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Lenius v. Harrington

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 24, 2014

WILLIAM LENIUS, Petitioner,
v.
RICK HARRINGTON, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

DAVID R. HERNDON, Chief Judge.

Now pending before the Court is the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 2) filed by petitioner, William Lenius, on August 18, 2011. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Petitioner, William Lenius, was convicted of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, aggravated battery, and possession of an explosive or incendiary device in the August, 1993 pipe bomb explosion that killed Wayne Conrad and seriously injured Debra Conrad (Doc. 16-1, p. 7). The trial court imposed concurrent sentences of natural life imprisonment for first degree murder and thirty-nine years for attempted murder, as well as concurrent terms of seven years of imprisonment for aggravated battery and five years for possession of an explosive device. Id.

The record revels that petitioner confessed to building a pipe bomb that he intended for his ex-girlfriend, Ellen Marshall, the actual victim's next door neighbor (Doc. 16-1, p. 10). On August 31, 1993, police officers searched petitioner's apartment after learning that Ellen Marshall and her mother suspected him of sending the pipe bomb. Id. Police officers recovered wire and tape from petitioner's apartment and later determined that the items matched components of the pipe bomb that exploded in the victim's home. Id. at 14. After officers searched his apartment, petitioner agreed to accompany them to the police department where, after hours of interrogation, he confessed that he built the pipe bomb that detonated in the victim's home. Id. at 11. The next day, petitioner gave a court-reported statement detailing how he built the bomb and left it in Ellen Marshall's driveway. Id. at 14.

Prior to trial, petitioner filed a written motion to suppress his confession. Id. at 15. In that motion, petitioner alleged that the officer that interviewed him had misrepresented certain facts that led him to confess-namely, that Ellen Marshall had been killed and that petitioner's fingerprints were found "all over the bomb." Id. Petitioner ultimately admitted that he learned prior to his confession that Ellen Marshall was not dead. Id. With respect to petitioner's allegation that an officer told him that his fingerprints were found "all over the bomb, " the trial court found petitioner's testimony not credible. Id. at 17. Specifically, the trial court found that petitioner was "a mature adult" who was "very articulate, forceful, mentally sharp, and strong willed" and had not been coerced into making his confession. Id. The trial court denied petitioner's motion to suppress his confession after three days of testimony. Id.

The trial court also denied petitioner's pre-trial motion to quash his arrest and suppress the physical evidence gathered from his apartment that was at issue during the same hearing (Doc. 16-1, p. 15). Petitioner argued that police officers had both "seized" him in his apartment and searched it without probable cause. Id. The trial court found that petitioner gave voluntary, written consent to search his apartment and oral consent in his interactions with the police. Id. at 716. Thus, the trial court found that there had been no arrest when petitioner agreed to speak to the police at his apartment and that police did not need probable cause for their search in light of Petitioner's consent. Id.

At petitioner's jury trial, the State introduced medical testimony that demonstrated that the pipe bomb explosion was the cause of Wayne Conrad's death and Debra Conrad's injuries (Doc. 16-1, p. 14). The State also presented evidence that a pipe bomb was left in Ellen Marshall's driveway in a red tool box and was subsequently picked up by her neighbor, Debra Conrad, and taken into the Conrads' home where it exploded. Id. at 7. Ellen Marshall testified as to her volatile relationship with petitioner, which had ended shortly before the pipe bomb explosion. Id. at 12-13. The State also presented petitioner's confession and testimony from a forensic chemist who explained that:

Evidence seized from [Petitioner's] apartment was visually similar to the wire found in the tool box bomb. A microscopic examination of the wire revealed that it was identical to the wire used in the tool box bomb. Samples of tape were similarly consistent.

Id. at 13.

After his conviction, petitioner filed a direct appeal with ten arguments, only two of which are relevant to this present action (Doc. 16-2). Specifically, petitioner argued that the trial court's denial of his motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Id. at 20. Additionally, he argued that the trial court's denial of the motion to suppress his confession was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Id. at 23. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's decision finding that petitioner consented to the search of his apartment and to an interview with police officers (Doc. 16-1, p. 17). The court found that petitioner had not been arrested so there was no need for probable cause. Id. Although petitioner argued that he did not see the consent form he signed, the appellate court saw no reason to disturb the trial court's determination that petitioner's testimony on this point was not credible. Id. The appellate court also rejected petitioner's claim that his confession was the involuntary product of a "coercive atmosphere" and noted that he had learned the truth regarding Ellen Marshall prior to his confession. Id. at 717. As to petitioner's assertion that an officer had falsely informed him that his fingerprints were "all over the pipe bomb, " the appellate court saw no reason to disturb the trial court's finding that his testimony on this point was not credible. Id. The appellate court also declined to second guess the trial court's conclusion that petitioner's claims that police officers made threats and promises to coerce him into confessing were not credible. Id. The Illinois Supreme Court denied petitioner's petition for leave to appeal on March 9, 1998. The United States Supreme Court denied petitioner's petition for certiorari on October 5, 1998.

Petitioner's retained counsel filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief on August 29, 2008 that reiterated the arguments he made on direct appeal with respect to the search of his apartment and his confession (Doc. 16-7. p. 147-56).[1] Petitioner further argued that he had been deprived of his right to effective assistance of counsel. Id. at 155. Specifically, petitioner alleged that trial counsel failed to have the State's physical evidence tested and to retain an expert witness to provide an alternate analysis of the physical evidence, despite the fact that petitioner agreed to make funds available for that purpose. Id. at 147-50. Petitioner also argued that trial counsel had failed to present a proper motion to challenge the search of his property, claiming that the motion challenging the search should have been separate from the motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence. Id. at 153-56. The trial court denied petitioner's petition in an oral ruling on April 14, 2009. Id. at 155.

Petitioner appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court challenging the issues raised in his post-conviction petition-namely the search of his apartment, his confession, and the effectiveness of his trial counsel (Doc. 16-12, p. 4). The appellate court concluded that petitioner's arguments with regard to the search of his apartment and his confession were barred by res judicata because they had been raised and fully addressed on the merits on direct appeal. Id. at 7. The appellate court also rejected petitioner's claim that his trial counsel had been ineffective by failing to have the physical evidence in the case tested or analyzed by experts and held that trial counsel made a strategic decision to focus on suppressing, rather than testing, the physical evidence. Id. at 12. Moreover, the court noted that petitioner failed to allege any facts to demonstrate that expert testing would have assisted his defense, especially in light of his confession. Id. Finally, the court rejected petitioner's claim that counsel had been ineffective by failing to file a separate motion to suppress the physical evidence based on the allegedly unconstitutional search, noting that petitioner had not identified any substantive arguments in that regard that counsel had not actually raised. Id. at 15.

Petitioner filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus before this Court on August 18, 2011 (Doc. 2). Petitioner ...


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