United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
CHARLES P. KOCORAS, District Judge.
This case comes before the Court on the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by petitioner Darryl Hamilton ("Hamilton") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Section 2254"). For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the petition and declines to issue a certificate of appealability.
In 1999, Hamilton was charged with aggravated kidnapping. Following a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, he was sentenced to life in prison pursuant to Illinois's Habitual Criminal Act (the "HCA"). 720 ILCS 5/33B-1 (2006). Hamilton is currently incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, where he is in the custody of the warden of that facility, respondent Tarry Williams ("Respondent").
The following facts and procedural posture relevant to Hamilton's Section 2254 petition are drawn from the state court record. This Court will presume that the state courts' factual determinations are correct for the purposes of habeas review unless contested by Hamilton. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Kidd v. Lemke, 734 F.3d 696, 703 (7th Cir. 2013).
I. The Kidnapping and Hamilton's Trial
On June 29, 1999, James Williams ("Williams") and Monique Griffith ("Griffith") walked out of Williams' apartment building to leave for the airport when they were approached by members of the Vice Lords gang (the "Vice Lords"). These members drew guns on Williams and Griffith, forced them by gunpoint into a van, and sped away. Hamilton sat in the van as Williams and Griffith were thrown into it by the Vice Lords. A neighbor watched the incident occur and saw the van and its occupants drive away. Shortly after the van started moving, a police chase ensued where Hamilton was subsequently apprehended after a foot chase.
Hamilton originally met with the Vice Lords because he thought they wanted to purchase drugs. Hamilton testified at trial that he learned prior to the incident that the Vice Lords were not interested in purchasing drugs, but were merely using the meeting with him as a pretext for getting revenge on Williams for selling them "bad drugs." As he learned the Vice Lords' true intention, he "told them, hell no, I am not going to get involved in that[.]" The Vice Lords refused to let Hamilton leave, beat and pistol-whipped him, and threw him into the van before kidnapping Williams and Griffith. They also threatened to kill his family unless he agreed to cooperate and call Williams. Hamilton made the call and told Williams that he was coming over with friends to purchase a half-kilo of cocaine.
On February 20, 2004, after a bench trial, Hamilton was found guilty of aggravated kidnapping. On March 28, 2006, Hamilton was sentenced to a term of natural life imprisonment.
II. Post-Trial Proceedings
Hamilton directly appealed his conviction to the Illinois Appellate Court, which denied relief. He then filed an unsuccessful petition for leave to appeal ("PLA") to the Illinois Supreme Court. Next, he filed a pro se state post-conviction petition and was appointed counsel to amend his post-conviction petition, which was dismissed. He appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court, which affirmed the trial court's denial of post-conviction relief. Hamilton then filed a PLA, which was denied. Hamilton has not filed any other petitions in state court in relation to this conviction. He has not filed any previous petitions for habeas corpus relief in federal court with respect to this conviction.
III. Hamilton's Section 2254 Petition
Hamilton's habeas petition raises the following claims:
A. The State failed to prove the element of secret confinement beyond a reasonable doubt. (Claim A)
B. The State withheld exculpatory evidence about Williams' status as a gang member and drug dealer. (Claim B)
C. Hamilton did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his right to a jury trial. (Claim C)
D. Hamilton was improperly sentenced under a sentencing statute in which he was ...