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Hollis v. Lamb

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

October 25, 2016

MARTE HOLLIS, Petitioner,
NICHOLAS LAMB, Assistant Warden, Stateville Correctional Center, Respondent.


          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge:

         After a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Marte Hollis was convicted of the first-degree murder of Matthew Judkins and sentenced to forty-five years in prison. Hollis has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Hollis claims that 1) the trial court denied him due process and a fair trial by refusing to admit evidence of Judkins' violent character; 2) the prosecution intentionally withheld evidence of Judkins' prior convictions in violation of Brady v. Maryland; and 3) trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in violation of the Sixth Amendment. Respondent argues that Hollis has failed to assert claims under federal law, that all his claims are procedurally defaulted, and that all his claims lack merit. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Hollis's petition.


         The following is a summary of the relevant facts and procedural history of this case, taken from the Illinois Appellate Court's decision in Hollis's appeal of his petition for post-conviction relief. Additional facts relevant to Hollis's ineffective assistance claims are discussed later in this decision.

         Hollis dated Chantelle Moore for many years before they broke up in October 2004. They had two children; Chantelle Moore also had a daughter named Chanell from a previous relationship. On February 17, 2005, Matthew Judkins visited Chantelle at her home. He sat in her bedroom while Chantelle took a shower in a non-adjoining bathroom. While she was showering, her son came in to tell her that Hollis was at the door. Chantelle told her son to tell Hollis that she was not home, but Chantelle's daughter, Chanell, let Hollis into the house. When Chantelle came out of the shower, she found Hollis in the hallway.

         Hollis told Chantelle that he wanted to get some of his clothes and opened the bedroom door. When he saw Judkins, Hollis asked him what he was doing in Hollis's house. Judkins responded that it was not Hollis's house, and Chantelle returned to the bathroom to get dressed. While in the bathroom, Chantelle heard a gunshot. She came out of the bathroom and saw Hollis standing in the hallway. She watched him fire two shots at the closed bedroom door and then flee.

         Chanell also observed Hollis open the bedroom door, talk to Judkins, and then pull out his gun. She testified that Judkins quickly closed the bedroom door, and Hollis tried to force the door open. Once Chanell heard the first gunshot, she ran out of the house and saw a van sitting in the driveway. She recognized the driver as Hollis's friend, Lamont Beard. She watched Hollis run out of the house and jump into the van.

         Judkins died from multiple gunshot wounds. Two days later, the police interviewed Hollis at the police station and did not record the interview. Hollis also agreed to give a videotaped statement, which was consistent with his interview. Hollis admitted to shooting Judkins and said he had been afraid of Judkins, who was known to have committed robberies and shot at police. At trial, Chantelle testified that she kept a gun in her bedroom closet but that it would not have been visible from the bedroom. The police also discovered a knife on an ottoman near the chair where Judkins had been sitting.

         At trial, Hollis presented a theory of self-defense. Defense counsel moved to introduce testimony by Officer Rick Anthony of the South Holland Police Department in order to prove that Judkins had a violent character. Officer Anthony was not involved with the investigation of Hollis, but he had interacted with Judkins on a prior occasion. Defense counsel made an offer of proof that Officer Anthony would testify about an incident in which Judkins attempted to evade the police and was ultimately charged with armed violence and controlled substance offenses. The trial court found that the evidence was not admissible under Illinois law.

         Defense counsel also called Beard to testify at trial. Beard testified that Hollis was not angry when they arrived at Chantelle's home, that he heard loud noises but did not know what they were, and that he did not see a gun when Hollis left the house. This was inconsistent with his grand jury testimony, in which he said that he recognized the sounds as gunshots and saw Hollis run from the house with a gun.

         Hollis was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to forty-five years in prison. He filed a direct appeal in which he argued that the trial court erred in denying the admission of Officer Anthony's testimony. The appellate court rejected this argument and affirmed the conviction. Hollis filed a petition for leave to appeal (PLA) to the Illinois Supreme Court, which was also denied.

         Hollis, represented by private counsel, then filed a post-conviction petition, alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Specifically, Hollis alleged that trial counsel: (1) was ineffective in failing to locate additional witnesses to testify to Judkins' violent character; (2) should not have called Beard as a witness; (3) erred in stipulating to an inaccurate autopsy report that indicated Judkins died of "shotgun" wounds instead of "gunshot" wounds; (4) was ineffective in failing to file a motion to suppress Hollis's statements at the police station; and (5) was ineffective in failing to request discovery sanctions against the prosecution for the destruction of a relevant 911 tape. The prosecution filed a motion to dismiss this petition, which the state trial court granted.

         Hollis then filed a notice of appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court and was appointed new counsel. Appointed counsel presented an entirely different argument on appeal-that original post-conviction counsel was ineffective-and did not argue ineffective assistance of trial counsel.

         On April 2, 2014, before the prosecution had filed its response brief on the post-conviction appeal, Hollis filed a pro se motion asking the appellate court to terminate his appointed counsel and grant him leave to file a pro se brief. Hollis explained that he disagreed with appointed counsel's decision not to argue on appeal the constitutional claims he had asserted in his original post-conviction petition. Specifically, Hollis expressed his concern that due to counsel's failure to raise these claims, he might forfeit his ability to raise them in a later habeas petition. On April 16, the appellate court summarily denied Hollis' motions.

         On April 23, 2014, Hollis filed a pro se motion for reconsideration of the April 16 order; the appellate court denied this motion. On May 16, Hollis filed a pro se reply to the state's response brief, which the appellate court interpreted as a motion for leave to file a pro se supplemental reply brief. On June 12, 2014, the appellate court denied this motion. On March 16, 2015, Hollis filed a PLA with the Illinois Supreme Court, again asserting the merits of his original constitutional claims and alleging errors by the appellate court. On May 27, 2015, the Illinois Supreme Court denied his petition.

         Hollis then filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus. ...

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