United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN, District Judge.
Petitioner Joseph Richardson 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.
Petitioner was convicted of murder, armed violence, and aggravated battery with a firearm after a 1995 jury trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The evidence at trial established that petitioner, Joe Mapp, and Joe Martin conspired to rob Larry Shelton at gunpoint. The men agreed that Shelton, who owed money to Martin, would be killed if he refused to pay his debt, and that petitioner would drive the men from the scene after the robbery. When the trio located Shelton early in the morning on August 12, 1993, Mapp and Martin, armed with handguns, approached him; Martin confronted Shelton and shot him in the head, mortally wounding him.
Petitioner moved for a new trial in the Circuit Court, but the trial court denied his motion and sentenced him to forty-three years of imprisonment. Defendant then filed a motion for reconsideration and to reduce sentence, which the court denied on February 16, 1996.
A direct appeal was taken to the Illinois Appellate Court, wherein petitioner contended that: (1) the trial court abused its discretion by failing to appropriately balance aggravating and mitigating factors when fashioning a sentence and improperly enhanced his sentence; (2) the trial court erred in denying petitioner's motion to quash his arrest and suppress his post-arrest statement; (3) the trial court violated petitioner's right to present a defense by excluding alternative-suspect evidence; and (4) the prosecution's closing argument was so improper as to violate petitioner's right to a fair trial. In February of 1997, the Appellate Court rejected these arguments and affirmed the defendant's convictions and sentence. People v. Richardson, No. 1-96-0679 (Ill.App.Ct. Feb. 20, 1997) (unpublished order pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23). Petitioner filed a request for rehearing in the Appellate Court, which was denied on May 13, 1997. Petitioner filed a pro se petition for leave to appeal ("PLA") to the Illinois Supreme Court, which was denied on October 1, 1997. Petitioner's PLA addressed the same claims that had been raised to the Illinois Appellate Court. Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari that was denied on February 23, 1998. Richardson v. Illinois, 522 U.S. 1123 (1998) (mem.).
On August 21, 1998, petitioner mailed a pro se post-conviction petition pursuant to 725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. to the Circuit Court of Cook County. The petition was filed-stamped in the circuit court on September 1, 1998. Petitioner filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief on April 6, 1999. Counsel was subsequently appointed and filed a supplemental petition for post-conviction relief. In these petitions, petitioner argued that: (1) he was denied his rights to fair trial and an impartial jury where prosecutors indoctrinated jurors on the State's theory of the case during voir dire; (2) his right to confront witnesses against him was denied when a hearsay-witness informed the jury that an unavailable witness had implicated petitioner; (3) he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel; and (4) he was denied effective assistance of appellate counsel. The trial court denied relief in September 2007, declining to consider the timeliness of the appeal and instead denying relief on the merits, holding that petitioner had failed to make a substantial showing of a constitutional violation.
Petitioner appealed to the state appellate court, presenting the same issues as in the trial court. On September 30, 2010, the appellate court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that the petitioner's post-conviction petition was due by April 1, 1998, six months after the denial of his petition to appeal, and was therefore untimely. People v. Richardson, No. 1-07-2627 (Ill.App. 2010). Petitioner sought rehearing on the timeliness issue, but his petition was denied on October 29, 2010.
Petitioner then filed a petition for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Illinois, arguing that the appellate court had denied petitioner his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by allowing the State to raise a new argument as to untimeliness on appeal. The PLA was denied on January 26, 2011.
Petitioner originally filed his § 2254 petition in this court in June 1997, arguing that: (1) the state trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress; (2) the prosecutor at trial engaged in prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument; and (3) his sentence was excessive. In September 1998, petitioner moved to voluntarily dismiss the petition without prejudice pending the exhaustion of his claims in state court. This court granted the petition, allowing petitioner to "reinstate 60 days following the exhaustion of the petitioner's state court remedies." On March 24, 2011, petitioner moved to reinstate his § 2254 petition and this court granted the motion. Petitioner filed an amended petition raising the following claims:
1. the trial court abused its discretion and violated the Eighth Amendment by imposing a forty-three-year sentence;
2. police lacked probable cause to arrest petitioner;
3. prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument violated petitioner's right to a fair trial;
4. the prosecution violated petitioner's right to an impartial jury by using voir dire to indoctrinate prospective jurors in the prosecution's theory of the case;
5. appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to:
(A) raise the voir-dire claim; and
(B) present "the correct theory of probable cause" to support petitioner's Fourth Amendment claim;
6. trial counsel was ineffective for:
(A) failing to present "the correct theory of probable cause" at the pretrial suppression hearing; and
(B) eliciting police officer's testimony that a co-defendant had implicated petitioner in the murder;
7. the introduction of police officer's testimony that co-defendant had implicated petitioner violated the Confrontation Clause; and
8. the state appellate court violated petitioner's due process rights by improperly reversing the trial court's decision to excuse the untimely filing of petitioner's post-conviction petition.
I. 28 U.S.C. § 2254
This petition is governed by the provisions of the AEDPA, see Lindh v. Murphy , 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997), which allows a district court to issue a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to a state court judgment "only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Thus, federal courts are not authorized to grant habeas relief based on errors of state law. Estelle v. McGuire , 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991) ...