United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Petitioner Jeffrey Bowers'
pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 . Petitioner argues that his
direct appeal counsel was ineffective for failing to argue
that his trial counsel was ineffective for not bringing a
post-trial motion arguing that the state trial court coerced
the jury by announcing that the jury would be sequestered
overnight. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies
Petitioner's habeas corpus petition  and declines to
issue a certificate of appealability. Petitioner's motion
for extension of time  is denied as moot.
2008, following a jury trial in Illinois state court,
Petitioner was found guilty of two counts of first-degree
murder for personally discharging a firearm, two counts of
attempted first-degree murder, and two counts of aggravated
battery with a firearm. His conviction was based on an
incident in which he and two accomplices fired an AK-47 into
a crowd, fatally wounding two people and seriously injuring
two others. Petitioner was sentenced to life in prison
trial, the jury began deliberating around 1:00 p.m. At
approximately 4:15 p.m., the jury sent a note to the state
trial court asking if it could have the transcript of a
witness's testimony; the requested testimony was
subsequently provided. At approximately 4:35 p.m., the jury
sent a note asking what it meant when the court said that the
identification marks were stricken from evidence that the
jury received. The parties agreed on a response, and the
court also asked the jurors if they wanted to see the
firearms evidence, which the jury declined.
7 p.m., the court called the parties into the courtroom and
Let the record reflect it's approximately 7:00
o'clock. Jurors have been deliberating about 6 and a half
hours, and I don't think they have had dinner; so I have
instructed the sheriff to order them to a hotel and we're
going to sequester them over the evening, and we will have
everybody back here at 10:00 o'clock.
People v. Bowers, 2016 WL 4761810, at *1
(Ill.App.Ct. Sept. 12, 2016). Defense counsel objected to the
sequestration, arguing that since it was Mother's Day
weekend, sequestration may influence the juror's desire
to quickly finish deliberating. Defense counsel argued that
the case should be “held over until Monday.” The
state trial court noted the objection for the record but
ordered that the jury be sequestered overnight and return to
court the following morning. Approximately ten minutes later,
the state trial court announced that the jurors had reached a
verdict. The court also stated that the jurors had signed one
wrong verdict form. Defense counsel argued that the jurors
were hastened to come up with a verdict to avoid
sequestration. The state trial court rejected this argument,
stating that there was “absolutely no evidence of
that.” Id. at *1-*2. The jury found Petitioner
guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of
attempted first-degree murder, and two counts of aggravated
battery with a firearm.
appealed his conviction, arguing, inter alia, that
the trial court coerced the jury by announcing that the jury
would be sequestered over a holiday weekend. People v.
Bowers, 2011 WL 9557996, at *11 (Ill.App.Ct. Jan. 25,
2011). The Illinois Appellate Court concluded that this
argument had been forfeited because although trial counsel
objected to the sequestration order at trial, he did not
raise the issue in a post-trial motion and thus did not
preserve the issue for review. Id. at *12. The
Illinois Appellate Court further concluded that since direct
appeal counsel made no argument for plain error review, plain
error review was also forfeited. Id. Accordingly,
the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed Petitioner's
convictions. The Illinois Supreme Court denied leave to
appeal. People v. Bowers, 949 N.E.2d 1099 (Ill.
Court Collateral Proceedings
March 2012, Petitioner filed in state court a pro se
post-conviction petition arguing that his direct appeal
counsel was ineffective “for failing to brief and argue
trial counsel's ineffectiveness for not raising in his
post-trial motion that the verdict was hastened by
sequester” and “for failing to argue for plain
error review of an unpreserved issue.” People v.
Bowers, 2016 WL 4761810, at *3-*4 (Ill.App.Ct. Sept. 12,
2016). The court appointed counsel. However, post-conviction
counsel later filed a motion to withdraw, stating that after
consulting with Petitioner and examining the record, he found
no reasonably arguable post-conviction issues. The court
granted post-conviction counsel leave to withdraw.
Subsequently, the State filed a motion to dismiss
Petitioner's state court post-conviction petition arguing
that direct appeal counsel was not ineffective for failing to
argue for plain error review, Petitioner had not shown that
the judge's statement in any way changed or coerced the
verdicts, and the length of the deliberations-about six and a
half hours-did not indicate that the jury was deadlocked or
otherwise unable to unanimously agree. Id. at *6.
After a hearing on the State's motion to dismiss, the
state trial court dismissed the petition, stating that
Petitioner had not made a substantial showing of a violation
of his constitutional rights. The court explained that the
statement about sequestration informed the jury that it did
not need to reach a decision that night. Further, the court
noted that there was no evidence in the record or from
Petitioner that the court's sequestration announcement
actually interfered with the jury's deliberations or that
the jury was deadlocked at the time of the announcement.
Finally, the court held that the sequestration issue could
not have survived plain error review where there was no clear
and obvious error. Id.
appealed, arguing that he made a substantial showing of a
constitutional claim that his trial counsel and direct appeal
counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to
preserve the coerced verdict issue. The Illinois Appellate
Court rejected this argument on the merits, concluding that
based on the totality of the circumstances, the trial
court's comments about sequestration were “entirely
proper” and “not ...