective assistance claim to determine whether a plea offer had been extended. Eckerman testified that his statement in his affidavit, referred to the eight-year offer, was inaccurate and that the State had not, in fact, offered a plea bargain.*fn2 The Assistant State's Attorney who prosecuted Petitioner's case testified that she had not made a plea offer. Upon hearing the evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing, the Circuit Court found that no offer had been made and held that counsel could not be ineffective on that ground. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the denial of Petitioner's post-conviction petition on November 21, 2008, and the Illinois Supreme Court denied leave to appeal on March 25, 2009.

On July 15, 2009, this Court received the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner did not date the petition, nor did she attach an affidavit of service indicating the date on which the petition was mailed; however, the envelope was postmarked July 13, 2009. See DE 8 at 7. Petitioner raises four substantive issues: (i) appellate counsel was ineffective because joint representation of Petitioner's co-defendant on direct appeal resulted in a conflict of interest ("conflict of interest claim"); (ii) Petitioner's eighty-year sentence violates the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause ("excessive punishment claim"); (iii) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to communicate the terms of a plea offer ("plea offer claim"); and (iv) Petitioner was denied her right to an impartial jury ("jury claim").

II. Analysis

It is undisputed that Petitioner has no further state court avenues of review, and thus she has exhausted her available state remedies as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). The question raised in Respondent's motion is whether the petition should be dismissed as untimely under the one year statute of limitations for Section 2254 petitions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Section 2244(d)(1) states:

A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to a judgment of a State court. The limitation period shall run from the latest of ---

(A) the date on which judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;

(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;

(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made ...

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