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Chester O'Quinn v. Atchison

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 7, 2014

CHESTER O'QUINN, Petitioner,


DAVID R. HERNDON, Chief District Judge.

In April, 2001, a jury in Madison County, Illinois, convicted Chester O'Quinn of first degree murder. He filed a petition for habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254 (Doc. 1), raising the following grounds:

1. His speedy trial rights were violated and trial counsel was ineffective in repeatedly moving to continue the trial date.
2. The trial court erred in dismissing his postconviction petition without a hearing because he made a substantial showing that he was denied an impartial jury.
3. The state presented perjured testimony to the grand jury, i.e., Officer Wheeler's testimony that O'Quinn had been read his Miranda rights.
4. He was not read his Miranda rights.
5. The trial court erred in failing to address the claim of actual innocence raised in petitioner's pro se supplemental postconviction petition.
6. The Appellate Court refused to permit him to file a pro se supplemental brief in his appeal from the denial of his postconviction petition.
7. Trial counsel was ineffective in rushing to present a motion to reduce his sentence on the day of sentencing. Counsel failed to challenge the state's constructive amendment of the indictment by its instructions, the state's use of a non-IPI instruction, and the validity of the amended indictment.
8. Counsel on direct appeal was ineffective in failing to raise the use of perjured testimony in the grand jury and the violation of his Miranda rights, and in failing to properly argue the speedy trial violation. The
Appellate Court erred in not permitting him to raise these issues in a pro se supplemental brief.
9. His postconviction petition counsel was ineffective in that he failed to communicate with petitioner, did not file an amended petition, and failed to conduct any investigation. In particular, counsel did not try to locate the doctor who treated petitioner for a wrist injury.
10. His postconviction appellate counsel was ineffective in that he failed to raise the ineffectiveness of postconviction petition counsel and failed to raise the violation of petitioner's rights under the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments, violation of his Miranda rights, and use of perjured testimony before the grand jury. Further, counsel did not communicate with petitioner.
11. His due process rights were violated by the submission of a special interrogatory which asked the jury to find the victim's age.

Relevant Facts

This summary of the facts is derived from the detailed description by the Illinois Appellate Court, Fifth District, in its order affirming petitioner's conviction on direct appeal, People v. O'Quinn, 791 N.E.2d 1066 (Ill.App., 5th Dist. 2003). The state court's factual findings are presumed to be correct unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, which petitioner has not done. 28 U.S.C. §2254(e).

Petitioner was convicted of killing Emmarld Bradley, who was thirteen months old when she died.

In August, 1997, Twuna Jackson and her two children moved into an apartment with petitioner O'Quinn in Wood River, Illinois. Ms. Jackson had two daughters, three-year-old Kiera and baby Emmarld. O'Quinn was not the father of Ms. Jackson's children.

According to her pediatrician's records, Emmarld was healthy and thriving prior to August, 1997. At her last visit on July 29, 1997, she had no marks, bruises or burns on her body.

Twuna Jackson's mother, Roxanne Harvey, came from Texas to watch the two girls while their mother was moving. According to Ms. Harvey, Emmarld did not have any marks, bruises or burns. However, when Ms. Harvey came back for a visit from October 24 to 26, 1997, Emmarld was thinner and her eyes were dark and sunken. There were bruises on her cheeks and a faint bruise on her forehead.

On October 27, 1997, Ms. Jackson left for work at 4:00 p.m., leaving petitioner to care for her two daughters and his seven year old son, Adontay. Before she left, she checked on Emmarld, who was in her bed. The baby opened her eyes when Ms. Jackson kissed her, and then closed her eyes and went back to sleep. According to Ms. Jackson, Emmarld's forehead was not bruised and there were no marks on her neck.

Responding to a 9-1-1 call, Wood River Police Officer Otis Steward arrived at petitioner's apartment at 5:00 p.m. on the same day. He found Emmarld lying on a bed. Her forehead was bruised, a purplish knot was forming on her forehead, and her breathing was labored.

Emmarld was taken by ambulance to Wood River Township Hospital. She was unresponsive to touch, light and pain. At 6:46 p.m., she was taken by helicopter to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, where she was seen by Dr. Scalzo. Dr. Scalzo is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine. He observed extensive bruising on her forehead. A CT scan showed bleeding in the front part of the brain, close to the forehead bruises, and a subarachnoid hemorrhage in the center of the brain. Emmarld was brain dead. Dr. Scalzo testified that "the condition was caused by multiple nonaccidental shearing forces consistent with shaken infant syndrome." Further, it was his opinion that "the bruising to the forehead and the hemorrhages on the brain were fresh, and he stated, A child with this extent of injury would go unconscious probably instantaneously or [within] minutes at the very most.'" O'Quinn, 791 N.E.2d at 1070.

Emmarld was pronounced dead at about 11:30 a.m. on October 28, 1997. Dr. Monteleone, a professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and the Director of the Division of Child Protection at Cardinal Glennon, examined her about 30 minutes later. He testified that "the linear mark across Emmarld's neck was consistent with pulling and twisting the neck of a child's clothing and that the marks on her left arm appeared to be a pattern of a healing burn that had been inflicted intentionally." He determined that the cause of death was "severe child abuse consistent with shaken baby syndrome with impact." Dr. Monteleone testified that Emmarld "would have been incapacitated within minutes of her injury." O'Quinn, 791 N.E.2d at 1070-1071.

The doctor who performed the autopsy testified that "Emmarld died from a closed head injury caused by vigorous shaking of the head, which is clinically referred to as shaken baby syndrome. This was consistent with the retinal hemorrhages, which she observed grossly and through a microscopic examination." O'Quinn, 791 N.E.2d at 1071.

At some point, Officer Steward spoke with petitioner at the hospital. According to Officer Steward, petitioner made the following statement:

[H]e woke up Emmarld. He held her hand and walked with her into the kitchen, where she fell and lay on the floor. He went into the other room to get Adontay and Kiera for supper. When he walked back into the kitchen, Emmarld was still lying facedown on the kitchen floor, and he thought she was sleeping. When he picked her up, he noticed she was not breathing. He tried to give her breaths' and then told Adontay to call 9-1-1."

O'Quinn, 791 N.E.2d at 1070.

Petitioner did not testify at trial, and the defense presented no evidence. O'Quinn, 791 N.E.2d at 1071.

Appeal and Postconviction Petition

On direct appeal, O'Quinn raised the ...

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