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Thomas v. Dorethy

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

November 17, 2014

MAURICE THOMAS, Petitioner.
v.
STEPHANIE DORETHY, Warden, Hill Correctional Center, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN, District Judge.

In July 2002, an Illinois jury convicted Maurice Thomas of first-degree murder. Thomas, proceeding pro se, petitions for a writ of habeas corpus[1] on several grounds: 1) the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter; 2) the trial court also erred in refusing to suppress Thomas's involuntary confession; and 3) his trial counsel was ineffective both for failing to argue that a learning disability rendered Thomas's confession voluntary and for failing to request the trial court to ask potential jurors certain questions about their impartiality. For the reasons stated below, the court denies Thomas's petition.

BACKGROUND

On October 10, 1999, Thomas, along with several other men, attacked Demetrius Thomas, who is unrelated to the petitioner. People v. Thomas, No. 1-02-2907, 867 N.E.2d 120 (Ill.App.Ct. Apr. 29, 2004) (table). Two months later, Demetrius died of his injuries.

Prior to trial, Thomas moved to suppress a written confession, arguing that he did not make it voluntarily. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing, at which multiple police officers, a state prosecutor, and Thomas all testified. Thomas testified that police officers informed him of his rights but that they denied his request to make a phone call and that one officer slapped Thomas several times. The trial court denied Thomas's suppression motion, finding that Thomas's confession was voluntary.

Illinois charged Thomas with first-degree murder under an accomplice-liability theory. At the close of trial, the trial court denied Thomas's request to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter. The jury convicted Thomas, and the trial court sentenced Thomas to 32 years of imprisonment.

The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed Thomas's conviction. First, the state appellate court found that Thomas's confession was voluntary. The state court determined that police officers repeatedly advised Thomas of his Miranda rights, and it also found Thomas not credible in stating that police struck him and denied him access to a phone.

Further, the state appellate court concluded that Thomas's trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to request that the trial court ask the venire certain questions relating to impartiality. The state court found that even if trial court should have made such a request, Thomas suffered no resulting prejudice because the trial court sufficiently questioned the venire about impartiality. Additionally, the state appellate court held that the evidence presented did not warrant an involuntary manslaughter instruction under Illinois law.

On October 6, 2004, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Thomas leave to appeal. People v. Thomas, No. 98673, 823 N.E.2d 976 (Ill. Oct. 6, 2004). The trial court denied Thomas's petition for post-conviction relief, and the Illinois Appellate Court again affirmed. People v. Thomas, No. 1-04-2038, 929 N.E.2d 170 (Ill.App.Ct. Nov. 8, 2006). The appellate court held that Thomas's trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to argue that a learning disability rendered Thomas's confession involuntary. The Illinois Supreme Court again denied Thomas leave to appeal, People v. Thomas, No. 103861, 919 N.E.2d 363 (Ill. Sept. 30, 2009), and denied reconsideration.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal courts may grant habeas relief only on the ground that an inmate "is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A court may not grant a habeas petition for "any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings" unless the state proceedings:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

§ 2254(d). The "unreasonable application" clause authorizes federal courts to grant the writ when a "state-court decision unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner's case." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 409 (2000). For a federal court to grant habeas relief, the ...


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