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Williams v. Rednour

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

July 2, 2013

DAVID REDNOUR, Warden, Respondent.


GARY FEINERMAN, District Judge.

Petitioner Rodney Williams, who is serving a lengthy sentence in Illinois state prison for the first degree murder of Mark Van Dyke and the attempted first degree murder of Vincent Bingham, seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Doc. 1. Williams seeks habeas relief on the ground that his trial attorney was constitutionally ineffective in various respects. Williams's petition is denied, and he also is denied a certificate of appealability.


A federal habeas court presumes correct the factual findings made by the last state court to adjudicate the case on the merits, unless those findings are rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Coleman v. Hardy, 690 F.3d 811, 815 (7th Cir. 2012) ("We give great deference to state court factual findings. After AEDPA, we are required to presume a state court's account of the facts correct, and the petitioner has the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.") (internal quotation marks omitted); Rever v. Acevedo, 590 F.3d 533, 537 (7th Cir. 2010); Ward v. Sternes, 334 F.3d 696, 704 (7th Cir. 2003). The Appellate Court of Illinois is the last state court to have adjudicated Williams's case on the merits. See People v. Williams, No. 1-07-0009 ( Ill. App. Dec. 31, 2008) (Doc. 17-20); People v. Williams, No. 1-01-4022 ( Ill. App. Aug. 6, 2004) (Doc. 17-12); People v. Williams, No. 1-97-4527 ( Ill. App. Mar. 1, 1999) (Doc. 17-5). Williams has not rebutted-indeed, he has not even attempted to rebut-the state appellate court's factual findings. The following sets forth those facts as well as the procedural background of the state criminal and post-conviction proceedings.

Vincent Bingham, the victim of the attempted first degree murder and the prosecution's sole eyewitness, testified that on February 5, 1992, Williams shot him in the face and then shot Mark Van Dyke twice in the head. Van Dyke died and Bingham was severely injured. Prior to the shootings, Van Dyke and Williams had an argument regarding drugs, agreed to take their dispute to Van Dyke's "gang chief, " and were driven there by Bingham. On the way, Bingham stopped his car and got out to speak with his fiancee and her parents. When Bingham returned to the car, Williams shot him and then Van Dyke.

When interviewed by the police, Bingham described his assailant as a 25-28 year old black male with light skin, standing about 5'8" to 5'10", weighing 160 to 170 pounds, and having hair shorter than his own, a mustache, an earring, and a pitchfork tattoo on his left arm. The detective assigned to the case, Hugo Conwell, testified that Bingham told him that his assailant went by the name "Eric" or "Rick." Williams's alias was "Ricky Shelton, " but Williams maintained that he was not wearing an earring and that Bingham's description of the tattoo and hair did not match his own. On December 23, 1992, Bingham made a tentative photo identification of Williams. In March 1993, Bingham identified Williams during a lineup. Testifying at trial, Bingham identified Williams a third time.

The jury convicted Williams of the first degree murder of Van Dyke and the attempted first degree murder of Bingham. Shortly thereafter, Bingham signed an affidavit stating that Williams did not shoot him and that he did not know who shot him. At a subsequent hearing, Bingham recanted portions of the affidavit and testified that Williams was indeed the assailant. Bingham explained that the affidavit had been prepared by a private investigator hired by Williams's attorney and that he had signed the document, some of which was blank, without reading it. Although not persuaded by Bingham's explanation, the state trial court declined to disturb the verdict, concluding that Bingham's "unwavering" trial testimony deserved more weight than his affidavit.

At the same hearing, Detective Conwell testified that over the course of his investigation he interviewed Bingham nearly fifteen times and conducted at least one interview with Bingham's brother, Gary. Gary submitted his own affidavit averring that Conwell asked him to encourage his brother to accuse Williams. Gary recanted that allegation at the hearing, and the trial court determined that Conwell had acted properly.

Williams appealed his conviction and sentence, arguing that: (1) he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) Detective Conwell gave perjured testimony; (3) Conwell's pressure on Bingham should have been disclosed under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963);

(4) newly discovered evidence called for a new trial; (5) his trial attorney rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to subpoena Bingham's psychiatric records, to introduce expert testimony regarding Williams's tattoos, and to show Williams did not have an alias; and (6) the sentence was excessive. Doc. 17-2. The Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed. People v. Williams, No. 1-97-4527 ( Ill. App. Mar. 1, 1999) (Doc. 17-5). Williams then filed a petition for leave to appeal ("PLA") with the Supreme Court of Illinois, pressing the same claims. Doc. 17-6. The PLA was denied. People v. Williams, 720 N.E.2d 1105 (Ill. 1999).

Williams then filed a post-conviction petition pursuant to the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act, 725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. In his petition, Williams argued: (1) that he was actually innocent; (2) that his attorney was ineffective for failing to obtain Bingham's psychiatric records and failing to adequately present Bingham's psychiatric history at trial; (3) that he was denied due process by the trial court's in camera review of Bingham's mental health records and its failure to transmit those records to the state appellate court; (4) that he was denied a fair trial when his attorney failed to obtain or present Bingham's psychiatric records; (5) that exculpatory evidence was improperly withheld; and (6) that his sentence violated Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). Doc. 17-8. The state trial court dismissed the post-conviction petition. Doc. 17-9.

On appeal, Williams made four arguments: (1) that Bingham was pressured into making a false identification; (2) that newly examined psychiatric records revealed that Bingham suffered from mental illness and, if the documents had been presented at trial, the jury would have acquitted, buttressing Williams's claim that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to investigate and subpoena Bingham's psychiatric records and present them at trial; (3) that Williams was denied due process when the trial court incorrectly instructed the jury about eyewitness testimony; and (4) that the sentence violated Apprendi. Doc. 17-10. The state appellate court affirmed in part and reversed in part. People v. Williams, No. 1-01-4022 ( Ill. App. Aug. 6, 2004) (Doc. 17-12). The appellate court determined that the trial court had erred in disregarding an expert affidavit submitted by Williams regarding the nature and importance of Bingham's mental health records. The appellate court remanded the case only to the extent that it related to Bingham's psychiatric records, and it affirmed the trial court's decision in all other respects. The state supreme court denied Williams's PLA. People v. Williams, 829 N.E.2d 793 (Ill. 2005).

On remand, the trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing at which Dr. James Knoll, an expert in forensic psychiatry, testified for Williams. Dr. Knoll testified that Bingham had a history of mental illness, that various mental health records documented Bingham's condition, and that, in his opinion, these records indicated that Bingham's ability to perceive and recollect the events of February 5, 1992, was impaired. However, Dr. Knoll admitted that he had not interviewed Bingham, that he could not diagnose with any certainty what mental illnesses Bingham suffered from at the time of the offense or at the time of the trial, and that he could not make any specific medical determinations for the period between Bingham's release from a hospital in 1992 and his last in-court testimony in 1997. The state trial court determined that even if Bingham's medical records had been obtained by trial counsel and used at trial, there was not a reasonable probability that the jury's verdict would have been different. Doc. 17-16.

Williams appealed, arguing that: (1) his counsel's failure to investigate the medical records and present expert testimony was prejudicial; and (2) the trial court exceed its authority by substituting its judgment for that of Dr. Knoll. Doc. 17-17. The state appellate court affirmed. People v. Williams, No. 1-07-0009 ( Ill. App. Dec. 31, 2008) (Doc. 17-20). Williams then filed a PLA, arguing that: (1) the appellate court applied the wrong standard of review; (2) the appellate court impermissibly substituted its own opinion for that of Dr. Knoll; and (3) trial counsel's failure to ...

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