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Ronald Eddmonds v. Allan Martin

July 30, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge:


Petitioner Ronald Eddmonds is a state prisoner in the custody of Respondent Allan Martin, Warden of Shawnee Correctional Center in Vienna, Illinois. In this federal action, Petitioner seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241 and 2254 on the basis that Respondent is holding him in violation of his rights under the United States Constitution. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus. The Court declines to certify any issues for appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).


I. Arrest and Trial

A federal habeas court sitting in review of a state court judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 will "presume state factual findings to be correct, unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption by clear and convincing evidence." Morgan v. Hardy, 662 F.3d 790 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)); see also Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231, 240, 125 S. Ct. 2317, 162 L. Ed. 2d 196 (2005); Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 528, 123 S. Ct. 2527, 156 L. Ed. 2d 471 (2003). "This presumption of correctness also applies to factual findings made by a state court of review based on the trial record." Morgan, 662 F.3d at 797-98 (citing, inter alia, Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 546-47, 101 S. Ct. 764, 66 L. Ed. 2d 722 (1981)). Here, Eddmonds does not present clear and convincing evidence to upset any of the facts set forth by the Illinois Appellate Court on direct review. See United States ex. rel. Sprinkle v. Dawson, No. 12 C 0288, 2012 WL 1985896, at *2 (N.D. Ill. June 4, 2012) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)). Accordingly, for purposes of this federal habeas proceeding, the Court adopts the statement of facts set forth in the June 22, 2001 decision of the Illinois Appellate Court.

On August 11, 1995, Chicago Police Detectives Schorsch and Gildea arrested Petitioner Ronald Eddmonds in connection with the July 28, 1995 shooting death of Dwayne Green on West Sunnyside Street in Chicago, Illinois. (R. 26, Ex. B, People v. Eddmons, No. 1:98-2927, at 2 (Ill. App. Ct. June 22, 2001).) The police made the arrest "after receiving information regarding his presence at the crime scene." (Id.) Petitioner initially invoked his rights under the Fifth Amendment, but later made certain statements to law enforcement that were admitted at trial. (Id. at 2-7.) Petitioner and others were charged with murder and attempted murder. Prior to trial, Petitioner moved to suppress his post-arrest statements to law enforcement. (R. 25, Ex. A at C37-38.) Following a suppression hearing, the trial court denied the motion. (R. 26, Ex. B.) The Illinois Appellate Court summarized the evidence adduced at trial as follows: [Sam] Barksdale stated that in the early evening hours of July 28, 1995, he was in the area of Hazel and Windsor with some members of the Four [C]orner Hustlers and the Vice Lords when he saw Light with Pickett. . . . Barksdale got into a passing car driven by his friend Clifford and proceeded south on Clarendon. At that time, Barksdale saw four guys on bikes riding up to the corner of Clarendon and Sunnyside. Barksdale recognized two of the bicycles as [Petitioner], whom he knew as "Ron Stone," and Jirod Harris. Barksdale stated that [Petitioner] looked into his car and said "VLK" which meant "Vice Lord Killer." [Petitioner] reached toward his waistband area in a motion that Barksdale knew to mean [Petitioner] had a gun. Barksdale ducked down and they "drove off real quick" toward Windsor and Hazel to warn people about the approach of "four guys with black hoodies on bikes" that were "Stones." As they were alerting people, Barksdale heard seven or eight shots coming from the direction of Sunnyside, and when Barksdale reached that street, he saw Light on the ground with blood around him. Pickett was with Light; Barksdale could not recall if Scrappy was present.

On August 12, 1995, Barksdale identified [Petitioner] and Jirod Harris in a police line-up. Barksdale accompanied police to the scene, where he identified a mountain bike. Officer Susan Wolverton testified that on July 28, 1995, at approximately 1:55 a.m., she responded to a report of "shots fired" at 918 W. Sunnyside and found Green dead on the sidewalk. Officer Wolverton had a brief conversation with Pickett and James Carter, and noticed a bike propped up between two cars. Chicago Police Forensic Investigator Joseph Bemhynista testified that he recovered a spent cartridge case and a fired bullet from the scene. Bemhynista photographed a bike propped up against a car which contained fingerprints on its handlebars.

Jirod Harris testified that he pled guilty to the murder of Green and received a sentence of 26-years imprisonment. Harris stated that in July 1995, he was a member of the Black P. Stones gang, and that the gang territory was in the area of Wilson and Dover. Harris stated that at that time he knew the [Petitioner] as "Ron," but did not know whether [Petitioner] belonged to any gang. Harris stated that at 1:30 a.m. on July 28, 1995, he rode his bike from Malden and Wilson to Sunnyside and Hazel. He noticed a female and two males and rode toward them, believing that they did not belong to any gang. Harris then had an argument with a guy named Scrappy about something that happened the previous week. Harris stated that "they started talking crazy," and then, after Scrappy and the girl walked off, Harris shot at the other guy, Green, eight or nine times, with a 9 millimeter gun. Harris then rode his bike back towards Montrose and Magnolia and hid the gun in a park under some wood chunks later disposing of the gun in a dumpster.

Harris further testified that prior to entering his guilty plea in this case, he gave a statement to ASA O'Neill . . . that he "bought a nine millimeter gun from a hype on the street," so the Blackstones would have a gun for that area, [which was] necessary, Harris stated, because there were Vice Lords in the area and the two gangs were fighting. Harris stated that the serial number had been scraped off the gun, and that there was one bullet in the chamber and eight in the clip. Harris stated that the bullets were marked "Win" for Winchester. Harris further stated that he bought the gun for three bags of "rock," put it in his belt, and went to find his brother at Magnolia and Montrose.

Harris' statement further revealed that [Petitioner] was a "P-Stone," and that [Petitioner] was a "Mufti," meaning that he was second in command for the gang. On the night of the shooting, Harris stated, he and [Petitioner] picked up Harris' brother Shonta and an individual named Milton, and they all rode their bikes up to Clarendon to sell "packs." They stopped at the corner of Clarendon and Sunnyside and saw Vice Lords in an approaching car. Defendant pulled his shirt up to show his guns, then said, "let's go," and rode west on Sunnyside toward Hazel. Once there, [Petitioner] pulled out his gun and was about to shoot Vice Lords standing on the street, but said "come on let's go," because there were too many Vice Lords. They continued riding up Sunnyside and saw two guys and a girl. Harris stated that he took out his gun and fired at the individuals three times, [Petitioner] then took the gun from Harris and fired five more times until the clip was empty, and then returned the gun to Harris who put it in his pocket. Harris stated that [Petitioner]'s bike would not move, and so the two rode on Harris' bike to Magnolia and Montrose where [Petitioner] descended. Harris stated that he hid the gun in a park, after his brother refused to get rid of the gun. Harris admitted initialing changes made to the statement by the prosecutor.

Chicago Police Officer William Kovacs, a latent fingerprint examiner, testified that he examined two latent prints lifted from the bicycle at the crime scene and determined that the prints matched an individual known as "Corey Lowe," an alias of [Petitioner]. Chicago Police Detective James Gildea testified that he examined two latent prints lifted from the bicycle at the crime scene and determined that the prints matched an individual known as "Corey Lowe," an alias of [Petitioner].

Chicago Police Detective James Gildea testified that he accompanied Detective Schorsch to the Skokie courthouse to arrest [Petitioner] on August 11, 1995. Detective Gildea testified consistent with his pre-trial testimony regarding [Petitioner's lawyer] Bischoff's admonitions to [Petitioner] not to make any statements outside of his presence. Gildea similarly confirmed his prior testimony and that of Schorsch that the detectives did not question [Petitioner] en route to Area 3, and that the detectives reminded [Petitioner] that his attorney advised him not to make any statements after [Petitioner] told the detectives that he did not want to shoot anybody and that he wanted to tell them what happened. Detective Gildea stated that [Petitioner] insisted that he did not need his attorney because he did not shoot anybody. Detective Gildea stated that Detective Schorsch advised [Petitioner] of his Miranda rights and then asked [Petitioner] what he knew about the shooting. Detective Gildea testified that [Petitioner] made the following statement: [Petitioner] stated that he was present on Sunnyside and Hazel when Green was shot and that he was armed with a brown-handled, .32 caliber Beretta pistol, containing seven rounds of ammunition in the clip and one in the chamber. [Petitioner] carried the gun in the waistband of his pants. [Petitioner] stated that he was a member of the "P-Stone" gang and had accompanied several other members of the gang to the location of the shooting. [Petitioner] named the other participants as Harris, Dumar and Melvin. [Petitioner] stated that he and Harris rode their own bikes and that Dumar and Melvin rode on the same bike. [Petitioner] stated that he and Harris possessed crack cocaine and intended to sell the substance. [Petitioner] stated that Harris was armed with a nine millimeter pistol, and that the gun belonged to the "Nation," which meant that the gun belonged to the P-Stone gang. [Petitioner] stated that as they rode their bikes to the area of the shooting a blue, four-door car approached them, occupied by several young, black males, that the car slowed down, and that the occupants looked at them "very hard." In response, [Petitioner] stated that he stopped his bike, stood up on it, raised his shirt to display the fact that he was armed, and the car drove away. [Petitioner] further stated that as he and the others on bikes reached Hazel, they saw a female and two males walking and he recognized the two males as Vice Lords, Scrappy and Light. [Petitioner] stated that Harris was going to shoot them, but [Petitioner] told Harris that they were Vice Lords and they were "cool." Harris nevertheless pulled out his pistol and aimed it at the three people. [Petitioner] stated that he also pulled out his pistol and aimed it because he "had to back his buddy's play." [Petitioner] stated that Harris started firing and that [petitioner] attempted to fire his own weapon, but that it did not discharge and so he dropped it and attempted to flee on his bicycle. However, [Petitioner]'s bicycle also failed to operate, and [Petitioner] fled on foot. . . . Detective Ray Camiski testified that he conducted a police line-up on August 12, 1995, where Sam Barksdale identified [Petitioner] as the person on the bike whom he saw reach behind his back as though he were getting a gun, one or two minutes before the shooting began. Detective Camiski stated that Barksdale also identified Jirod Harris and Shonta Harris.

ASA O'Neill testified that on August 12, 1995, she began her interview with [Petitioner] by inquiring whether he began a conversation with the officers about the shooting of Green. [Petitioner] stated that he did in fact initiate the conversation with police. ASA O'Neill stated that [Petitioner] also told her that he wanted to speak to her without his attorney present, and signed a document to that effect and waiving his Miranda rights.

O'Neill testified that [Petitioner] . . . admitted being at the scene of the shooting along with Jirod Harris, Milton Washington, and Shonta Harris. [Petitioner] further admitted that he was a member of the "P-Stones," that he had a .32 caliber Beretta automatic weapon, and that Harris had a nine millimeter gun. [Petitioner] further stated that Harris pulled out his gun and shot at the two males and the female, and that [Petitioner] pulled out his gun and pointed it at the group, but did not fire his weapon. (Id. at 2-13.)

Following deliberations, the jury found Petitioner not guilty of attempted first degree murder but not guilty of first degree murder. (Id. at 13.) The trial judge sentenced Petitioner to fifty years of imprisonment. (Id.)

II. State Appellate and Post-Conviction Proceedings

A. Direct Appeal

Petitioner timely appealed his conviction and sentence to the Illinois Appellate Court, raising nine grounds for relief:

1. the trial judge improperly conducted parts of the trial in defense counsel's absence;

2. the trial judge engaged in ex parte communications with the jury;

3. the trial court erred in failing to clarify an instruction about which the jury was confused;

4. the trial court erred in denying Petitioner's motion to suppress where police comments to Petitioner were reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response;

5. Petitioner was denied a fair trial by the prosecution's comments in closing argument that wrongly focused on the prosecutor's purported credibility;

6. Petitioner was denied a fair trial by the prosecution's comments in closing argument that misstated the law and distorted the burden of proof;

7. Petitioner was denied a fair trial by the admission of highly inflammatory but non-probative autopsy photographs;

8. Petitioner was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; and

9. the trial judge demonstrated bias against Petitioner by making several hostile remarks to defense counsel.

(R. 26, Ex. C at 1-7.) On June 22, 2001, the state appellate court affirmed. (Id., Ex. B, State v. Eddmonds, No. 1-98-2927 (Ill. App. Ct. June 22, 2001).) Petitioner thereafter filed a petition for leave to appeal in the Illinois Supreme Court, raising six claims:

1. defense counsel was not present in court during proceedings regarding a question from the jury concerning one of its instructions and the judge's response thereto;

2. the judge failed to clarify a jury instruction about which the jury expressed confusion;

3. the judge failed to suppress Petitioner's statements, which were the result of remarks from police officers likely to elicit an incriminating response;

4. the State improperly bolstered its case in closing argument by wrongly praising the prosecutor's credibility;

5. the State's closing argument misstated the law and distorted the burden of proof; and

6. the trial court allowed the admission of highly inflammatory but non-probative autopsy photographs.

(Id., Ex. F, Petition, People v. Eddmonds, No. 92760.) The state high court denied the petition on February 6, 2002. (Id., Ex. G, Order, People v. Eddmonds, No. 92760 (Ill. Sup. Ct. Feb. 6, 2002).)

B. State Post-Conviction Proceedings

On March 13, 2001, Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, pursuant to 725 ILCS 5/122-1, raising eight claims:

1. Petitioner was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the ...

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