Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bowers v. Hutchinson

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

June 14, 2017

JEFFREY BOWERS, Petitioner,
v.
JEFF HUTCHINSON, Warden, Menard Correctional Center, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge.

         This 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 [1]. 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 [1] and declines to issue a certificate of appealability. Petitioner's motion for extension of time [13] is denied as moot.

         I. Background

         A. Criminal Trial

         In May 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 without parole.

         At 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.

         Around 7 p.m., the court called the parties into the courtroom and stated:

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.

         B. Direct Appeal

         Petitioner 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. 2011) (Table).

         C.State Court Collateral Proceedings

         In 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.

         Petitioner 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.