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Woods v. Pfister

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

January 11, 2017

JOHNNIE WOODS, Petitioner,
v.
RANDY PFISTER, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Samuel Der-Yeghiayan United States District Court Judge.

         This matter is before the court on Petitioner Johnnie Woods' (Woods) pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus (Petition) brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Section 2254). For the reasons stated below, the Petition is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         In October 2001, Woods was convicted of first degree murder in state court and was sentenced to 52 years imprisonment. In May 2004, Woods' sentence and conviction were affirmed by the Illinois Appellate Court. Woods did not file a petition for leave to appeal (PLA). In November 2004, Woods filed a post-conviction petition alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective. The trial court dismissed the post-conviction petition and the appellate court affirmed. Woods then filed a PLA with the Illinois Supreme Court, and the PLA was denied on January 20, 2016. On February 11, 2016, Woods filed the instant petition. Respondent has filed an answer and opposes the Petition.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         An individual in custody pursuant to state court judgment may seek a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to Section 2254, which provides the following:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim--(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). The decision made by a state court is deemed to be contrary to clearly established federal law “‘if the state court applies a rule different from the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases, or if it decides a case differently than [the Supreme Court has] done on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.'” Emerson v. Shaw, 575 F.3d 680, 684 (7th Cir. 2009)(quoting Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002)). The decision by a state court is deemed to involve an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law “‘if the state court correctly identifies the governing legal principle from [Supreme Court] decisions but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular case.'” Emerson, 575 F.3d at 684 (quoting Bell, 535 U.S. at 694).

         DISCUSSION

         This court has liberally construed Woods' pro se filings. See Perruquet v. Briley, 390 F.3d 505, 512 (7th Cir. 2004)(stating that “[a]s [the plaintiff] was without counsel in the district court, his habeas petition [wa]s entitled to a liberal construction”); Greer v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, Ill., 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001)(indicating that a court should “liberally construe the pleadings of individuals who proceed pro se”). Wood asserts in the Petition: (1) that the Illinois Appellate Court erred on direct appeal in ruling that Woods did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel at trial (Claim 1), and (2) that the Illinois Appellate Court violated his due process rights on his post-conviction appeal when it ruled that he had forfeited certain claims by not raising them in his post-conviction petition (Claim 2).

         I. Claim 1

         Respondent argues that Claim 1 is barred pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) because Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was adjudicated on the merits in state court. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), this Court may not grant relief unless it finds that the adjudication “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” § 2254(d)(1), or “resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding, ” § 2254(d)(2).

         As indicated above, Woods argues in Claim 1 that the Illinois Appellate Court erred on direct appeal in ruling that Woods did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. To show ineffective assistance of counsel, a petitioner must establish that: “(1) his attorney's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) he suffered prejudice as a result.” Wyatt v. United States, 574 F.3d 455, 457-58 (7th Cir. 2009)(citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984)); see also McElvaney v. Pollard, 735 F.3d 528, 532 (7th Cir. 2013)(stating that “[i]n evaluating an attorney's performance, courts must defer to any strategic decision the lawyer made that falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance, even if that strategy was ultimately unsuccessful”)(internal quotations omitted)(quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 689 (1984)); Wyatt, 574 F.3d at 457-58 (stating that a “movant must overcome the ‘strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance'” and “[h]e must establish the specific acts or omissions of counsel that he believes constituted ineffective assistance”). The Illinois Appellate Court already address Claim 1 and reasonably held that Petitioner failed to show that counsel's performance was deficient or prejudicial. Therefore, relief is unavailable under § 2254(d). The court also notes that even if Claim 1 was not barred, Claim 1 lacks any merit.

         II. ...


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