United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ex rel. GIOVANNI WEEMS, Petitioner,
TARRY WILLIAMS, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RONALD A. GUZMAN, District Judge.
Giovanni Weems was convicted in state court of, among other things, first degree murder, and sentenced to natural life in prison. He has filed a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to vacate his conviction. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the petition.
At 5:00 a.m. on September 29, 2001, Dawn Bramwell was beaten to death with a claw hammer. (Gov't Ex. A, People v. Weems, No. 1-06-1882, at 2 (Ill.App.Ct. July 13, 2009).) Her body was discovered by emergency personnel responding to a report of fire at her home. ( Id. ) Dawn's five children were rescued from the burning house. ( Id. ) Shortly after, the police discovered that Dawn had an order of protection against Weems, and that he had been released from jail the previous day after serving a sentence for domestic battery. ( Id. )
At 11:00 a.m., the police brought Weems to the station to interview him as a person of interest in Dawn's murder. ( Id. ) On October 1, and 2, 2001, Weems confessed, first orally and later on videotape, to killing Dawn and setting fire to her house. ( Id. )
Before trial, Weems moved to quash his arrest on the grounds that it was effected without a warrant, probable cause or a timely probable cause hearing, and to suppress the statements he made to the police as being given under coercion and without Miranda warnings. ( See generally Gov't Ex. O, Common Law Record, Am. Mot. Suppress Statements at C73-76; id., Am. Mot. Quash Arrest & Suppress Evidence at C77-79.) After a lengthy hearing, the court granted the motion to quash, but denied the motion to suppress, deeming incredible plaintiff's allegations of physical abuse and lack of Miranda warnings. (Gov't Ex. R, 9/17/04 Hr'g Tr. at II-23-24, People v. Weems, No. 01 CR 26145 (Cir. Ct. Cook Cnty.); id., 3/8/05 Hr'g Tr. at QQ-11.) The court also found that the Weems' confessions were prompted by incriminating evidence discovered while he was in custody, not by the detention itself. ( Id., 3/8/05 Hr'g Tr. at QQ-15-17.) Thus, the court granted the government's motion for attenuation, and refused to suppress the confessions as products of illegal detention. ( Id. )
In 2005, plaintiff was tried by a jury, which found him guilty of Dawn Bramwell's murder, the attempted murder of her children, aggravated arson, and home invasion. (Gov't Ex. O, Common Law Record, Verdicts at C130-37.) The court sentenced Weems to natural life in prison for murder and to lesser terms for the other offenses. (Gov't Ex. P, Common Law Record, Order of Commitment & Sentence at C280.)
As relevant here, Weems argued on appeal that his statements to the police were involuntary, and there was insufficient evidence to support the attempted murder verdicts. (Gov't Ex. B, Br. & Arg. Def.-Appellant at 2.) The appellate court affirmed his convictions. (Gov't Ex. A, People v. Weems, No. 1-06-1882 at 25 (Ill.App.. Ct. July 13, 2009).)
Weems filed a petition for leave to appeal to the supreme court, arguing only that his statements were involuntary. (Gov't Ex. E, Pet. Leave Appeal at 1-3.) The supreme court denied the petition. (Gov't Ex. F, People v. Weems, No. 108952 (Ill. Nov. 25, 2009).)
Subsequently, Weems filed a petition for post-conviction relief, in which he argued that: (1) his trial counsel was ineffective because she did not: (a) "competently argu[e] the merits of the amended motion to suppress"; (b) call Ellen Lee, who gave evidence incriminating Weems to the police while he was in custody, as a witness during the suppression hearing; (c) object to the government's use of Ellen Lee's perjured testimony; (d) file a pretrial motion for impeaching information; (e) subpoena the police officers' disciplinary files; and (f) object when the government introduced Weems' involuntary statements at trial; (2) his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue on appeal: (a) the issues set forth in his motion for a new trial; (b) that his statements to the police were involuntary; and (c) that the government knowingly used Ellen Lee's perjured testimony; and (3) the trial court's attenuation decision was wrong. (Gov.'t Ex. G, Post-Conviction Common Law Record, Post-Conviction Pet. at C00028-37.) The trial court denied his petition as "frivolous and patently without merit." ( Id., Order Denying Post-Conviction Pet. at C00047, People v. Weems, No. 01 CR 26145 (Cir. Ct. Cook Cnty. Nov. 17, 2010).)
Weems appealed the denial of his post-conviction petition, but argued only that the prosecutorial misconduct claim merited review. (Gov't Ex. H, Br. Arg. Def.-Appellant at 2.) The appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision, and the supreme court denied Weem's petition for leave to appeal. (Gov't Ex. K, People v. Weems, No. 1-11-0176, 2102 WL 6955435, at *7 (Ill.App.. Ct. Nov. 16, 2012; Gov't Ex. N, People v. Weems, No. 115665 (Ill. May 29, 2013).)
In his § 2254 petition, Weems argues that: (1) his trial counsel was ineffective because she did not: (a) effectively argue the suppression motion after the court granted the motion to quash, (b) call Ellen Lee as a witness for the suppression and attenuation hearing, (c) move to suppress or object to the admission into evidence of his CTA bus pass, and (d) request forensic testing of evidence; (2) he was deprived of a fair trial by the government's (a) knowing use of Ellen Lee's perjured testimony, and (b) improper argument to the jury; and (3) the court violated his Fourth Amendment rights by admitting his statements into evidence because (a) he did not voluntarily give them, and (b) they were tainted by his illegal detention. However, Weems did not raise claims 1(c), 1(d), 2(b), or 3(b) at every stage of the state court proceedings. Thus, they are procedurally defaulted. See Pole v. Randolph, 570 F.3d 922, 934 (7th Cir. 2009) (stating that a court can reach the merits of § 2254 claims only if petitioner raised them "through one complete round of state-court review, either on direct appeal or in post-conviction proceedings"); Lewis v. Sternes, 390 F.3d 1019, 1025-26 (7th Cir. 2004) (stating that a complete round of state court review "means that the petitioner must raise each issue at every level in the state court system, including levels at which review is discretionary rather than mandatory.").
The Court can nonetheless address the merits of these claims if Weems shows cause for and prejudice from having failed to raise them in state court, or that he is actually innocent, i.e., "that no reasonable juror would have found him guilty of [murder] but for the error(s) he attributes to the state court." Lewis, 390 F.3d at 1026. ...