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Johnson v. Williams

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

May 20, 2015

BILLY JOHNSON, Petitioner,


JAMES F. HOLDERMAN, District Judge.

Pro se petitioner Billy Johnson ("Johnson") has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254, challenging his state court jury conviction of first degree murder, discharging a firearm during the murder, and armed robbery. (Dkt. No. 1.) For the reasons explained below, Johnson's petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied.


I. Factual Background

The following factual summary was set forth by the Appellate Court of Illinois for the First Judicial District ("Illinois Appellate Court") in Johnson's direct appeal:[1]

The record reflects that [Johnson] was charged with the armed robbery and first degree murder of William Jones, IV. The murder charge was brought under multiple counts alleging intentional murder, knowing murder, and felony murder based on the commission of the armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/9-l(a)(1), 9-l (a) (2), 9-l(a)(3) (West 2004)). Each count in the indictment alleged that [Johnson] had personally discharged a firearm causing Jones' death.
The evidence presented at trial established that in June 2004, Allen Faulkner lived at 1755 East 73rd Street in Chicago, along with his mother, his sister, and his brother, Andrew Buchanan. Faulkner is deaf, as are his mother and Buchanan. For several years, Faulkner has known [Johnson] and codefendant Hannibal Eason, both of whom are also deaf. Faulkner communicates with [Johnson] through sign language but uses a combination of sign language and speaking to communicate with Eason.
On the evening of June 21, 2004, Eason was with Buchanan and Faulkner at their home when [Johnson] arrived and began showing them a semiautomatic handgun. According to Buchanan, Eason told [Johnson] that he wanted to rob someone, and [Johnson] responded that he was "not on that." Though Buchanan testified that he was unable to understand everything that was communicated between Eason and [Johnson], he stated that they had a "whispered" conversation and then both men nodded their heads "like they were coming to some kind of agreement." [Johnson] and Eason left the house and returned with a bottle of vodka, which the men drank while they also smoked some of [Johnson's] marijuana. [Johnson] had the gun in his possession when he went to visit his girlfriend, along with Eason and Faulkner.
The evidence further established that the three men subsequently boarded an eastbound bus on 63rd Street. [Johnson] and Eason sat down near Jones, who was wearing a Chicago Bears football jersey. All of the passengers exited the bus at the Stony Island Avenue terminus, where [Johnson], Eason, Faulkner, and Jones waited for a southbound bus.
Joyce O'Neil testified that she was riding on the eastbound 63rd Street bus along with [Johnson], Eason, Faulkner and Jones. According to O'Neil, [Johnson] and his companions were acting "rowdy" as if they had been drinking. She observed them communicating through sign language, and she heard Eason speaking. O'Neil stated that she exited the bus with the other passengers at the Stony Island Avenue terminus and then waited for the southbound bus with [Johnson], Eason, Faulkner, and Jones. While they waited, Faulkner kept looking at Jones' shoes, and Eason taunted Jones by giving him "looks, " and "messing with" him. O'Neil further stated that she saw [Johnson] and Eason signing to each other a lot. When they boarded the southbound bus, [Johnson] and Eason sat near Jones. Eason started acting "frantic, " and [Johnson] gestured to him to calm down. O'Neil testified that she got off the bus at 73rd Street, as did Jones, [Johnson], and his companions. She walked west toward her house, and Jones, who was followed by [Johnson], walked very fast in the opposite direction. O'Neil stated that she lost sight of Jones when he walked behind a van, but she then heard several gunshots. She later reported the incident to the police and viewed a photo array, from which she identified Faulkner as one of the men on the bus.
Faulkner testified that he observed [Johnson] and Eason discuss robbing Jones while they were riding on the bus, but he was unsure as to exactly when this conversation took place. As they rode south toward 73rd Street, [Johnson] and Eason talked about waiting to rob Jones until after they got off the bus so that there would be fewer people around. The men got off the bus at 73rd Street, and [Johnson] and Eason quickly followed Jones, who "kept looking around" as he walked very fast across the street. Faulkner stated that he observed [Johnson] and Eason scuffle with Jones, and Eason struck Jones with a vodka bottle. According to Faulkner, [Johnson] told Eason to get out of the way and then fired three shots at Jones. Faulkner further stated that he ran from the scene when [Johnson] shot Jones. As he was fleeing, he saw [Johnson] and Eason run into an alley. [Johnson] and Eason later returned to his house. When he was advised by his sister that two police detectives had been looking for him, he told Eason and [Johnson] to leave.
The State presented evidence that the detectives returned to the house later that morning, and Faulkner agreed to accompany them to the police station. The following day, both [Johnson] and Eason were arrested and placed in a line-up, along with Faulkner. O'Neil positively identified all three men as the people she had seen on the bus.
After arranging for a sign-language interpreter in order to communicate with [Johnson], the detectives advised him of his Miranda rights, and he agreed to give a statement which was memorialized in writing by an Assistant State's Attorney and published to the jury.
[Johnson's] statement indicated that, on the evening of June 21, 2004, he had a nine-millimeter semiautomatic handgun when he was with Faulkner and Eason at Faulkner's house. They later went to see his girlfriend, with whom they drank vodka and orange juice. After leaving his girlfriend's house, the three men were waiting for a bus when Jones approached the bus stop. According to [Johnson's] statement, Eason signed to him to look at Jones' Chicago Bears jersey. Eason also signed "we need the money, we need the money, let's set him up." [Johnson] stated that he initially said "no, " but that Eason kept repeating that they needed money. When the bus arrived, everyone boarded, including Jones. Eason began "talking tough" and "getting in [Jones'] face." [Johnson] also stated that he refused to give the gun to Eason, who said he was going to ...

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