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Lascola v. Harrington

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Urbana Division

May 21, 2014

EDWARD C. LASCOLA, Petitioner,
v.
RICK HARRINGTON, Warden, Respondent.

OPINION

COLIN S. BRUCE, District Judge.

On September 23, 2013, Petitioner, Edward C. Lascola, filed a pro se Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (#1). The Government filed its Answer and Affirmative Defenses (#6) on February 3, 2014. On February 24, 2014, Petitioner filed his Reply (#7). Petitioner also filed a Motion to Request Counsel (#8) and two nearly identical Motions for Stay (#9) and (#11). The Government filed a Response (#12) to Petitioner's Motions for Stay on March 13, 2014.

This court has carefully and throughly reviewed the arguments of the parties and the documents provided. This court has also reviewed the record in Petitioner's criminal case. Following this careful consideration, Petitioner's pro se Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (#1), Request for Counsel (#8), and Motions for Stay (#9) and (#11) are DENIED.

FACTS

Petitioner was convicted in the Circuit Court of Logan County, Illinois, of first degree murder following the death of the infant child of his girlfriend, Kimberly Williams. At trial, Dr. Travis Hindman, a pathologist who performed an autopsy on the infant, had testified that it was his opinion that the infant's injury was caused by broad-surface blunt trauma of the lower chest and upper abdominal region. Dr. Hindman stated that the infant had died at least 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours prior to her arrival at the hospital. Dr. Charles Sims had also testified that the infant was already dead when she arrived at the hospital. Dr. Sims further noted that the infant appeared to be underdeveloped for her age.

While the State was not able to present any eyewitness evidence to establish the fatal blow that could have caused the injury, it did present testimony from several people who saw Petitioner take the infant into his bedroom the day of her death. Thereafter, the witnesses saw Petitioner close the bedroom door and they heard a loud thud. The infant was heard crying after the thud, however, the crying later subsided. Williams entered the bedroom after hearing the thud. Petitioner told her not to touch the infant because she was all right. Some time later, Williams noticed the infant was not breathing and took her to the emergency room in an apparent state of panic.

The State also presented testimony from Boren Johnson, a fellow inmate with Petitioner at the Logan County jail. Johnson testified that Petitioner told him that he had meant to hit the victim in the leg and missed, hitting her in the midsection. Other testimony established that Petitioner had been abusive towards the infant prior to her death on May 27, 2001.

Following his conviction, Petitioner appealed, arguing that: (1) trial counsel had a conflict of interest; (2) admission of evidence of his other bad acts or crimes deprived him of a fair trial; (3) admission of hearsay evidence deprived him of a fair trial; and (4) the evidence was insufficient to establish his mental state and support his conviction. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed Petitioner's conviction. People v. Lascola, No. 4-02-1037 (Ill.App.Ct. 2004) (unpublished order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23). With respect to its decision on Petitioner's insufficient evidence claim, the Illinois Appellate Court noted that it would uphold the conviction if it found that the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, could allow any rational trier of fact to find the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. After its review, the court determined that a rational trier of fact could have found Petitioner guilty based on the evidence presented at trial. On November 24, 2004, the Illinois Supreme Court denied a petition for leave to appeal. People v. Lascola, No. 99077 (Ill. 2004).

On May 27, 2005, Petitioner filed a pro se postconviction petition. The petition raised four claims:

(1) Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to: (i) move to quash the indictment; (ii) correct and renew the motion for change of venue; (iii) move to suppress witness statements; (iv) object to the absence of black venire members; (v) object to damaging character testimony; (vi) object to the admission of grand jury testimony; and (vii) challenge false testimony about the treatment of the victim that was refuted by medical records;
(2) The prosecution presented testimony to the grand jury that was contradicted by its own expert reports;
(3) The prosecution used false testimony regarding the treatment of the victim; and
(4) The prosecution misstated in closing argument that Petitioner had a motive to hurt the victim because he was jealous of her father.

Counsel was appointed to represent Petitioner. Counsel filed an amended postconviction petition, adding a new argument that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to: (i) procure the appointment of an investigator to assist in petitioner's defense; (ii) procure a forensic pathologist expert; (iii) object to the admission at trial of grand ...


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