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United States of America Ex Rel. Charles Carroll v. Jody Hathaway

January 19, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL. CHARLES CARROLL, PETITIONER,
v.
JODY HATHAWAY, WARDEN, SHAWNEE CORRECTIONAL CENTER, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before this court is Charles Carroll's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. For the following reasons, this Court issues a Writ striking the period of supervised release from Petitioner's sentence, but declines to issue a Writ on all other grounds.

I. BACKGROUND

In December 1999, Petitioner Charles Carroll (hereinafter, the "Petitioner") was convicted after a bench trial of six counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault against his 15-year-old stepdaughter. The judge found that he entered her bedroom with a knife, held the knife to her throat and threatened to molest her. The victim cut her finger trying to push the knife away. Carroll then commanded her to stab him with the knife, which she did. He then took her upstairs, cut off her clothing with a different knife, and committed the three acts of sexual penetration for which he was convicted. The victim testified at trial, as did several witnesses to whom she immediately reported the rape. Carroll disputes none of the facts except the rape.

At trial, the court admitted evidence that sperm was found inside the victim, although it was not scientifically linked to Petitioner. The defense was not permitted to inquire as to alternate sources for the sperm evidence. After trial, however, the court granted a defense motion to strike the evidence. Even so, the judge reaffirmed her conclusion that Petitioner was guilty.

The victim testified at sentencing about the attack's impact on her life, including her continuing digestive problems. The judge credited her statements, pointing out that she had vomited during her testimony and that such a violent reaction said something significant about the impact on the victim. Petitioner was sentenced to concurrent terms of eight years on Counts I, III, IV, and V; as well as a concurrent term of 14 years on Count II and a consecutive term of 14 years on Count VI. In total, Petitioner was sentenced to 28 years of imprisonment.

Petitioner appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court on three grounds. First, he alleged that admitting the sperm evidence was error; the Appellate Court agreed but noted that it was harmless at most because the judge had excluded the evidence post-trial. Second, Petitioner argued that the judge had taken improper judicial notice. The defense had asked the judge to take judicial notice of the relatively little blood in the upstairs bedroom; she refused, noting that in her experience overweight individuals (like Carroll had been) sometimes bled less than one might expect. The appeals court agreed that this observation was improper, but found it harmless in light of the considerable evidence against Petitioner. Third, Petitioner argued that the judge made contradictory findings at sentencing, which the Appellate Court flatly rejected in affirming his conviction. The Illinois Supreme Court subsequently denied a Petition for Leave to Appeal (the "PLA") on June 29, 2001.

On January 25, 2002, Petitioner filed a state post-conviction petition alleging nine claims including: ineffectiveness of trial counsel, ineffectiveness of appellate counsel, judicial wrongdoing, and a failure to prove that he used a weapon beyond a reasonable doubt. He was appointed counsel, who filed an amended petition. Both petitions were denied on May 7, 2004.

Again with counsel, Petitioner appealed, arguing that certain witness testimony should not have been barred at trial and that his prior counsel was ineffective for not challenging three of his convictions under the one-act, one-crime rule. (See People v. King, 66 Ill.2d 551 (1977).) The state conceded the one-act, one-crime violation, but sought resentencing because Petitioner's sentences should have been consecutive. The Appellate Court affirmed in part and reversed in part on March 29, 2006. It vacated all of the sentences, and remanded the case for resentencing on Counts I -- III. Petitioner filed a PLA to the Illinois Supreme Court re-arguing his ineffective assistance claims and claiming, inter alia, that the state was estopped from seeking consecutive sentences. The PLA was denied on September 27, 2006. On remand, Petitioner was sentenced to eight years on Count I, twelve years on Count II, and six years on Count III, for twenty-six (26) total years of consecutive imprisonment. He appealed, but his appointed counsel filed a motion to withdraw under Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), citing a lack of meritorious issues for appeal. Petitioner responded by letter, arguing that he needed counsel to look into several issues, including that the Department of Corrections had added an unauthorized term of mandatory supervised release ("MSR") to his sentence. He cited no cases, but sought counsel to help develop those claims. The Appellate Court granted the Anders motion and affirmed the sentence on November 20, 2008. Petitioner sought rehearing, developing his MSR argument with citations challenging the sentence's constitutionality. That petition was denied. He then filed a PLA on the same claims, which was denied on May 28, 2009.

On June 21, 2010, the Petitioner filed this petition.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

28 U.S.C. § 2254 limits the ability of District Courts to grant habeas relief to state prisoners. Such prisoners cannot present a claim in federal court until they exhaust their state court remedies and subject their claims to a complete round of state appeals. See Malone v. Walls, 538 F.3d 744, 753 (7th Cir. 2008). If a prisoner exhausts his remedies without subjecting each claim a complete round of appeals, he has procedurally defaulted that claim. Id. To fairly present a claim to the state courts, a prisoner should provide both the relevant facts and law. Id.

A prisoner may present a defaulted claim if he shows: (a) adequate cause for the default and prejudice from losing review on the merits, or (b) that a fundamental miscarriage of justice will result from the lack of review. Smith v. McKee, 598 F.3d 374, 382 (7th Cir. 2010). Cause requires an objective factor (external to the defense) which prevented a petitioner from presenting the claim earlier; prejudice means that error "so infected the entire trial that the resulting conviction violates due process." Id.

If a state court adjudicated a claim on the merits, habeas is only available if that decision "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" or was based upon "an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented [to that court]." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). If the judgment clearly rested on state procedural grounds, however, the claim is not subject to federal collateral review. Gray v. Hardy, 598 F.3d 324, 329 (7th Cir. 2010).

Rule 2(c) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases ("Rule 2(c)") requires a habeas petition to list the relief requested, the grounds for that relief, and facts to support each ground. A petitioner need not recite every possible supporting fact, but notice pleading will not suffice. Lloyd v. Van Natta, 296 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2002). Petitioner argues that the habeas packet he obtained from the prison law library did not inform him about Rule 2(c), and that he should not be held to it. However, the form petition (which he attached as an exhibit) repeatedly emphasizes that a petitioner must provide supporting facts. See, e.g., Pet'r's Reply Br. Ex. A, at 2 ("The section in which you state the grounds for relief is clearly the heart of your petition. You want to be as precise and detailed as possible."); Id. at 10 ("Summarize briefly the facts supporting each ground.") (emphasis in original).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Claim 1

Petitioner argues that the state trial court erred in taking judicial notice "of facts that are not of common knowledge, by doing so it relieved the burden of proof from the State." Pet. 3. Respondent argues that this claim should be dismissed under Rule 2(c). The Court agrees that Claim 1 is insufficiently plead.

Even incorporating the underlying facts from Petitioner's prior litigation, however, the claim is meritless. As noted above, the Appellate Court acknowledged that the trial judge erred to the extent that she considered any relationship between a person's weight and their rate of blood loss. However, that court also found the error harmless, as there was "no reasonable probability the trier of fact would have acquitted the defendant had the evidence been excluded." Resp't Ex. A, at 9-10.

If a state court concludes that an error was harmless, federal courts may only review that conclusion for a reasonable application of the Chapman harmless error standard. Johnson v. Acevedo, 572 F.3d 398, 404 (7th Cir. 2009)(citing Chapman v. Cal., 386 U.S. 18 (1967)). A reasonable application of Chapman ends the federal case. Id. Respondent concedes that the state court's analysis does not track Chapman; this Court is not so sure. See Burr v. Pollard, 546 F.3d 828, 831 (7th Cir. 2008). In any event, the error was harmless under the federal standard. See Johnson, 572 F.3d at 404 (if the state court did not follow Chapman, the federal court applies Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619 (1993)). Under Brecht, the court must determine whether an error "had substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the [judge's] verdict." Brecht, 507 U.S. 619, 623 (1993).

It seems clear that the improper judicial notice here had no such influence. It is unclear how much the judge relied on that "notice," given that she only raised it in rejecting Defendant's motion. In any event, as the Appellate Court noted, the trial judge specifically credited the victim's testimony and cited corroborating evidence, including the clothes that were cut from her body and her contemporaneous outreach to neighbors, police, and doctors. Resp't Ex. A, at 5. Furthermore, as that court noted, Petitioner's claim that he walked away at the height of the attack is inherently implausible. Resp't Ex. T, at 343. This Court thus cannot conclude that the improper taking of judicial notice substantially injured Petitioner and meaningfully influenced the judge's finding of guilt.

Petitioner also objects in his reply that the judge allowed the victim's physical illness on the stand to improperly influence her decision. See Pet'r Reply Br. 5. However, that claim is procedurally defaulted, in that Petitioner raised the issue in his first PLA, and again in his pro se post-conviction petition, but nowhere else -- not even in his other pro se briefs. See Resp't Ex. K, Q.

Even if the claim were not defaulted, it lacks merit. The trial court only discussed the victim's illness in the context of the victim's impact statement at sentencing, not in finding Petitioner guilty. See Resp't Ex. T, at 399-400, 404. Because the court only relied on the victim's illness at sentencing, and Petitioner was subsequently re-sentenced, he cannot identify any harm that he suffered from this ...


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