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United States ex rel Monroe v. Zimmerman

August 18, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall


Petitioner Solomon Monroe ("Monroe" or "petitioner") brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons that follow, Monroe's petition is denied.


Following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Monroe was convicted of first degree murder, after which the trial judge sentenced him to a term of 40 years' imprisonment. Monroe appealed and, on February 6, 2002, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed Monroe's conviction and sentence. Monroe filed a petition for leave to appeal ("PLA") to the Illinois Supreme Court, which was denied on October 2, 2002. On November 6, 2002, Monroe filed a state post-conviction petition. This petition was dismissed on November 19, 2002, but Monroe was not given notice of the dismissal. On January 23, 2003, Monroe moved to amend his post-conviction petition. On February 10, 2003, the trial court dismissed the additional claims as frivolous. After Monroe filed an appeal, the appellate court affirmed the dismissal of the petition on December 17, 2004. Monroe then filed a PLA which was denied on December 1, 2005. On January 11, 2006, the supreme court denied Monroe's motion for leave to file a petition to reconsider that denial.

On August 10, 2006, Monroe filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in which he alleges that: (1) his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested without probable cause; (2) his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated because the evidence was insufficient to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt based on a theory of accountability; (3) he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial by the prosecutor's inflammatory, prejudicial and erroneous comments during closing arguments; and (4) he was denied the effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel because trial counsel failed to call witnesses to testify that (a) he requested an attorney when he was arrested and that (b) the police used brutality to enter Monroe's mother's house, and because appellate counsel failed to present these two ineffective assistance claims on direct appeal.

On September 19, 2006, Monroe informed this court that he had filed a second state post-conviction petition in state court. This court put the case in abeyance pending the resolution of that petition. On December 7, 2007, Monroe informed the court that his second state post-conviction petition was dismissed and that he did not file an appeal. On October 24, 2008, this court lifted the stay.


A. Pre-Trial

In late 1996, Monroe was arrested and charged, along with Michael Thomas, Tyrone Curry and Tory Jackson, with two counts of first degree murder in connection with the November 23, 1996 stabbing death of Keith Stalker. Prior to trial, Monroe moved to quash his arrest and suppress evidence on the basis that the arresting police officers acted without sufficient probable cause. At a hearing, Chicago Police Detective Phillip Mannion testified that at about 5:30 a.m. on November 23, 1996, he was assigned to investigate Stalker's death. Mannion went to the crime scene in the vicinity of 4549 North Magnolia in Chicago and, upon canvassing the area, observed various blood stains about the street and adjoining walkway. Mannion further recovered a two-by-four wooden board.

Detective Mannion eventually went to Illinois Masonic Hospital, where he talked to James Bowling, a witness to the attack. Bowling told Mannion he had been with Stalker shortly before Stalker's death and they had consumed both cocaine and alcohol prior to the incident. Bowling told Mannion that Stalker had been attacked by four black males, one of whom went by the street name, "T-Bone." Bowling described each of the attackers and provided details of the incident, specifically relating that one of the attackers had used what Bowling believed to be a baseball bat. Bowling further indicated he had observed another attacker make a "stabbing" motion at Stalker. While he was under the assumption the latter attacker had a knife, Bowling never saw a weapon.

Following his conversation with Bowling, Mannion spoke with members of the hospital staff from whom he learned that Stalker had suffered knife wounds to the body as well as trauma to the head consistent with being hit by some type of blunt instrument.

In the late afternoon of November 25, 1996, Detective Dennis Gray interviewed Steven Myvett after Myvett was identified by Bowling as a witness to the crime. Myvett indicated he had been in the vicinity of 4549 Magnolia on November 23, 1996, and stated he had shared some cocaine with Stalker that morning.

Gray learned from Myvett that at about 4 a.m., two white males in a red Chevy Blazer drove up to Stalker and Stalker sold them some phony cocaine. Shortly thereafter, Myvett and Stalker were approached by three members of the Black P-Stone Nation street gang and the gang members confronted Stalker about selling fake dope. Myvett identified the three individuals as "Red," "T-Bone," and "Titanic." When Stalker started to walk away, he was attacked. Myvett maintained he was instructed by "Red" to join in the beating and claimed he punched Stalker a couple times before walking away.

From their respective talks with Bowling and Myvett, detectives Gray and Mannion learned that "Red" was the street name used by Michael Thomas, "T-Bone" was the street name of Tyrone Curry, and "Titanic" was an individual named Tory Jackson. Jackson was arrested by police shortly after midnight on November 26, 1996, and brought to the police station for questioning. Jackson told Detective Gray that Thomas went by the street name of "Red," while Curry used the street name "T-Bone." Jackson also confirmed that his street name was "Titanic."

Jackson related to Detective Gray that at about 4 a.m. on November 23, 1996, he was selling drugs near the scene of Stalker's attack when two white males in a red Chevy Blazer drove up and asked for an eight ball of cocaine. Jackson retrieved the cocaine and handed it through the passenger side window to an individual who had a "GLN" tattoo on his forehead. Jackson explained that "GLN" was an abbreviation for the Gaylord Nation street gang. Once Jackson provided the drugs, the Blazer sped away. Jackson grabbed hold of the passenger side door as it drove down Magnolia and turned east on Wilson. Jackson eventually fell off the vehicle, and with the assistance of Myvett, who was in the area at the time, returned to Magnolia. Upon his return, Jackson was summoned by Thomas to the back of a nearby building. Thomas was angry and punched Jackson in the face for allowing the cocaine to be stolen. When Jackson informed Thomas that the occupants of the Blazer belonged to the Gaylord Nation gang, Thomas retrieved a large hunting knife from his clothing. The two continued to talk until they heard a whistle-type sound from Curry, which Jackson recognized as a signal for other gang members to "show" themselves.

Jackson, along with Thomas, appeared from the back of the building and saw Curry and petitioner, a fellow gang member, standing with Stalker in the street. Curry abruptly punched Stalker, causing Stalker to fall to the ground. While Curry continued to punch Stalker, petitioner hit Stalker repeatedly with a wooden two-by-four board he had retrieved from an adjacent dumpster. Thomas suddenly ran over to the melee, displayed the knife, and stabbed Stalker in the stomach. After Thomas dislodged the knife from Stalker's abdomen, the three attackers and Jackson retreated to petitioner's car and drove to the apartment of Thomas's girlfriend near 53rd and Aberdeen on Chicago's south side.

Jackson told Detective Gray where petitioner, Thomas and Curry could be located. Gray relayed this information to Detective Mannion, who, along with his partner, went to petitioner's residence. Petitioner was brought to the station a short time later and ultimately provided an inculpatory statement to the authorities.

Upon consideration of the evidence, the trial court concluded the officers had sufficient probable cause to effect a warrantless arrest of petitioner.

B. Evidence at Trial

The State's evidence established that in the early morning hours of November 23, 1996, Tory Jackson was selling cocaine along with Michael Thomas, Tyrone Curry, petitioner and Keith Stalker in the 4500 block of North Magnolia on Chicago's north side. Jackson, Thomas, Curry and petitioner were each members of the Black P-Stone Nation street gang, while Stalker was affiliated with a different gang known as Gaylord Nation.

As to each individual's role in the drug selling, Jackson received the cocaine from Thomas and was responsible for selling it to customers. Stalker assisted Jackson in fielding customers, while petitioner watched the cocaine and supplied Jackson with packets as needed. Thomas, who was described as the third ranking member of the gang, and Curry acted as security, keeping a lookout for police and ensuring the cocaine was secure.

Jackson recited the events involving the proposed transaction with the two Gaylord Nation gang members in the red Blazer. Jackson explained that after falling off the vehicle and being assisted by Myvett back to Magnolia, he was confronted by Thomas. Thomas, who Jackson described as angry over the loss of the drugs, told Jackson he was "fucking up" and punched Jackson in the face.

Upon hearing the gang's signal to appear, Jackson, along with Thomas, walked onto Magnolia where Jackson observed Curry and petitioner walking with Stalker on an adjacent sidewalk. Stalker was positioned directly between Curry and petitioner. Curry, petitioner and Stalker continued to walk until they reached a nearby dumpster. Without any provocation from Stalker, petitioner suddenly struck Stalker in the face, causing Stalker to fall to the ground. Petitioner, now joined by Curry, repeatedly punched Stalker. While Curry continued to beat Stalker, petitioner ran to the dumpster and retrieved a wooden two-by-four board, which petitioner then used to strike Stalker twice. Curry also used the wooden board to beat Stalker. Jackson estimated that Curry and petitioner collectively hit Stalker with the board about seven times. Per the parties' stipulation, a wooden two-by-four board, containing human blood, was recovered by the authorities near the scene of Stalker's attack.

When Thomas approached, Curry and petitioner ceased hitting Stalker and stood up. Petitioner, as well as Curry, did not walk away but stayed at the scene. Thomas then pulled out ...

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