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Robert D. Fletcher v. Dave Rednour

September 30, 2011

ROBERT D. FLETCHER, PETITIONER,
v.
DAVE REDNOUR, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before the Court is Petitioner Robert D. Fletcher's Second Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. 52). For the following reasons, the petition is denied.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 21, 2000, a jury in Madison County, Illinois, found Petitioner Robert D. Fletcher guilty of murdering Brian Warr. The trial court sentenced Fletcher to a term of 80 years imprisonment (Doc. 55-3, Ex. C, p. 1).

Direct Appeal

Fletcher, with the assistance of counsel, appealed the conviction and sentence, raising five grounds for relief: (1) the trial court erred by denying a motion to suppress statements that Fletcher made to police without counsel; (2) the trial court erred by failing to investigate the overt disagreements between Fletcher and his trial counsel and in denying trial counsel's post-trial motion to withdraw; (3) Fletcher's counsel was ineffective in pursuing a theory of self-defense at trial, despite Fletcher's insistence that he did not shoot Warr, and in failing to allow Fletcher to testify to his version of the facts; (4) the trial court erred by instructing the jury on the charge of first-degree murder; and (5) the trial court abused its discretion in imposing an extended-term sentence (Doc. 55-1; Ex. A). By order dated December 27, 2001, the Illinois Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction but vacated the extended-term sentence and remanded the case for resentencing (Doc. 55-3, Exh. C).

Fletcher filed a Petition for Leave to Appeal (PLA) to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that (1) the appellate court erred by (a) finding that Fletcher received a fair trial despite his complaints to the trial court about disagreements with defense counsel and despite his representation that trial counsel argued self-defense against his wishes and (b) denying counsel's post-trial motion to withdraw and (2) the appellate court erred by remanding the case to allow the trial court to state the grounds on which the extended-term sentence was imposed, where none of those reasons legally justified the sentence (Doc. 55-4, Exh. D). The Illinois Supreme Court summarily denied Fletcher's PLA on April 3, 2002 (Doc. 55-5, Exh. E).

On remand, the trial court resentenced Fletcher to a term of 60 years imprisonment. Fletcher appealed the sentence, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by sentencing him to the maximum, non-extended-term sentence. The Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence on November 26, 2003 (Doc. 55-7, Exh. H). Fletcher filed a PLA (Doc. 55-7, Exh. I), which was summarily denied on April 15, 2004 (Doc. 55-7, Exh. J).

First Petition for Post-Conviction Relief

Fletcher filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief on September 20, 2004. The trial court summarily dismissed the petition as frivolous and patently without merit and noted that it had difficulty discerning Fletcher's claims. The court recognized, though, that Fletcher raised a due process claim that the State "knowingly used or should have known that it used false testimony" (Doc. 55-7, Exh. K).

Fletcher, still acting pro se, appealed the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing generally that the trial court erred by finding that Fletcher had not stated the "gist" of any constitutional claim to withstand summary dismissal of his post-conviction petition and by not advancing Fletcher's post-conviction petition from the first to the second stage of the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act. More specifically, Fletcher argued that prosecution witnesses Jesse Johnson and Detective Jason Simmons gave testimony at his trial that the State knew, or should have known, was false, which resulted in prosecutorial misconduct, a due process violation, and ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to object to the false testimony (see Arguments I and II, Ex. L, Doc. 55-7). Fletcher also argued that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the ineffectiveness of his trial counsel regarding the State's use of false testimony, the State's withholding of that evidence from Fletcher, and the trial court's failure to suppress Fletcher's statements made to police without counsel present (see Argument III, Ex. L. Doc. 55-7). Finally, Fletcher argued that the trial court erred in its procedural handling of his post-conviction petition (see Arguments IV and V, Ex. L, Doc. 55-7).

The Court of Appeals, in affirming the summary dismissal of the post-conviction petition, summarized Fletcher's claims on appeal as ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to argue that (1) Fletcher's statements to police were made in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel; (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the State's use of perjured testimony; and (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to assert that the State withheld evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) (Doc. 55-7, Ex. O). Fletcher filed a PLA urging the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse the appellate court's findings on each of the three issues (Doc. 55-7, Ex. P). The Illinois Supreme Court summarily denied the PLA on November 29, 2007 (Doc. 55-7, Ex. Q).

Second Petition for Post-Conviction Relief

On October 29, 2008, Fletcher, acting pro se, sought leave to file a second or successive post-conviction petition in the trial court (Doc. 55-19, Ex. T). Fletcher raised six claims: (1) his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise violations of his right to a speedy trial; (2) the State suppressed favorable evidence that could have been used to impeach prosecution witness Jody Wesley -- specifically, that Wesley testified in return for favorable treatment on pending charges -- in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) the State failed to disclose evidence favorable to Fletcher regarding the death of Nekemar Pearson in violation of Brady, 373 U.S. 83; (4) the State acted improperly by offering a witness the choice of testifying against Fletcher or being charged with murder; (5) the State acted improperly by relying on inconsistent prosecutorial theories in trying two defendants for the murder of Brian Warr; and (6) Fletcher's trial counsel improperly represented both Fletcher and another individual charged with the same crime (Doc. 55-19, Ex. T). On November 25, 2008, the trial court found that Fletcher had not demonstrated cause and prejudice for his failure to raise the issues in his first post-conviction petition and denied him leave to file a second post-conviction petition (Doc. 55-19, Ex. U).

Federal Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

Fletcher filed his initial pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal district court on April 8, 2008. In December 2008, Fletcher filed a Motion for Stay and Abeyance, asking the Court to stay the federal proceedings to allow him to complete exhaustion of some of the claims raised in his original state court petition (Doc. 19). In September 2009, the Court denied the motion without prejudice and appointed counsel for Fletcher. Fletcher, through appointed counsel, filed an amended petition in October 2010 and a second amended petition in August 2011. Respondent answered the second amended petition on September 14, 2011. The second amended petition (Doc. 52) is operative, and this Court will not consider claims raised in previously-filed petitions that are not included in the second amended petition.

Fletcher raises the following grounds for relief:

I. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate Fletcher's claim of innocence and for presenting a claim of self-defense without consulting with Fletcher;

II. The trial court erred by not allowing Petitioner's trial counsel to withdraw from the case;

III. The State violated Brady, 373 U.S. 83, by failing to disclose exculpatory evidence concerning the arrest of and criminal charges against prosecution witness Jody Wesley, who testified against Fletcher in exchange for favorable consideration by the State;

IV. The State violated Brady, 373 U.S. 83, and the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments by failing to disclose exculpatory evidence that Nekemar Pearson, who allegedly was ...


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