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Lenoir v. Williams

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

February 17, 2015

JAMES LENOIR (R62907), Petitioner,
TARRY WILLIAMS, Warden, Stateville Correctional Center, Respondent.


AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

Before the Court is pro se Petitioner James Lenoir's amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). For the following reasons, the Court denies Lenoir's habeas petition. Further, the Court declines to certify any issues for appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).[1]


When considering habeas petitions, federal courts must presume that the factual findings made by the last state courts to decide the case on the merits are correct unless the habeas petitioner rebuts those findings by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Ford v. Wilson, 747 F.3d 944, 947 (7th Cir. 2014). Where Lenoir has not provided clear and convincing evidence to rebut this presumption of correctness, the following factual background is based on the Illinois Appellate Court's factual findings in People v. Lenoir, X-XX-XXXX (1st Dist. Dec. 17, 2010) (unpublished), and the post-conviction Circuit Court of Cook County in People v. Lenoir, 04-CR-0151701 (Ill. Cir. Ct. March 8, 2012) (unpublished).

I. Factual Background

On September 18, 2003, police arrested Lenoir at his mother's home in connection with the murder of Deonte Wright and attempted murder of Jose Perez that took place on September 16, 2003, near the intersection of Western Avenue and Madison Street in Chicago, Illinois. After his arrest, Lenoir gave a videotaped statement to the police describing his involvement in the shooting. Thereafter, the State charged Lenoir and his co-defendants, Donald Phillips, Leondray McClennan, and Earl Faber, with first degree murder and attempted murder.

A. Motions to Suppress

1. First Suppression Motion and Hearing

Prior to his jury trial, Lenoir filed a motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence claiming that his arrest was illegal because it was made without the authority of a search or arrest warrant in violation of Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980). Numerous individuals testified at the suppression hearing, including individuals who were present at the time of Lenoir's arrest on September 18, 2003. Testimony revealed that Lenoir's mother, Linda Cosby, lived at 2319 West Jackson Boulevard in Chicago. Cosby testified that on September 18, 2003, she was inside her home with about ten family members for a party. She further testified that she was upstairs when the police officers entered her home. Other individuals who testified at the suppression hearing stated that they were downstairs and that the police did not show them a warrant for Lenoir's arrest nor did they "knock and announce" when entering Cosby's home.

Chicago Police Detective Thomas Flaherty also testified at the suppression hearing, stating that he was working on the investigation of Wright's murder with other officers at Area 4 police headquarters. On September 18, 2003, another detective informed Detective Flaherty that Lenoir's co-defendant McClennan had given a statement implicating Lenoir in Wright's murder. After receiving this information, Detective Flaherty testified that he and other police officers went to 2319 West Jackson Boulevard to arrest Lenoir. He stated that the front door of the house was open, but the screen door was closed. He and the other officers then walked to the screen door and identified themselves as police officers. Detective Flaherty testified that he heard someone from inside say "come on in." The person asked the officers what they wanted, to which Detective Flaherty responded that he was looking for Lenoir. The police officers then arrested Lenoir.

After the suppression hearing, the Circuit Court judge concluded that the police had probable cause to arrest Lenoir and that there was no Payton violation. In particular, the Circuit Court concluded that-after listening to the witnesses and observing their demeanor-Detective Flaherty's testimony was clear and convincing that the police officers were invited into Cosby's home.

2. Second Suppression Motion and Hearing

Lenoir also filed another motion to suppress prior to his jury trial in which he alleged that during his interrogation, he was subjected to various forms of physical and mental coercion, including being tightly handcuffed to a wall, beaten with a phone book, and held without food for over twenty-four hours. Lenoir also alleged that the police did not give him Miranda warnings prior to the start of his interrogation and that the police denied his request for a lawyer.

At the hearing on the second suppression motion, the State called Detective Flaherty, Detective Michael McDermott, and Assistant State's Attorney ("ASA") Catherine Gregorovic to testify. Detective Flaherty testified that he interviewed Lenoir in the early morning hours of September 19, 2003, and that Detective McDermott and ASA Gregorovic interviewed Lenoir in the late afternoon of September 19, 2003. Detectives Flaherty and McDermott, along with ASA Gregorovic, denied all of Lenoir's allegations. In addition, ASA Gregorovic had taken Lenoir's videotaped statement and the State played the statement for the judge to show Lenoir's physical appearance and mannerisms. The Circuit Court found the State's witnesses credible and denied Lenoir's second motion to suppress.

B. Trial Testimony

During Lenoir's August 2006 jury trial, the State's primary witness was Lenoir's co-defendant Donald Phillips. At trial, Phillips testified that on September 16, 2003, co-defendant Leondray McClellan's cousin, Robert, was shot outside of Lenoir's house on West Jackson Boulevard at the St. Stephens Terrace apartments. According to Phillips, the Vice Lords street gang controlled this area. Phillips testified that he was a member of the Four Corner Hustlers, a street gang affiliated with the Vice Lords, that co-defendant Earl Faber was a member of the Traveling Vice Lords, and that Lenoir was a member of the Black Disciples street gang. Despite their membership in rival gangs, Lenoir and Phillips were friends because they lived and grew up in St. Stephens Terrace.

After Robert's shooting, Lenoir agreed to drive Phillips and Faber to the hospital to visit Robert. Phillips testified that after visiting the hospital, the group planned to retaliate against the Black Disciples for shooting Robert. Phillips further testified that he and Farber were carrying guns. After Lenoir picked up co-defendant McClellan, the group was at the intersection of Oakley Boulevard and Madison Street where they identified a pair of Black Disciples who Phillips knew. The group agreed to "get them" and Lenoir drove westbound toward them through an alley. As the group exited the alley onto Western Avenue, Lenoir saw the victim Deonte Wright exiting a Walgreens store near the intersection of Western Avenue and Madison Street. Phillips testified that Lenoir identified Wright as a member of the Black Disciples, after which Faber asked Lenoir if he was sure. Lenoir responded "I'm sure man; I know what I'm talking about." Lenoir then stopped the car near the front of the alley, and Faber exited the car followed by Phillips.

At that time, Faber approached Wright and started shooting, after which Wright ran onto Western Avenue and collapsed. Faber stood over him and shot him again. Phillips and Faber then ran toward the alley where Lenoir and McClellan were waiting inside the car. Phillips slipped and fell as he ran to the car. Phillips testified that Faber then got into the car and left the scene with Lenoir and McClellan, but without him. Phillips ran to St. Stephens Terrace where he reconnected with the group on the seventh floor of one of the apartment buildings. Phillips testified that when they were on the seventh floor, he saw Faber remove shells from his gun. The group then agreed not to talk about the murder with anyone and then separated.

On cross-examination, Phillips acknowledged that he entered into a plea agreement with the State in exchange for his testimony against Lenoir. Also on cross-examination, counsel tried to establish that Lenoir did not drive Faber to St. Stephens Terrace after Wright's shooting. To that end, defense counsel asked Phillips whether he had previously told the police that he and Faber went back to St. Stephens Terrace together, but Phillips denied making any such statement. The other shooting victim, Jose Perez, also testified at Lenoir's jury trial. He stated that on September 16, 2003, he was driving north on Western Avenue to a friend's house. Perez testified that he stopped for a traffic light at the intersection of Western Avenue and Madison Street. He stated that he felt something very hot on his forehead and then lost consciousness. He awoke in the Cook County Hospital after undergoing surgery to remove a bullet from his head.

At trial, the State published Lenoir's videotaped statement to the jury. In his statement, Lenoir recounted the shooting of McClellan's cousin, Robert, who was Lenoir's friend. Lenoir stated that he did not witness Robert's shooting, but saw a man with a gun in his hand enter a white Ford Crown Victoria and take off. Lenoir stated that he knew the car was associated with the Black Disciples. After Robert was transported to the hospital, Lenoir told Faber and Phillips that the Black Disciples were responsible for shooting Robert. Faber asked Lenoir if he would drive Phillips and Faber to the Walgreens store near the intersection of Western Avenue and Madison Street, which Lenoir described as the middle of the Black Disciples' area. Also, Lenoir acknowledged that both Faber and Phillips had guns and that Faber wanted to retaliate for Robert's shooting. Lenoir agreed to drive Faber and Phillips to the Walgreens store.

Furthermore, Lenoir stated that they drove to the intersection, they picked up McClellan and that near the intersection Faber saw the victim Wright and asked the group if he was a Black Disciple. Lenoir then identified Wright as a Black Disciple. Thereafter, Lenoir stopped the car and Faber and Phillips jumped out. Faber and Phillips reached into their back pockets and retrieved their guns. Lenoir stated that Faber then began shooting in Wright's direction and when Lenoir saw Wright fall, he drove off. After the shooting, Faber and Phillips ran toward the car. In his videotaped statement, Lenoir said that he did not stop the car to let them in. He further stated that he parked the car at a liquor store and gave the keys to McClellan. A few hours later, he saw Faber and Phillips ...

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