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Jones v. Spiller

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 7, 2013

DANNY JONES, Petitioner,
v.
TOM SPILLER, Acting Warden, Respondent.[1]

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

David R. Herndon, Chief Judge U.S. District Court

Danny Jones was convicted of vehicular invasion and robbery following a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently. Doc. 17, Ex. D. He filed a petition for habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254 (Doc. 1), raising the following grounds:

1. He was denied his right to represent himself.
2. Trial counsel was ineffective in failing to inform the judge that petitioner wanted to represent himself.

Relevant Facts

The following recitation of the facts is gleaned from the decision of the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, on Jones’ direct appeal, Doc. 17, Ex. D.

Jones was charged with vehicular invasion and robbery of Christina Watson on January 16, 2009. The public defender was appointed to represent him on February 19, 2009. On April 16, 2009, as discovery was incomplete, Jones’ attorney asked that the case be continued to May 15, 2009. Jones addressed the court and asked that the case be tried “today.” The court explained that discovery was incomplete and continued the case. On May 15, 2009, the public defender again asked for a continuance as discovery was still not complete. In particular, counsel had not yet viewed a videotape. Jones and the judge had a discussion about whether Jones could have a jury trial and whether he wanted to represent himself. The judge asked if he wanted to represent himself, or be represented by the public defender, and Jones “chose the latter.” In the ensuing discussion, Jones said at one point that he “’definitely’ did not want to represent himself but wanted a trial date.” Ex. D, pp. 2-4.

The case was continued to June 16, 2009. On that date, the state informed the judge that the videotape was missing, and that both parties were seeking a continuance. Defendant addressed the court and told the judge that he did not agree to a continuance. The judge told Jones that counsel was not ready for trial because he did not have all of the evidence. The judge and Jones then had a lengthy discussion in which Jones demanded to go to trial that day. The judge questioned him and learned that he had no legal experience. Jones also said that he was facing “zero” prison time. The judge ultimately “placed the choice before defendant: to go to trial that day without counsel, or proceed with counsel on a later date.” Jones said he wanted to go to trial that day. The judge asked him if he wanted to proceed without counsel, and Jones said “yes.” The judge then asked whether he wanted to represent himself. He answered, “No, I don’t want to represent myself.” The judge then asked the public defender what date he wanted for trial, and Jones stated twice that he would represent himself. However, the judge said, “No. I have heard it out of your own mouth….You don’t want to represent yourself and I am not going to force you to.” The judge then continued the case to July 16, 2009. Jones “blurted out ‘I want to represent myself.’” Ultimately, Jones was represented by counsel at a bench trial. Doc. 17, Ex. D, pp. 4-7.

On direct appeal, Jones argued that his right to self-representation was violated, that the state failed to prove that he committed vehicular invasion because there was no evidence that he entered the car by force, and, in the alternative, that the two convictions were based on the same physical act (taking a purse from the victim’s car) and therefore both cannot stand under the “one-act, one-crime rule.” Doc. 17, Ex. A. The Appellate Court reversed the robbery conviction, but affirmed the vehicular invasion conviction and fifteen year sentence. Doc. 17, Ex. D, pp. 16-17.

Jones filed a petition for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, raising only the self-representation issue. Doc. 17, Ex. E.

As Jones admits, he did not file a postconviction petition in state court. Doc. 1, p. 3; Doc. 16, p. 6.

Applicable Legal Standards

1. Law Applicable §2254 Petition

This habeas petition is subject to the provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, known as the AEDPA. “The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas ‘retrials’ and to ensure that state-court convictions are ...


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