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Maclin v. Pfister

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

August 23, 2016

GEORGE MACLIN, Petitioner,
RANDY PFISTER, Respondent.


          Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge

         George Maclin filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his 2007 state court conviction for first-degree felony murder.[1]R. 1, Habeas Pet.[2] For the reasons stated below, Maclin’s petition is denied and this Court will not issue a certificate of appealability.

         I. Background

         In reviewing a petition for habeas corpus relief under § 2254, a federal court must presume that the factual findings made by the last state court to decide the case on the merits are correct. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Coleman v. Hardy, 690 F.3d 811, 815 (7th Cir. 2015). This presumption can be overcome if the petitioner rebuts the state court’s findings by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). Because Maclin has not presented clear and convincing evidence to rebut this presumption of correctness, the Court adopts the facts set forth by the Illinois Appellate Court in People v. Maclin, 12 N.E.3d 648 (Ill.App.Ct. 2014)-the last state court to address Maclin’s arguments on the merits. Pursuant to Rule 5 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, the facts are also supplemented where appropriate by the state-court record lodged with this Court. See Todd v. Schomig, 283 F.3d 842, 846 (7th Cir. 2002); United States ex rel. Parish v. Hodge, 73 F.Supp.3d 895, 899 n.1 (N.D. Ill. 2014).

         A. Arrest and Trial

         On July 3, 2002, Ernest McGhee was stabbed in the neck and died. People v. Maclin, 12 N.E.3d 648, 650 (Ill.App.Ct. 2014). That same day, the police arrested George Maclin for McGhee’s murder. Id. On July 30, 2002, Maclin was indicted on charges of murder and armed robbery. Id. The State of Illinois proceeded to trial on one count of felony murder predicated on armed robbery. Id.; 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(3) (felony murder statute); 720 ILCS 5/18-2(a)(1) (armed robbery statute). Almost five year later, on May 16, 2007, Maclin’s trial began in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. Id.

         1. Testimony of Emmett Brown

         At the time of Maclin’s trial, Emmett Brown worked as a mechanic. Maclin, 12 N.E.3d at 650. Brown testified that he had been friends with McGhee for six or seven years. Id. He stated that at around 1 a.m. on July 3, 2002, he drove to a vacant lot on Adams Street and Western Avenue in Chicago to drink beer; he and his friends often visited that lot on weekends and during the week after work. Id. While sitting in the passenger seat of his car, Brown opened a beer and began talking to his friend Vearb Smith. Id. Brown stated that he then noticed Maclin walking back and forth in the vacant lot and heard Maclin say “he wasn’t going to let nobody else take no money from him” and “whoever do it he going to kill him.” Id.

         A little later, Brown saw another car pull up and park behind him. Maclin, 12 N.E.2d at 650. A woman named Helen was driving and McGhee was in the passenger seat. Id. at 650-51. When McGhee got out of the car, Maclin immediately approached McGhee and began arguing about $5 that McGhee owed Maclin. Id. at 651. Brown testified that Maclin told McGhee, “you going to pay me my money, ” and McGhee said, “I don’t have it.” Id. Maclin then told McGhee to go inside a nearby house and get the money. Id. McGhee went inside the house, but came out empty-handed. Id. Maclin then began to chase McGhee around one of the vehicles in the lot before pulling out a knife. Id. Brown stated that Maclin made a stabbing motion with the knife and said “you going to get my money or I’m going to kill you.” Id. McGhee then ran across the street, picked up some “rocks or bricks, ” and began throwing them at Maclin. Id. Maclin then walked over to a blue van-which McGhee had been servicing earlier that day-parked on Adams Street. Id. at 650-51. Maclin took McGhee’s toolbox from the van. Id. at 651. McGhee told Maclin, “you can’t take my toolbox, I need that”; but Maclin responded, “you going to give me my money.” Id. Maclin then put down the toolbox and began to chase McGhee again. Id. McGhee started to run away, but ran out of breath and slowed to a walk. Id. McGhee fell backward, hitting his head on the ground, which gave Maclin time to catch up, to get on top of McGhee, and to pin down McGhee’s arms. Id. Brown testified that Maclin grabbed McGhee’s hands and “slowly stuck [McGhee] in the neck.” Id. Maclin then got up and walked away. Id.

         Brown testified that after Maclin stabbed McGhee in the neck, Brown got out of his car to help McGhee. Maclin, 12 N.E.3d at 651. A woman named Rebecca Beck also came over to help. Id. Both Brown and Beck helped McGhee walk over to the blue van. Id. Once they reached the blue van, McGhee collapsed against a light pole and began gasping for air. Id. Brown called the paramedics. Id. Brown stated that he went to the police station to give a statement and then returned to his car in the vacant lot. Id. Brown and Smith began trying to figure out Maclin’s last name because they knew him simply as “George.” Id. Brown and Smith remembered that Maclin had some “medical papers” with him when he was around the area of the vacant lot. Id. When they found Maclin’s mail on the side of a building near the vacant lot, Brown called the police. Id. Both Brown and Smith brought Maclin’s mail to the police station. Id. Brown testified that later that night, on July 3, 2002, he saw Maclin in the area of the vacant lot and called the police. Id. When the police arrived, Brown pointed them in the direction of Western Avenue and Jackson Boulevard. Id. On July 4, 2002, Brown identified Maclin in a lineup. Id.

         2. Testimony of Vearb Smith

         Vearb Smith testified that he and McGhee were friends and had worked as mechanics together. Maclin, 12 N.E.3d at 651. Smith stated that in the early morning of July 3, 2002, he was asleep on the second floor of a building located at 2337 West Adams Street. Id. Smith heard a commotion and went downstairs to see what was going on.[3] Id. As he stood on the porch of his building, he saw McGhee lying on the ground with Maclin “standing on top of [McGhee].” Id. Maclin then walked away from McGhee, and McGhee started to yell for help. Id. Beck helped McGhee get up and walk toward Smith. Id. Smith noticed that McGhee was holding his neck, and saw McGhee collapse at the base of a light pole near the blue van. Id. Smith stated that he remained at the scene and spoke with a police officer. Id. Smith testified that later that morning, he was on the porch of his building talking to Brown. Id. Smith and Brown wanted to learn Maclin’s last name. Id. Smith remembered that Maclin had been drinking in the area of the vacant lot with his “V.A. papers, ” id. at 651-52, presumably a reference to Veterans Affairs documents. Smith stated that he went to the side of a building where Maclin had been drinking, retrieved Maclin’s papers, and gave the papers to Brown. Id. at 652. Smith and Brown then called the police and took the papers to the police station. Id. On July 4, 2002, Smith identified Maclin in a lineup. Id.

         3. Testimony of Chicago Police Officer Todd Stremplewski

         Chicago Police Officer Todd Stremplewski testified that he and his partner were the original officers on the scene, where they learned that a man had been stabbed with a knife. Maclin, 12 N.E.3d at 652. The next day, on July 4, 2002, Officer Stremplewski and his partner responded to a radio call regarding property found at the vacant lot of 2339 West Adams Street. Id. When he arrived at the lot, Officer Stremplewski spoke with Marilyn Green. Id. He testified that Green took him to the area where McGhee was killed and directed him to a nearby garbage can. Id. Officer Stremplewski looked in the garbage can and found a knife. Id. The parties stipulated that the knife had a bloodstain on it which was consistent with McGhee’s DNA profile. Id.

         4. Testimony of Chicago Police Detective David March

         Chicago Police Detective David March was assigned as a follow-up detective to investigate McGhee’s killing. Maclin, 12 N.E.3d at 652. Detective March testified that the original case report stated that the offender was named “George.” Id. Detective March reviewed the available reports and learned that some mail addressed to Maclin had been recovered. Id. At 11:30 p.m. on July 3, 2002, Detective March received a telephone call from Brown; Brown informed March that Maclin was back at the scene of McGhee’s killing. Id. When Detective March arrived at the scene, Beck directed him to a Chicago Transit Authority bus that was going westbound on Jackson Boulevard. Id. Detective March and his fellow detectives stopped the bus and took Maclin into custody. Id. At the police station, Detective March advised Maclin of his Miranda rights and interviewed him. Id. Maclin denied having any knowledge of, or involvement in, McGhee’s death. Id. Maclin stated that he did not remember where he was during the incident. Id. Detective March testified that as part of processing, he removed Maclin’s shirt to note any scars, tattoos, or other marks that could be used for identification purposes. Id. When he did this, Detective March noticed an abrasion on Maclin’s left armpit area. Id. When Detective March asked Maclin about this, Maclin replied that the injury occurred two weeks earlier but that he did not remember how it happened. Id. Detective March did not notice any blood on Maclin’s shirt. Id.

         5. Testimony of Medical Examiner Mitra Kalelkar

         Dr. Mitra Kalelkar testified that she is a forensic pathologist and the one who conducted McGhee’s autopsy. Maclin, 12 N.E.3d at 652. Dr. Kalelkar stated that the cause of McGhee’s death was internal bleeding as a result of a stab wound to the left side of his neck. Id. She concluded that McGhee’s death was a homicide. Id.

         6. Maclin’s Testimony

         Maclin testified in his own defense. He testified that on July 3, 2002, he was sitting in a white van in the area of Adams Street and Western Avenue, smoking crack cocaine with a friend named “Willie.” Maclin, 12 N.E.3d at 652. Maclin stated that he saw McGhee in the area and approached him. Id. Maclin asked McGhee if he had the money that he owed Maclin. Id. Maclin stated that McGhee looked at him in an angry way and that he felt scared. Id. Maclin again asked McGhee about the money, and McGhee became “indignant.” Id. McGhee stated that he did not owe Maclin any money, nor would he give Maclin any money. Id. Maclin testified that he backed away from McGhee because McGhee had several people with him. Id. at 652-53. McGhee then came toward Maclin “in a manner like he was getting ready to reach out.” Id. Maclin testified that he was scared and reacted by hitting McGhee. Id. Maclin then went back to the white van, got into the driver’s seat, and smoked another bag of crack cocaine with Willie. Id.

         A little later, McGhee was standing next to the driver’s side of the white van. Maclin, 12 N.E.3d at 653. McGhee asked Maclin to get out. Id. As Maclin opened the van door, he felt a sharp sting in the area of his armpit, as if he was “being stuck with something.” Id. Maclin looked down and noticed McGhee pulling his hand back. Id. Maclin saw something in McGhee’s hand but could not tell what it was. Id. Maclin testified that he fell back into the van and picked up his knife from the seat. Id. Maclin then noticed a toolbox on the floor of the driver’s side of the van. Id. Maclin stated that he grabbed the toolbox to use as a shield. Id.

         Maclin testified that he stepped outside the white van with the toolbox in his right hand and the knife in his left. Maclin, 12 N.E.3d at 653. He backed up toward Western Avenue to get away from McGhee because McGhee had several friends with him. Id. As Maclin walked away, he noticed McGhee following him, so Maclin stopped and turned toward McGhee. Id. McGhee also stopped and was about 15 or 20 feet away from Maclin. Id. Maclin began walking again, but soon noticed McGhee jogging toward him. Id. Maclin turned toward McGhee and said “man leave me alone.” Id. Maclin began walking again and turned around to see where McGhee’s friends were; they were standing back, but McGhee was standing right in front of Maclin. Id. Maclin testified that McGhee stepped back and the two men got tangled and fell. Id. Maclin fell on top of McGhee and noticed that McGhee was holding an object resembling a screwdriver. Id. Maclin grabbed McGhee’s hands and put his knees on McGhee’s arms. Id. Maclin testified that “next think [sic] I know, [Beck] is standing there.” Id. Beck told the two men to “stop all of this” and to “give me those things.” Id. Maclin testified that he handed the knife to Beck and began to get off McGhee, but noticed that McGhee still had an object in his hand. Id. Maclin grabbed McGhee’s hand and Beck took the object from McGhee. Id. Maclin then got off of McGhee and walked away; McGhee walked in the other direction. Id. Maclin testified that Beck yelled “somebody is bleeding.” Id. At that time, Maclin did not know McGhee had been stabbed. Id.

         Maclin also testified that he sat in a park until morning because he lived at Woodside Manor and the doors were locked for the night. Maclin, 12 N.E.3d at 653. Woodside Manor is a health care and assisted living facility in Chicago Heights, Illinois. Id. At 6:30 a.m. on July 3, 2002, Maclin took the bus to St. James Hospital to have his wound treated. Id. Maclin testified that his wound was flushed and bandaged, and that he was given medication. Id. Maclin was then released from the hospital. Id. After he arrived back home at Woodside Manor, Maclin went to see “Nurse Mary.” Id. Maclin stated that Nurse Mary works at Woodside Manor and fills prescriptions for patients. Id. Nurse Mary looked at Maclin’s wound and gave him medication. Id. Later in the day on ...

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