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United States ex rel. Ames v. Lemke

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 21, 2013

United States of America ex rel. THOMAS RUSSEL AMES, Petitioner,
v.
MICHAEL LEMKE, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.

Thomas Ames has petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction and life sentence for first degree murder. Respondent Michael Lemke, the warden of the prison where Ames is incarcerated, has moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that it is barred by the statute of limitations. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants respondent's motion.

The Court notes that Ames has filed a motion for appointment of counsel. The record reflects, however, that Ames was fully capable of addressing coherently the statute of limitations issues presented by respondent's motion to dismiss. The Court therefore denies Ames's motion for appointment of counsel.

Background

On June 25, 1993, Ames pled guilty to one count of first-degree murder in Vermilion County Circuit Court, and on December 8, 1993 the court sentenced Ames to a term of life without the possibility of parole. On November 17, 1995, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's judgment, rejecting Ames's arguments that his sentence was excessive considering his youth, that it was disproportionate to his co-defendant's sentence, and that it represented an abuse of judicial discretion. See Resp.'s Ex. B. On January 31, 1996, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Ames's petition for leave to appeal (PLA). See People v. Ames, 165 Ill.2d 554, 662 N.E.2d 427 (1996). Ames did not file a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

On September 18, 2000, Ames filed a pro se post-conviction petition, asserting claims under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), of "unconstitutional sentence, sentencing factors, [and] sentencing statutes." Pet. at 4. Ames's court-appointed counsel amended his post-conviction petition. The state moved to dismiss the petition as untimely, and a judge of the Vermilion County Circuit Court granted the motion on October 30, 2002. The Illinois Appellate Court reversed on November 1, 2005, because the record did not show that Ames's post-conviction counsel had consulted with Ames in conformity with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 651(c).

Although the case then returned to the Vermilion County Circuit Court, nothing of consequence happened until November 15, 2008, when Ames filed a pro se motion to vacate his judgment.

On February 23, 2010, Ames's counsel filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief. The Circuit Court granted the state's motion to dismiss Ames's post-conviction petition on various grounds. On appeal, appointed counsel moved to withdraw pursuant to Pennsylvania v. Finely, 481 U.S. 551 (1987). On November 2, 2011, the Illinois Appellate Court granted the motion to withdraw and affirmed the dismissal of Ames's petition. On March 28, 2012, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Ames's PLA. Ames did not file a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

Ames mailed his petition for writ of habeas corpus on March 18, 2013. He asserts claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and disproportionate sentence. Respondent has moved to dismiss Ames's petition as time-barred.

Discussion

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1), a one-year limitation period applies to habeas corpus petitions filed under section 2254. This period runs from the latest of several dates:

(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;
(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made ...

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