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James E. Rodgers v. Randy Pfister*Fn1

August 23, 2011

JAMES E. RODGERS, PETITIONER,
v.
RANDY PFISTER*FN1 , ACTING WARDEN, PONTIAC CORRECTIONAL CENTER, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, U.S. District Judge.

E-FILED

Wednesday, 24 August, 2011 12:33:17 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

This cause is before the Court on: (1) the Motion to Produce State Court Records (d/e 16) filed by Petitioner James E. Rodgers; (2) Petitioner's Motion for Sanctions (d/e 18); and (3) the Motion to Dismiss Petitioner's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus as Untimely (d/e 11) filed by Respondent, Randy Pfister, Acting Warden, Pontiac Correctional Center.

In the Motion to Dismiss, Respondent asserts that Petitioner's Petition (d/e 1) seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, filed May 3, 2011, is untimely. For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's Motion to Produce State Court Records (d/e 16) and Motion for Sanctions (d/e 18) are DENIED and Respondent's Motion to Dismiss (d/e 11) is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

A. State Court Proceedings

In 1996, Petitioner was found guilty of first degree murder and concealment of a homicidal death and sentenced to natural life in prison. The charges stemmed from the 1995 murder of Melissa Osman by Petitioner and his friend, Christopher Connery. Osman was stabbed approximately 32 times.

Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence, and the state appellate court affirmed. See People v. Rodgers, No. 3-96-0765 (November 19, 1997). On April 1, 1998, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for leave to appeal (PLA). People v. Rodgers, 177 Ill. 2d 582 (April 1, 1998) (Table). Petitioner did not file a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

On September 24, 1998*fn2 , Petitioner filed a pro se post-conviction petition and later an amended petition. See Kankakee County Case No. 95-CF-439. On March 29, 2001, the trial court denied Petitioner an evidentiary hearing and granted the State's motion to dismiss. The state appellate court affirmed on October 29, 2003. People v. Rodgers, No. 3-01-0314 (October 29, 2003). On January 28, 2004, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Petitioner's PLA. People v. Rodgers, 207 Ill. 2d 624 (January 28, 2004) (Table).

On February 6, 2004, Petitioner filed a document titled Second Petition for Post-Conviction Relief. See People v. Rodgers, Kankakee County Case No. 95-CF-439. Initially, neither the trial court nor the State recognized that the petition was a successive petition filed without leave. A little over a month earlier, the Illinois General Assembly had changed the law relating to successive post-conviction petitions to require that a petitioner obtain leave of court to file a successive post-conviction petition. See 725 ILCS 5/122-1(f) (providing that only one post-conviction petition may be filed without leave of court; leave of court to file a successive petition may be granted where the petitioner demonstrates cause for his failure to bring the claim in the initial post-conviction proceedings and prejudice resulting from that failure); Pub. Act. 93-493, § 5, eff. January 1, 2004; see also United States ex rel. Laughlin v. Gaetz, 2011 WL 336143 (N.D. Ill. 2011).

On June 4, 2004, the trial court appointed the public defender to representPetitioner. At a status hearing on June 21, 2004, the court gave Petitioner until August 2, 2004, to file any amendments to the petition. Thereafter, the case was delayed due to "a conflict of counsel issue." See July 27, 2005, Order in Kankakee County Case No. 95-CR0439. On April 7, 2005, Petitioner filed an amended petition.

On April 22, 2005, the State indicated at a hearing that the State would file a Motion to Strike the filing of the successive petition. On May 18, 2005, the State filed the Motion to Strike, asserting that Petitioner did not seek leave of court to file the successive petition and that Petitioner could not demonstrate the necessary cause and prejudice that would entitle him to obtain leave to file a successive petition.

Petitioner objected to the State's Motion to Strike, noting that the trial court had appointed counsel, allowed the petition to proceed to the second stage of post-conviction proceedings by allowing 90 days to elapse after filing*fn3 , and allowed Petitioner to amend his pleading. Petitioner further asserted that the State waived its right to seek dismissal of the successive post-conviction petition. Petitioner also argued he could demonstrate cause for his failure to bring the claims earlier and prejudice for each claim. Finally, Petitioner argued that denying his successive petition and amended petitions on procedural grounds would result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.

On July 27, 2005, the trial court found Petitioner did not show cause and prejudice as required by section 122-1(f) of the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act. Therefore, the court denied Petitioner leave to file the successive petition and struck the petition he had filed. The trial court further found that the court did not obviate Petitioner's need to comply with section 122-1(f) when it appointed counsel or granted Petitioner leave to file an amended petition.

On August 26, 2005, Petitioner filed, among other motions, a motion to reconsider and a motion for leave to file an amended second petition for post-conviction relief. On March 17, 2008, the trial court ruled on Petitioner's motions.

Neither Respondent nor Petitioner give any reason for the delay between Petitioner filing the motions in August 2005 and the trial court ruling on the motions in March 2008. However, the trial court's March 17, 2008, order reflects that: (1) in July 2006, Petitioner filed a Second Amended Petition for Post- Conviction Relief; (2) in April 2007, the State responded to Petitioner's motions; (3) in March 2007, Petitioner filed another motion for leave to file a successive post-conviction petition; (4) further briefing occurred between April 2007 and February 2008; and (5) oral argument was conducted in February 2008. The order also reflects that delay occurred because of assignment of conflicted counsel to Petitioner, reassignment to another attorney, and reassignment of the file to another judge.

In the March 17, 2008, order, the trial court denied the motion to reconsider the July 2005 order and the motion for leave to file a second or third successive petition. See March 17, 2008, Order in Kankakee County Case No. 95-CF-439. Petitioner appealed, and on March 8, 2010, the appellate court affirmed. The appellate court found that the trial court properly denied Petitioner leave to file his successive petition, and the appellate court allowed the State Appellate Defender to withdraw as counsel for Petitioner. People v. Rodgers, No. 3-08-302 (March 8, 2010). On September 29, 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Petitioner's PLA. People v. Rodgers, 237 Ill. 2d 582 (Table).

B. Federal Court Proceedings

On May 3, 2011, Petitioner filed his Petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner made the following claims: (1) trialcounsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and present evidence related to stab wound analysis; (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and present evidence related to blood spatter and bloodstain analysis; (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and present evidence related to the" poetry evidence*fn4 "; and (4) prosecutorial misconduct occurred when the prosecutor knowingly and intentionally used false evidence in the form of Dr. Sappala's opinion that two knives were used to kill the victim. Petitioner had raised issues relating to the "poetry evidence" on direct appeal. The trial courts' orders addressing Petitioner's initial post-conviction petition and attempts to file successive post-conviction petitions indicate Petitioner raised or tried to raise issues relating to stab wound analysis, Dr. Sappala's testimony, and blood splatter evidence.

In his Petition, Petitioner also asserted that the one-year statute of limitations contained in §2244(d) did not bar his Petition because equitable tolling should apply. Petitioner alleged that his conviction resulted from a miscarriage of justice and he is actually innocent. He further alleged that the evidence to substantiate his claims has only been recently discovered and that he made reasonable efforts to present the claims to the State courts under a miscarriage of justice exception.

On May 20, 2011, this Court reviewed the Petition and found that summary dismissal was not warranted. This Court directed the Attorney General for the State of Illinois to file an answer.

On July 5, 2011, Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss Petitioner's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus as Untimely. Petitioner filed a response asserting that equitable tolling should apply to extend the limitation period and that Respondent has waived other procedural defenses due to Respondent's noncompliance with this Court's order that Respondent file an answer.

Also on July 5, 2011, Petitioner filed a Motion to Produce. This Court will address the Motion to Produce before ...


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