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Barmore v. Spiller

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

July 12, 2017

Keith D. Barmore R-00683, Petitioner,
v.
Thomas Spiller, Warden of Pinckneyville Correctional Center, Respondent.

          ORDER

          PHILIP G. REINHARD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         For the following reasons, the court denies petitioner's 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition [1]. The court declines to issue a certificate of appealability. This matter is terminated.

         STATEMENT - OPINION

         On January 10, 2000, petitioner Keith D. Barmore was convicted of Illinois first degree murder for the murder of his three-year-old stepson. [18-8] at 164. On October 25, 2000, petitioner was sentenced to 60 years imprisonment. See [18-12] at 75. On May 11, 2015, petitioner filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition in this court, challenging his Illinois sentence on eleven grounds. Respondent has filed a response [17] and petitioner has filed a reply [21], as well as additional affidavits and supplements to his reply and the record. See [22]; [23]; [33]; [35]. The court accepts all of petitioner's filings, including his supplemental responses and additions to the record. This matter is now ripe for the court's review.

         As noted, petitioner has raised eleven grounds challenging his conviction with regard to all stages of his prosecution, ranging from claims of false testimony before the Grand Jury to ineffective assistance of post-trial counsel. Plaintiff presented these claims before state courts both on direct appeal and in a state postconviction petition. Both of these avenues resulted in Illinois Appellate Court decisions denying petitioner relief; the Illinois Supreme Court denied all relevant petitions for leave to appeal. As such, pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), the decisions under review are “the last state court that substantively adjudicated [petitioner's] claim[s], ” namely the Illinois Appellate Court's rulings in petitioner's direct appeal [18-13] and his postconviction petition appeal [18-27]. See Alston v. Smith, 840 F.3d 363, 367 (7th Cir. 2016).

Under AEDPA, to merit habeas relief, the petitioner:
must demonstrate that the state court proceedings “(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)(1) and (2). Under § 2254(d)(1), a state-court decision is contrary to Supreme Court precedent if it is inconsistent with the Supreme Court's treatment of a materially identical set of facts, or if the state court applied a legal standard that is inconsistent with the rule set forth in the relevant Supreme Court precedent. And a state-court decision constitutes an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent within the meaning of section 2254(d)(1) when, although it identifies the correct legal rule, it applies that rule to the facts in a way that is objectively unreasonable. Under § 2254(d)(2), a state court's decision involves an unreasonable determination of the facts if it “rests upon fact-finding that ignores the clear and convincing weight of the evidence.” Corcoran v. Neal, 783 F.3d 676, 683 (7th Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 1493 (2016); see also Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003) (a federal court can, guided by AEDPA, conclude that a state court's decision was unreasonable or that the factual premise was incorrect by clear and convincing evidence).

Dassey v. Dittmann, 2017- F.3d ----2017 WL 2683893, at *10 (7th Cir. June 22, 2017) (internal citations omitted).

         Due to the large number of grounds petitioner has raised to challenge his sentence, the court will analyze each in turn and discuss the relevant factual and procedural history in the respective sections.[1]The parties are assumed to be familiar with the general facts of petitioner's prosecution, trial, and post-trial procedural history. For the following reasons, each of petitioner's grounds for relief are without merit and the court must deny his § 2254 petition.

         A. Batson Claim.

         Petitioner claims that prosecutors violated Batson by striking two prospective African-American jurors, Margie Rogers and Sheila Council, based on their race. The Illinois Appellate Court rejected this argument on direct appeal, finding that petitioner had not rebutted the prosecutors' race-neutral justification for striking the two prospective jurors by clear and convincing evidence. See [18-13] at 15-18.

         The United States Supreme Court has recently reiterated the proper standard for courts in evaluating Batson claims:

First, a defendant must make a prima facie showing that a peremptory challenge has been exercised on the basis of race; second, if that showing has been made, the prosecution must offer a race-neutral basis for striking the juror in question; and third, in light of the parties' submissions, the trial court must determine whether the defendant has shown purposeful discrimination.

Foster v. Chatman, 136 S.Ct. 1737, 1747 (2016) (internal quotations omitted). The Seventh Circuit has held that “[i]n the third step of the Batson analysis, the critical question is the persuasiveness of the race-neutral justification for the peremptory strike, which comes down to credibility.” Morgan v. City of Chicago, 822 F.3d 317, 327 (7th Cir. 2016).

         Here, with regard to the Margie Rogers, the Illinois Appellate Court noted that the prosecution had argued to the trial court that Ms. Rogers had been the only prospective juror that had been a counselor for criminal offenders. Moreover, she had observed two murder trials out of personal interest where fathers had been accused of murdering their young children, and in one of those trials the defendant had been acquitted. As such, the prosecution argued that it believed she may have been biased in favor of criminal defendants and unduly inclined to acquit. The court found that the underlying facts were credible and the prosecution's race-neutral basis for striking Ms. Rogers was sufficiently persuasive to overcome petitioner's accusation of purposeful discrimination. See id.

         With regard to Sheila Council, the Illinois Appellate Court noted that the prosecution had argued to the trial court that Ms. Council had been sleeping during voir dire, a factual finding that the trial court had credited due to the prosecution's credibility; the Illinois Appellate Court accepted the trial court's credibility finding. Moreover, the prosecution argued that questioning revealed that Ms. Council had shown a disregard for her son's ongoing legal issues, referring to him as a “bum.” As such, the prosecution argued that it believed that this disregard, in combination with Ms. Council's failure to remain conscious during voir dire, suggested that she might not be committed to resolving the issues in the case. The Illinois Appellate Court credited the underlying facts and found that they adequately supported the prosecution's reasoning; as such, the prosecution's race-neutral basis for striking Ms. Council was sufficiently persuasive to overcome petitioner's accusation of purposeful discrimination. See id.

         The court has reviewed the record and cannot find that the Illinois Appellate Court's findings were an unreasonable application of Federal law or based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. The court carefully reviewed the factual record and accorded the appropriate deference to the trial court's relevant factual and credibility findings. Moreover, with regard to Ms. Rogers, the Seventh Circuit has held that “[o]ur court has approved the exclusion of veniremen because of their professions.” See United States v. Griffin, 194 F.3d 808, 826 (7th Cir. 1999) (collecting cases in which courts had found that striking social workers was a race-neutral justification). With regard to Ms. Council, the Seventh Circuit has found that “inattentiveness is a legitimate reason for striking a potential juror.” United States v. Jones, 224 F.3d 621, 623-24 (7th Cir. 2000) (noting that the prosecution had accused one of the prospective jurors as sleeping and the trial court, while not observing the sleeping, “accepted the government's explanation regarding [the prospective juror] and we give that finding great deference”). As such, the court does not find that petitioner's Batson claim merits relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         B. Sufficiency of the Evidence Claim.

         Petitioner claims that the evidence at trial was insufficient to convict him of first degree murder. The Illinois Appellate Court rejected this argument on direct appeal, finding that the evidence was ...


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