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Smith v. Hutchinson

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

June 28, 2017

LESHUN SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFRY HUTCHINSON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge

         This matter is before the court on Petitioner Leshun Smith's (Smith)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

         Smith was convicted by a jury in state court of murder and sentenced to thirty-six years in prison. Smith filed an appeal and the conviction was affirmed. Smith then filed a petition for leave to appeal (PLA) with the Illinois Supreme Court, and the PLA was denied. Smith then filed a post-conviction petition, which was dismissed. Smith appealed that ruling, and the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the dismissal. Smith then filed another PLA, which was denied on March 30, 2016. On January 12, 2017, Smith filed the instant Petition. Respondent has filed an answer to 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 Smith' spro 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, III, 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001)(indicating that a court should "liberally construe the pleadings of individuals who proceed pro se"). Smith asserts in the Petition: (1) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing because his counsel did not call certain character witnesses to testify on behalf of Smith (Claim 1), and that his sentence was disproportionate to other sentences for the same conduct in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Claim 2).

         I. Claim 1

         Respondent argues that Claim 1 lacks merit. As indicated above, Smith asserts in Claim 1 that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing because his counsel did not call certain character witnesses to testify on behalf of Smith. The decision of whether or not to call such witnesses was a strategic decision made on the part of Smith's counsel, and Smith has not shown that the decision was outside the boundaries of effective representation. See Stallings v. United States, 536 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2008)(stating that a court reviewing a Section 2255 motion "shall not second-guess strategic decisions that were arguably appropriate at the time but that hindsight has revealed to be unwise"). The Illinois Appellate Court also already specifically addressed this claim and properly concluded that "decisions about whether to call certain witnesses on a defendant's behalf are matters of trial strategy, reserved to the discretion of trial counsel, which enjoy a strong presumption that they reflect sound trial strategy, rather than incompetence" and that no prejudice was shown as a result of failing to call such witnesses. People v. Smith, 2015 IL App (1st) 131093-U. Claim 1 thus lacks any merit.

         II. Claim 2

         Respondent argues that Claim 2 is procedurally defaulted. As indicated above, Smith asserts in Claim 2 that his sentence was disproportionate to other sentences for the same conduct in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Smith contends that a thirty-six year sentence was not an appropriate sentence for shooting his victim multiple times and murdering his victim. A district court "cannot review a habeas petitioner's constitutional issue unless he has provided the state courts with an opportunity to resolve it 'by invoking one complete round of the state's established appellate review process.'" Byers v. Basinger,610 F.3d 980, 985 (7th Cir. 2010)(quoting O 'Sullivan v. Boerckel,526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999)). If a habeas petitioner failed to "properly assert[] his federal claim at each level of state court review, " the petitioner is deemed to have "procedurally defaulted that claim." Malone v. Walls,538 F.3d 744, 753 (7th Cir. 2008)(quoting Lewis v. Sternes,390 F.3d 1019, 1025 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Johnson v. Hulett,574 F.3d 428, 431 (7th Cir. 2009)(stating that "[t]o obtain federal habeas review, a state prisoner must first submit his claims through one full round of state-court review, " and that "[t]he penalty for failing to fully and fairly present [] arguments to the state court is procedural default"). A petitioner, in exhausting his state court remedies, has '"the duty to fairly present his federal claims to ...


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