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Lyles v. Thompson

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

September 27, 2013

FREDERICKA LYLES, # R85115, Petitioner,


DAVID R. HERNDON, Chief District Judge.

Petitioner Fredericka Lyles, currently incarcerated at Logan Correctional Center, brings this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to challenge the constitutionality of her conviction and sentence in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Illinois.[1] By Order dated June 18, 2013, her initial petition was dismissed without prejudice and with leave to amend (Doc. 8). She was also denied pauper status and directed to pay the $5.00 filing fee (Doc. 6). After a bit of confusion, Lyles' amended petition is now before the Court (Doc. 9). Also before the Court is Lyles' motion for recruitment of counsel and waiver of the filing fee (Doc. 10).

Preliminary Review of the Petition

In February 2008, Fredericka Lyles was convicted by a jury of committing a drug-induced homicide, for which she was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment; she was also convicted of delivering a controlled substance, for which she received a consecutive 6-year sentence. It appears that her direct appeal was unsuccessful, and the Illinois Supreme Court denied her petition for leave to appeal. It is unclear whether she collaterally attacked her conviction.

This case is now before the Court for preliminary review. Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in United States District Courts provides that upon preliminary consideration by the district court judge, "[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner."

The Anti-Terrorism and Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") allows a district court to issue a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to a state court judgment "only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Rule 2(c)(2) of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts requires that the facts supporting each ground for relief be stated in the petition. Therefore, something more than the usual notice pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 is required. "A prime purpose of Rule 2(c)'s demand that habeas petitioners plead with particularity is to assist the district court in determining whether the State should be ordered to show cause why the writ should not be granted.'" Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 655 (2005). Still, the Court is mindful that pro se habeas petitions must be construed liberally. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also Lloyd v. Van Natta, 296 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2002).

Based on a very generous reading of the entire petition, and in consideration of Lyles' pro se status, the Court perceives that Lyles is asserting three grounds for relief:

Ground 1: Ineffective assistance of counsel premised upon the errors asserted in Grounds 2 and 3;
Ground 2: A denial of due process based on Lyles being found fit for trial, despite an IQ below 75; and
Ground 3: A denial of due process caused by the trial judge when he questioned a potential witness in the presence of the jury.

Ground 1, regarding ineffective assistance of counsel, is not actually listed in the petition as one of the grounds being pursued in the Section 2254 petition. "Ground One" on the form petition is actually blank, yet questions regarding the procedural posture of Ground One are addressed on the form ( see Doc. 9, p. 12). Ineffective assistance of counsel is listed multiple times as an argument that Lyles pursued in the state courts, linked to her other two grounds (see Doc. 9, pp. 3-5). Therefore, the Court attributes the omission of the ineffective assistance argument to "scrivener's err, " and will recognize ineffective assistance of counsel as a ground for relief.

Grounds 1, 2 and 3 satisfy the Rule 2(c)(2) pleading standard, and there is insufficient information before the Court upon which to conclude that dismissal at this preliminary stage pursuant to Rule 4 is appropriate. Therefore, respondent Sheryl Thompson will be required to respond or otherwise plead.

Pending Motions

Insofar as Lyles has moved for recruitment of counsel a second time (Doc. 10), the motion will be referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for further ...

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