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United States ex rel Norington v. Gaetz

October 26, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman, Judge Presiding


Before the Court is petitioner David Norington's petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). For the reasons that follow, Norington's petition is denied.

I. Background

Norington does not present clear and convincing evidence challenging the statement of facts set forth in the Illinois Appellate Court's opinion, and thus the Court presumes those facts are correct for purposes of its habeas review. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Rever v. Acevedo, 590 F.3d 533, 537 (7th Cir. 2010). The Court therefore adopts the underlying facts as set forth by the Illinois Appellate Court in People v. Norington, Nos. 1-04-3439 & 1-05-1586 (Ill.App.Ct. 2006) (cons.) (unpublished).

On April 10, 2002, a grand jury indicted David Norington on a charge of first degree murder for the death of Ollie Hale. The indictment included language indicating that the State would seek an extended term sentence on the ground that Norington committed the murder in an exceptionally brutal and heinous manner indicative of wanton cruelty.

On May 2, 2002, Norington appeared in the Circuit Court of Cook County represented by an Assistant Public Defender. Norington stated in open court that he wanted a "plea bargain." The court explained that a plea would be inappropriate until after the Assistant Public Defender had a chance to review the case. The Assistant State's Attorney stated that he told the Assistant Public Defender that the state would not agree to a reduction of the charge to second degree murder. When asked by the court if he understood that a plea to second degree murder would not be accepted by the State, Norington stated in open court, "ok, but if there is something close that I can cop-out to then that's what I want. I don't want to waste nobody's time. I don't want to be here and keep going on and on, you know what I'm saying, waste your time, your Honor, and waste my time at the same time. I am not running away from nothing." The court told Norington that he could have a plea conference after his attorney reviewed discovery.

On May 14, 2002, the Assistant Public Defender informed the court that he had received the discovery materials tendered by the State. Norington expressed impatience at not being able to enter a plea, stating "I wanted it taken care of today."

On May 17, 2002, Norington again appeared in court and requested a plea conference. After the conference, the Assistant Public Defender stated that Norington understood the results of the conference. The judge informed Norington that pursuant to the results of the conference, in exchange for a guilty plea, the court was prepared to impose a 33-year prison term. The State requested that Norington be evaluated for fitness prior to entry of the plea agreement. Norington stated that he wanted to "take" the plea deal and to "forget" the psychiatric evaluation. When the trial court insisted on ordering the evaluation, Norington asked whether the results of the evaluation might change the sentence imposed. The court said that the sentence would probably not change, but that constitutional concerns compelled the court to order the evaluation.

On June 20, 2002, the court reconvened to hold the fitness hearing. Dr. Stafford Henry testified that Norington was prescribed medications to control his impulsivity and mood vacillation, but that he was fit to stand trial and assist with his defense while on medication. Following the fitness hearing, the Assistant Public Defender informed the trial court that Norington wanted to enter a plea of guilty to first degree murder. The Assistant Public Defender then stated in open court, "I would like to state for the record it's against the advice of counsel. But Mr. Norington insisted that's what he wishes to do, so he is entering a plea of guilty." The Assistant Public Defender informed the trial court that he had advised his client of his rights. Norington stated in open court that these representations were true.

The court then read the charge, admonished him of the trial rights he was giving up, and admonished him of the range of punishment that could be imposed for such a charge. The trial court then asked Norington if he understood that he was pleading guilty and if he understood the rights that he was giving up. Norington answered that he understood. The court then asked Norington if anybody had forced him to plead guilty and he responded "no." The court asked if he was pleading guilty of his own free will and Norington said "yes."

The court then asked the State to provide a factual basis. The following information was presented to the court as the factual basis. On March 28, 2002, Norington shared a residence with Ollie Hale at 1842 South Drake in Chicago, Illinois. Late that evening, Norington and Hale got into an argument over food. Norington accused Hale of eating more than his share of chicken nuggets. The argument escalated and Norington picked up a large ashtray and struck Hale several times in the head, breaking the ashtray. Norington then dragged Hale's unconscious body into the kitchen where he struck Hale multiple times in the head and torso with a claw hammer. If called to testify, the medical examiner would attest that Hale died of blunt trauma to the head. Norington called 9-1-1 from a pay phone and returned to the house where he turned himself in to police and directed them to the location of Hale's body in the kitchen. Norington gave a handwritten statement to a Chicago Police Detective and an Assistant State's Attorney, admitting to the murder. The court then asked again if Norington wanted to plead guilty, and he said "yes."

In mitigation, the Assistant Public Defender told the trial court that Norington had never attempted to conceal the crime. In fact, Norington called the police, waited for them to arrive, immediately told them that he had committed the murder, and directed the police to the decedent's body.

The trial court accepted the plea and sentenced Norington to 33 years imprisonment at 100 %. The court then advised Norington of his rights to appeal, including the following:

"THE COURT: Mr. Norington, you have the right to appeal this guilty plea if you see fit. What you'd have to do within 30 days is file a written document, stating the reasons why you believe your constitutional ...

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