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Tyrone Gill v. Michael Atchison

July 2, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge:

1.1 1


On November 17, 2005, petitioner Tyrone Gill ("Gill") was convicted after a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County of first-degree murder for the 2004 stabbing of Nissan Nash ("Nash"). Gill subsequently was sentenced to 60 years in prison. Before the court is Gill's "Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus -- Person in State Custody" pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Dkt. No. 1 ("Petition").) For the reasons stated herein, Gill's Petition is denied.


The following facts are taken from the Illinois Appellate Court's ruling affirming Gill's conviction and sentence. (Dkt. No. 12, Ex. A, People v. Gill, No. 1-06-0777 (Ill. App. Ct. Dec. 12, 2007) (unpublished order pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23) ("Direct Appeal").)

1. Proceedings Before the Trial Court

At Gill's trial, the state presented evidence showing that Gill fatally stabbed Nash, his girlfriend at the time. Gill was arrested later the same day after being found in an apartment located at 4907 West Race in Chicago. His arrest was made without a warrant.

Gill moved to quash his arrest and subsequent line-up identification based on lack of probable cause. Detective Timothy O'Brien ("Detective O'Brien") testified for the state at the hearing. Detective O'Brien testified that, in the course of investigating Nash's murder, information was collected from eyewitnesses that Nash was riding in a "dark colored Ford Taurus" and that she exited the vehicle by jumping out while it was still in motion. The driver of the vehicle, described as a "black male, around age 30, who was about 5'10" tall, with a medium complexion," followed Nash out of the vehicle, chased after her and, after knocking her to the ground, stabbed her multiple times. Nash's friend and her cousin related to the police that Nash had been dating a man named "Tyrone," who drove a blue 1994 Ford Taurus and whose last name was similar to "Gibbs." According to these witnesses, Nash and Tyrone had a history of domestic violence in their relationship, and Tyrone was known to "always carr[y] a large style knife in the front passenger compartment of [his] vehicle." Additionally, Detective O'Brien received an anonymous tip that someone named "Tyrone" was in hiding at 4907 West Race, that this person could be identified by a tattoo of a panther on his right arm, and "had just committed a murder." Based on this information, Detective O'Brien, along with Detectives O'Donnell and Struck, went to the specified address, knocked on the door, and consent was given for them to enter the dwelling. After interviewing Gill, who at that time identified himself as "Terry," the detectives requested that he remove his shirt. He did so, voluntarily, revealing a tattoo of a panther and the word "TY" on his right arm. While still in the dwelling, Gill subsequently admitted that his name was Tyrone. Detective O'Brien also testified that he saw what he believed to be dried blood under Gill's fingernails and proceeded to place Gill under arrest. The trial court ultimately denied Gill's motion to quash.

After the Assistant State's Attorney presented evidence on behalf of the People of Illinois and rested its case, Gill's trial counsel moved for a directed verdict which was denied by the trial court. (Dkt. No. 12, Ex. O ("Report of Proceedings") X35.) Gill was convicted after a jury trial at which he was represented by counsel. Following conviction but preceding sentencing, Gill filed a communication with the Attorney Registration Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois against his trial counsel. (Report of Proceedings at DD-4.) On the day of sentencing Gill filed a motion to dismiss counsel based on a theory of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. (Id. at DD-5.) The trial judge held a hearing reviewing each of Gill's allegations against his trial counsel. (Id. at DD-7.) Those allegations included: (1) trial counsel had already made a decision as to Gill's guilt since their first encounter, (2) trial counsel failed to keep Gill informed as to defense strategic decisions, (3) trial counsel failed to investigate the crime scene, (3) trial counsel failed to bring up the background of a prosecution witness, (5) trial counsel failed to cross-examine prosecution witnesses who allegedly perjured themselves, (6) trial counsel failed to put forth an effort to truly defend Gill, and (7) trial counsel asked Gill to come up with a defense. (Id. at DD-9-19.) After reviewing each point with Gill and his trial counsel, the trial court denied Gill's motion to dismiss counsel. (Id. at DD-23.)

2. Direct Appeal

Gill was represented by the State Appellate Defender on appeal. However, the State

Appellate Defender moved for leave to withdraw pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), based on an examination of the record revealing the existence of no issues of merit to justify an argument on appeal. Gill filed a response to the motion, pro se, claiming that: (1) his constitutional right to counsel on direct appeal was violated; (2) the two-day delay he experienced before receiving a probable cause hearing after his initial arrest was unconstitutional because he was held solely for investigative purposes; and (3) the State of Illinois elicited perjured testimony. The Illinois Appellate Court rejected these arguments, granted the State Appellate Defender's motion for leave to withdraw, and affirmed Gill's conviction. (Direct Appeal, 3-6.) Gill then proceeded, pro se, to file a petition for leave to appeal ("PLA") to the Illinois Supreme Court. Gill raised the identical claims from his direct appeal in his PLA. (Dkt. No. 12, Ex. D, at 1 ("PLA on Direct Appeal").) The Illinois Supreme Court denied his PLA on March 26, 2008. (Dkt. No. 12, Ex. E, People v. Gill, 888 N.E.2d 1186 (Ill. 2008)).

3. Post-Conviction Petition

On October 3, 2008, Gill filed a pro se post-conviction petition in the Circuit Court of Cook County. (Dkt. No. 12, Ex. F ("Post-Conviction Petition"), C19-C43.) In that petition, Gill argued: (1) police lacked probable cause to justify his warrantless arrest; (2) the delay between his arrest and probable cause hearing was unreasonable; (3) direct appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise several "apparent and obvious" claims, including the general claim of "trial counsel ineffectiveness;" (4) trial counsel was ineffective for: failing to object "when circuit judge directed verdict against [Gill]",*fn1 failing to visit the crime scene, failing to corroborate Gill's version of events, failing to challenge DNA evidence linking Gill to Nash's murder, and entering into stipulations regarding identification of blood samples collected inside Gill's car and the chain of custody of physical evidence; (5) the evidence of his guilt presented at trial was insufficient to support a conviction; (6) the state elicited perjured testimony; ...

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