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Paige v. Harrington

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 23, 2014

MELVIN PAIGE, R15339, Petitioner,
RICK HARRINGTON, Warden, Menard Correctional Center, Respondent.


ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN, District Judge.

Petitioner Melvin Paige has filed a pro se petition for habeas corpus relief pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons discussed below, the habeas petition is denied, and the court declines to issue a certificate of appealability.


In 1999, petitioner, who was sixteen years old, murdered Emil Mennes, an elderly man who lived in the same condominium complex as petitioner in Palatine, Illinois. Petitioner had entered Mennes' condominium through an unlocked front door and stabbed Mennes to death with a letter opener. Before leaving, he took Mennes' rosary with a silver cross. Petitioner confessed to the crime, stating that he murdered Mennes because he had looked at him in a "disrespectful" way earlier that day. A jury in Cook County, Illinois found petitioner guilty of first-degree murder, home invasion, and residential burglary. He was sentenced to fifty years imprisonment for murder, twenty-five years for home invasion, and fifteen years for residential burglary. The latter two sentences were imposed consecutive to each other and concurrent with the murder sentence.

Petitioner then filed an appeal, arguing, among other things, that Illinois' Truth-in-Sentencing Statute, 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2)(I), violates due process because it fails to account for the potential rehabilitation of minors. The Illinois Appellate Court vacated petitioner's residential burglary conviction but affirmed the rest of the judgment. Petitioner then petitioned for leave to appeal (PLA) in the Illinois Supreme Court but dropped the Truth-in-Sentencing claim from his argument.[1] On March 5, 2005, the Illinois Supreme Court denied the PLA.

In March 2005, petitioner filed a pro se post-conviction petition in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Petitioner argued that the trial court did not properly consider multiple victim-impact statements at sentencing, and that his trial and appellate counsel were ineffective because they did not object and raise the issue on appeal. The trial court dismissed the post-conviction petition. Petitioner appealed, and the state appellate court dismissed the appeal. The Illinois Supreme Court vacated the state appellate court's order and remanded the petition to the trial court for further proceedings.

On remand, the trial court again denied post-conviction relief. Petitioner appealed, and his counsel filed a motion to withdraw under Pennsylvania v. Finley , 481 U.S. 551 (1987), which the state appellate court granted. The court then affirmed the trial court's denial of relief. Petitioner did not file a PLA to the Illinois Supreme Court for review of the state appellate court's decision on post-conviction relief.

On July 16, 2013, petitioner filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, raising one claim: that the Illinois Truth-in-Sentencing statute violates petitioner's due process rights because it does not take into account the potential for juvenile offenders' rehabilitation.


I. Procedural Default

A petitioner must exhaust his or her available remedies in state court before filing an application for a federal writ of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b); Harrington v. Richter , 131 S.Ct. 770, 787 (2011); Rose v. Lundy , 455 U.S. 509, 510 (1982). If a petitioner has not exhausted his or her state claims properly at each state court level, then the claim is procedurally defaulted. Lewis v. Sternes , 390 F.3d 1019, 1026 (7th Cir. 2004). A petitioner must first provide state courts with "a fair opportunity to act on [the petitioner's] claims." O'Sullivan v. Boerckel , 526 U.S. 838, 844 (1999) (emphasis in original).

In order to meet the exhaustion requirement in Illinois, a petition for discretionary review of the claim must come before the Illinois Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court. See id. at 845. If the petitioner did not present his or her claim in a petition for discretionary review to both courts, then the claim is procedurally defaulted and cannot be decided on the merits. Rodriguez v. Scillia , 193 F.3d 913, 917 (7th Cir. 1999).

A federal court may entertain a procedurally defaulted claim if the petitioner shows cause and prejudice, or that failure to review the claim will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Coleman v. Thompson , 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991). To demonstrate cause and prejudice, a petitioner must show that "some objective factor external to the defense impeded counsel's efforts to comply with the State's procedural rule." Murray v. Carrier , 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986). These objective factors include "interference by officials that makes compliance with the State's procedural rule impracticable... a showing that the factual or legal basis for a claim was not reasonably available to counsel, " and "ineffective assistance of counsel." McCleskey v. Zant , 499 U.S. 467, 494 (1991) (quoting Murray , 477 U.S. at 488). Typically, those who suffer a fundamental miscarriage of justice will satisfy the cause and prejudice test. Murray , 477 U.S. at 495-496. Yet, in cases where cause and prejudice standards are not met, a petitioner may show that "a ...

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