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Donelson v. Butler

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

December 8, 2014

KIM BUTLER, Warden, Respondent

Anthony Donelson, United States of America, ex . rel., Petitioner, Pro se, Menard, IL.


Manish S. Shah, United States District Judge.

Anthony Donelson is serving a 45-year sentence in state custody for the murder of his neighbor, Maynard Speed. He now petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. As discussed below, Donelson's claims were either (1) procedurally defaulted or (2) resolved by the state courts through a reasonable application of federal law, and Donelson does not fall within any narrow exception permitting federal habeas review under these circumstances. The petition is denied, and I decline to issue a certificate of appealability.

I. Background

Speed was murdered in November 1999, and the police arrested Donelson in May 2000. After an evidentiary hearing, the state trial court denied Donelson's pretrial motion to suppress his statements (including a videotaped statement). [16-16] at 99-117.[1] The judge found that Donelson's suppression hearing testimony was not credible, that he was given his Miranda rights, and that he voluntarily made the statements at issue. Id. Donelson's jury trial was held in 2006.[2] After two hours of deliberation, the jurors announced that they were divided 6-6. [16-18] at 344-45. They continued deliberating, reviewed the videotaped statement, requested certain transcripts of trial testimony, and found Donelson guilty of first-degree murder on the second day of deliberations. See [16-14] at 93-98; [16-14] at 131; [16-18] at 360.

A. Federal Habeas Standards

Donelson unsuccessfully appealed his conviction through the state courts, and his state post-conviction petition was also denied. [16-1]; [16-6]; [16-14] at 200; [16-11]; [16-13]. Federal review of these state-court decisions is limited.[3] With respect to a state court's determination of an issue on the merits, habeas relief can be granted only if the decision " was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, " or " was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2); see also Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 131 S.Ct. 770, 783-84, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011). Federal courts must presume that the facts related by the last state court to pass on the merits are correct, subject to clear and convincing evidence rebutting that presumption. Coleman v. Hardy, 690 F.3d 811, 815 (7th Cir. 2012).

" [S]tate 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." O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845, 119 S.Ct. 1728, 144 L.Ed.2d 1 (1999). If a petitioner asserts a claim for relief that he did not present in the first instance to the state courts, the claim is procedurally defaulted and " federal courts may not address those claims unless the petitioner demonstrates cause and prejudice or a fundamental miscarriage of justice if the claims are ignored." Byers v. Basinger, 610 F.3d 980, 985 (7th Cir. 2010).

B. Facts

On November 9, 1999, Speed was stabbed multiple times and beaten in his apartment. [16-1] at 1-2 ( People v. Donelson, 383 Ill.App.3d 1142, 968 N.E.2d 217, 360 Ill.Dec. 138 (Ill.App. 1st Dist. Aug. 8, 2008) (affirming conviction on direct appeal)). The apartment building was a Chicago Housing Authority building for the elderly and disabled, and Donelson was Speed's neighbor. Id. at 2.[4] Donelson was a member of the building's " tenant patrol" and patrolled the hallways providing extra security. Id. at 17.

The evidence at trial included Donelson's videotaped statement admitting to the crime. Id. at 2. At trial, Donelson testified that his confession was coerced. Id. at 3; see also [16-18] at 27-135 (petitioner's trial testimony). According to Donelson, he confessed only after a police officer beat him, slammed him into a wall, and kicked him in the groin. [16-1] at 3. Donelson's blood-stained underwear (worn at the time of his arrest) was admitted into evidence, along with a stipulation that the DNA in the bloodstains belonged to Donelson. [16-18] at 94, 166.

Other evidence included Donelson's fingerprint on Speed's money clip found at the crime scene, and Donelson's palm print on a plastic bag that contained a towel, a pellet gun, a knife and suspenders--those four items were stained with Speed's blood. [16-17] at 229, 240, 310-23. Donelson's fingerprints were on a CO2 cartridge found inside the pellet gun. [16-17] at 237. The plastic bag (containing the pellet gun, towel, knife, and suspenders) was found a few weeks after the murder in the penthouse area of the apartment building. [16-17] at 150-159.

1. The Videotaped Statement

In the videotaped statement from May 2000, Donelson said that he tried to collect a debt owed to him by Speed, and went into Speed's apartment with a pellet gun and a knife. [16-1] at 2. Donelson admitted that he repeatedly stabbed Speed, looked through Speed's pants, removed the money clip, and took $85 from Speed's wallet. Id. Donelson said he kicked the wallet under the refrigerator, and wrapped the gun, knife, and some suspenders in a towel and plastic bag. Id. He said he hid the items on the penthouse floor of the building. Id.

2. The Wallet

In January 2000, building staff cleaned Speed's apartment. [16-1] at 3; [16-17] at 120-123. While they were cleaning, Donelson came to the door and asked if they found Speed's wallet from under the refrigerator. [16-1] at 3. One of the cleaners testified that he did not believe it would have been possible for Donelson to see the wallet from where he was standing. Id. The workers thought Donelson ...

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