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Williams v. Jaimet

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

April 20, 2017

JESSIE WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
KAREN JAIMET, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John J. Tharp, Jr. United States District Judge

         Jessie Williams was convicted by a jury of felony murder and sentenced to 43 years in prison for that crime. Resp. Ex. A at 175; People v. Williams, No. 1-08-0907, 2011 WL 9548458, at *1 (Ill.App.Ct. Mar. 7, 2011). He now petitions for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his pro se petition, Williams contends that his rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments were violated when the state elicited, and used in closing argument, testimony implying that his non-testifying co-defendants had implicated him. Williams alleges this testimony violated Bruton v. United States and Crawford v. Washington. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the petition for a writ of habeas corpus and declines to issue a certificate of appealability.

         I. Background

         When a federal habeas petitioner is in custody pursuant to a state court adjudication, the state court's factual findings are presumed to be correct unless the petitioner rebuts that presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Thompkins v. Pfister, 698 F.3d 976, 983 (7th Cir. 2012). Williams has not alleged any factual errors by the state court. Therefore, the following facts are primarily drawn from the state appellate court opinion. People v. Williams, No. 1-08-0907, 2011 WL 9548458 (Ill.App.Ct. Mar. 7, 2011) (“Williams”). Facts not mentioned in the state court's opinion are taken from the transcripts of the state court proceedings.

         A. The Murder

         On April 17, 2003, Carl Mays, Donnell Mersier, and Ricardo Garr drove together from Detroit to Chicago to engage in a scheme to cash money orders illegally through currency exchanges.[1] Williams at *1. The men drove to the intersection of 63rd Street and Loomis Boulevard to recruit people to help them with the scheme. Id. Jessie Williams (“Williams”), along with Eric Williams (“Eric”) and Perry Higgins, approached Mays to participate in the scheme. Id. Mays turned away Williams and Eric as being too young. Id. Mays successfully recruited Higgins as well as two women named Diane and Felicia. Id. at *2.

         That night, after the crew had obtained thousands of dollars from currency exchanges in the area, Williams and Eric robbed Garr, Mays, and Mercier when they returned to the area around 63rd and Loomis. Shortly after dropping off Diane, Felicia, and Higgins, Garr pulled over because Mersier was trying to make a phone call but was having trouble getting a signal on his cell phone. Id. Mays was sitting in the front passenger seat. Id. While the trio was parked on 63rd Street, Eric knocked on the front passenger window of the van and then opened the front passenger side door while Williams opened the side doors. Id. Eric produced a gun and demanded money from the van's occupants. Williams reached into Mersier's pockets and removed money, while Eric took money from Mays. Id. Eric attempted to order Mays out of the car, hitting him with the gun, while Williams stood next to him. Williams at *2. Mersier moved across the seat and hit Eric in the face. Id. Eric fired one shot at Mersier, hitting him in the chest. Id. Eric and Williams then ran away. Id. Garr and Mays drove Mersier a hospital but he died of the gunshot wound. Id. at *2. After dropping Mersier at the hospital, Garr and Mays drove back to Detroit.

         Police in the area heard the gunshot and gave chase to two men. One, later determined to be Williams, escaped but police caught Eric. Subsequent investigation (more on this in a moment) led them to Williams, who was arrested on June 4, 2003. Id. at *4. Williams was tried for first degree murder and armed robbery.[2]

         B. The Trial

         A number of witnesses testified at trial against Williams. Mays and Garr both testified in exchange for not being prosecuted for the money order scheme. Williams at *2. They testified in detail about the events of that day, including the shooting. Mays further testified that, two days after the shooting, he identified Williams in a photograph array. Id. Garr identified Williams in a lineup on June 6, 2003, shortly after Williams' arrest. Id. at *4. Diane Perkins, one of the recruited participants in the scheme, testified that she saw Williams standing outside the van, saw him go in and out of the van, and heard a gunshot from the direction of the van. Id. at *3. Diane admitted at trial that she did not mention the gunshot or Williams until her second interview with police. Id. Police officer Leroy Horton further testified that he had been on patrol the night of the murder and had heard a gunshot and seen two men backing away from a white van. Id. He was able to generally describe the height, build, and complexion of the men he saw. Finally, a forensic scientist testified that a palm print found on the van matched Williams' palm print. Resp. Ex. H at 32.

         The argument Williams advances in his petition comes from an exchange between the prosecutor and Detective Timothy O'Brien. O'Brien interviewed Eric several times after he was arrested and was responsible for much of the investigation of the murder. Williams at *3-4. The challenged testimony proceeded as follows:

Q: And did you have occasion to speak with Eric Williams at the temporary headquarters of Area One at that time?
A: Several occasions.
Q: Now, at some point approximately four o'clock in the morning, did you leave Area One?
A: Yes.
* * *
Q: Where did you go?
A: The vicinity of 63rd and Loomis, 6351, if I'm not mistaken.
* * *
Q: Why did you go to that location?
A: To look for some individuals.
Q: And did you have the name of the person you were looking for?
A: I had nicknames of Flash and Elbow.
Q: Did you in fact locate the person who answers to the nickname of Flash at that location?
A: Yes.
* * *
Q: Subsequent to speaking with Flash, did you have a conversation with Eric Williams at approximately eight o'clock that morning?
A: Yes.
Q: And after speaking with Eric Williams, did you have occasion to locate a picture?
A: Yes.
Q: And of whom - whose picture did you locate at that time?
A: Picture of the Defendant, Jessie Williams.
Q: Do you see Jessie Williams in court today?
A: Yes.
Q: Would you point him out and describe what he is wearing?
A: Sitting to the right of defense Counsel in a white shirt ...

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