United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN, District Judge.
Petitioner Clinton Dixon 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.
Following a 2004 jury trial in the Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court, petitioner was convicted of first degree murder, home invasion, residential burglary, and armed robbery. Petitioner was sentenced to consecutive terms of fifty years for first degree murder, twenty five years for home invasion, and twenty years for armed robbery.
Petitioner appealed, arguing that the trial court had erred by: (1) denying defense counsel's request to strike a juror who lied about his criminal past during voir dire; (2) refusing to allow defense counsel to question prospective jurors about their attitudes toward drug use and addiction; and (3) failing to appoint alternate counsel to represent petitioner on his post-trial motion. People v. Dixon , 887 N.E.2d 577, 579 (Ill.App. 2008). On March 31, 2008, the state appellate court affirmed petitioner's conviction and sentence. Petitioner then sought leave to appeal (PLA) to the Illinois Supreme Court and raised one claim: that the trial court erroneously prohibited defense counsel from asking prospective jurors about their attitudes toward drug abuse and addiction. On September 24, 2008, the state supreme court denied the PLA.
On March 23, 2009, petitioner filed a pro se post-conviction petition in the Cook County Circuit Court pursuant to the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act, 725 ILCS 5/122-1, et seq., raising several claims, including that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue on direct appeal that petitioner's right to a fair trial was violated when an alternate juror participated in deliberations. The trial court dismissed the petition as frivolous. Petitioner then appealed the denial of his post-conviction petition, and the state appellate court denied his appeal. Petitioner filed a PLA in the Illinois Supreme Court raising one claim: that the trial court erroneously dismissed petitioner's post-conviction petition because it sufficiently stated a claim that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue on direct appeal that petitioner was denied his right to an impartial jury when an alternate juror participated in deliberations. The state supreme court denied the PLA on September 28, 2011.
Petitioner raises three issues in his amended and supplemental petition for habeas corpus:
Claim A: The trial court erred by prohibiting defense counsel from asking prospective jurors about their attitudes toward drug use and addiction.
Claim B: Appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that the petitioner's right to a fair trial was violated when an alternate juror participated in jury deliberations.
Claim C: Trial counsel was ineffective for threatening to quit if the petitioner chose to testify, failing to investigate a potential alibi, failing to object to the admission of the murder weapon into evidence, failing to investigate a key found in the victim's door, failing to call an expert witness regarding false confessions and failing to investigate whether petitioner's confession was the result of police brutality.
Standard of Review
Before a state habeas petitioner may pursue his claims in federal court, he must exhaust his remedies in the state courts. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b); see O'Sullivan v. Boerckel , 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999) ("State prisoners must give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State's established appellate review process."); Stevens v. McBride , 489 F.3d 883, 894 (7th Cir. 2007) (failure to take claim through one complete round of appellate process results in procedural default). If the petitioner's claims are not exhausted in state court, they are procedurally defaulted and a federal court may not consider them on the merits. Id. at 848. Procedural default also occurs when the state court disposes of the claim on an independent and adequate state procedural ground. Coleman v. Thompson , 501 U.S. 722, 729 (1991).
A state's procedural ground is adequate if it is applied in a "consistent and principled" manner, meaning that it is "firmly established and regularly followed." Page v. Frank , 343 F.3d 901, 909 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). A state court's decision is independent if "the court must have actually relied on the procedural bar as an independent basis for its disposition of the case." United States ex rel. Bell v. Pierson , 267 F.3d 544, 556 (7th Cir. 2001) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Further, the state court's reliance on the procedural bar must be clear: "a procedural default does not bar consideration of a federal claim on either direct or habeas review unless the last state court rendering a judgment in the case ...