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Leslie v. Roberson

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

September 19, 2017

KENNY LESLIE, Petitioner,
v.
KESS ROBERSON, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Honorable Marvin E. Aspen United States District Judge

         Presently before us is Petitioner Kenny Leslie's motion for reconsideration of our May 22, 2017 Order denying his pro se application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Dkt. No. 28.) For the reasons set forth below, we deny Petitioner's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         We assume familiarity with the relevant facts as detailed in our May 22, 2017 Order and thus do not fully recount them here. Leslie v. Roberson, No. 15 C 02395, 2017 WL 2243098 (N.D. Ill. May 22, 2017). Petitioner filed his pro se habeas petition on March 23, 2015, challenging his conviction in Illinois state court for aggravated battery of a peace officer. He asserted six claims in his habeas petition: (1) Petitioner's conviction, obtained using knowingly false testimony from police officers, violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process;(2) Petitioner was denied his Sixth Amendment confrontation rights when the trial court limited his cross-examination of Officers Proano and Rodriguez; (3) the State knowingly relied on false evidence to secure a conviction in violation of Petitioner's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process; (4) the State withheld exculpatory evidence in violation of Petitioner's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process; (5) the State's rebuttal closing argument was improper and violated Petitioner's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process; and (6) Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective and violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by failing to object to the State's presentation of false testimony and for failing to impeach Officers Lascola, Rodriguez, and Willis. (Dkt. No. 5 at Pg. ID#: 13-18.)

         On June 19, 2017, Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of our May 22, 2017 Order denying his application for a writ of habeas corpus, which among other things, found Petitioner's claim that the State knowingly presented false evidence and his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel are procedurally defaulted because he first presented those claims in his request for leave to file a successive post-conviction petition, which was denied. Leslie, 2017 WL 2243098 at *5, 7. Petitioner now contends that these claims are not procedurally defaulted and should be reconsidered on the merits, because on appeal from that denial, the state appellate court allowed his appellate counsel's motion to withdraw pursuant to Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551, 107 S.Ct. 1990 (1987), and therefore considered his claims on their merits.[1] (Mot. (Dkt. No. 28) at Pg. ID#: 1631-33.) Petitioner also contends that we failed to consider his argument that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the introduction of false evidence, and instead misconstrued his claim as asserting that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel on direct appeal. (Mot. at Pg. ID#: 1633.) Finally, Petitioner argues in the alternative that he is actually innocent such that we should reconsider our denial of his application for a writ of habeas corpus despite his failure to show cause for the procedural defects. (Id. at Pg. ID#: 1633-34.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Petitioner's motion to reconsider challenges the merits of our final order denying his application for a writ of habeas corpus, and therefore must fall under either Federal Rule of Procedure 59(e) or 60(b). Mares v. Busby, 34 F.3d 533, 535 (7th Cir. 1994). “Whether to characterize a motion as arising under Rule 59(e) or 60(b) depends on the nature of the motion.” Id. “[I]t is the substance, rather than the form, of a post-judgment motion that determines the rule under which it should be analyzed.” Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 493 (7th Cir. 2008). While a Rule 59(e) motion must be “filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment, ” a Rule 60(b) motion must be brought within a “reasonable time.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), 60(b). Petitioner filed his motion within 28 days and argues our previous decision rests on manifest errors of law, so we construe it as a Rule 59(e) motion.

         Under Rule 59(e), district courts may entertain motions “to alter or amend a judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Motions under Rule 59(e) will only be granted in order to correct manifest errors of law or fact, to present new evidence, or where there has been an intervening and substantial change in the controlling law, and “should only be granted in rare circumstances.” Divane v. Krull Elec. Co., Inc., 194 F.3d 845, 848 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Moro v. Shell Oil Co., 91 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir. 1996). “A party moving for reconsideration pursuant to Rule 59(e) bears a heavy burden of establishing that the court should reverse its prior judgment.” Scott v. Bender, 948 F.Supp.2d 859, 865 (N.D. Ill. 2013) (citing Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Indus., Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1270 (7th Cir. 1996). A Rule 59(e) motion “is not appropriately used to advance arguments or theories that could and should have been made before the district court rendered a judgment, . . . or to present evidence that was available earlier.” LB Credit Corp. v. Resolution Trust Corp., 49 F.3d 1263, 1267 (7th Cir. 1995) (citations omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         I. PROCEDURAL DEFAULT

         A. Finley Motion

         In our May 22, 2017 Order, we found that Petitioner's claim that the State knowingly used false evidence to secure his conviction and his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel were procedurally defaulted because these claims were not raised until his request for leave to file a successive post-conviction petition, which was denied on procedural grounds by the state courts. Leslie, 2017 WL 2243098 at *5, 7. In Illinois, a petitioner may file only one petition for post-conviction relief without the court's leave. 725 ILCS 5/122-1(f). A court may grant a petitioner leave to file a successive post-conviction petition including claims not presented in the initial petition only if the petitioner “demonstrates cause for his failure to bring the claim[s] in his or her initial post-conviction proceedings and prejudice results from that failure.” Id. Failure to satisfy either prong of the cause and prejudice test is a statutory bar to the filing of a successive petition. People v. Simmons, 388 Ill.App.3d 599, 613, 903 N.E.2d 437, 451 (1st Dist. 2009) (citing People v. Lee, 207 Ill.2d 1, 5, 796 N.E.2d 1021, 1023 (2003)). Denial of a claim pursuant to 725 ILCS 5/122-1(f) is an independent and adequate state law ground such that federal courts are precluded from reviewing the merits of that claim on an application for writ of habeas corpus. See Robertson v. Pierce, No. 12 C 3108, 2016 WL 2593344, at *8-9 (N.D. Ill. May 5, 2016) (“Petitioner waived those claims by not raising them in his first post-conviction petition, and the state court determined that he failed to meet the cause and prejudice standard necessary to present those claims in a successive post-conviction petition.”); Thomas v. Pfister, 07 C 6643, 2014 WL 2777262, at *7 (N.D. Ill. June 17, 2014) (finding denial of a successive post-conviction petition for failure to show cause pursuant to 725 ILCS 5/122-1(f) is “an independent and adequate state law” ground such that the “claim is likewise procedurally defaulted on federal habeas review”); see also Watson v. Pfister, No. 13 C 2276, 2015 WL 1186795, at *5 (N.D. Ill. March 11, 2015) (collecting cases) (“Several courts in this District have denied habeas petitions as procedurally barred when the state court relied on § 5-122-1(f) to deny the successive post-conviction petition.”).

         The state trial court found that Petitioner's request for leave to file a successive post-conviction petition did not “so much as mention the cause and prejudice test anywhere in his petition.” (Successive Post-Conviction Trial Court Order, St. Ct. R., Ex. Q at Pg. ID#: 1525.) The trial court further observed that the only evidence Petitioner submitted with his request for leave to file a successive post-conviction petition were documents that Petitioner could have obtained and included with his first post-conviction petition. (Successive Post-Conviction Trial Court Order, at Pg. ID#: 1525-26.) The court stated in the alternative that the successive post-conviction petition was frivolous and lacked merit, and denied him leave. (Id. at Pg. ID#: 1528.). On appeal, the appellate court discussed the trial court's findings that “defendant's petition failed to meet the cause and prejudice test, and that the issues raised were frivolous and patently without merit. The [trial] court thus denied him leave to file his successive petition and dismissed the petition.” (Successive Post-conviction Appeal Order, St. Ct. R., Ex. K at Pg. ID#: 454.) The appellate court also referenced Petitioner's counsel's Finley motion for leave to withdraw as appellate counsel because Petitioner's appeal lacked merit. (Id. at Pg. ID#: 454-55.) The appellate court observed that Petitioner responded to the Finley motion by reiterating arguments from his successive post-conviction petition, contending that the trial court erred in dismissing his petition on the merits. (Id. at Pg. ID#: 455.) The appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision and granted his counsel's Finley motion. (Id.)

         Because Petitioner was denied leave to file his post-conviction petition pursuant to 725 ILCS 5/122-1(f), we found that the claims he brought for the first time in that petition- including his claim that the State knowingly used false evidence to secure his conviction and his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel-were procedurally defaulted. Leslie, 2017 WL 2243098 at *5, 7. Petitioner asserts that these claims are not procedurally defaulted because in ruling on his counsel's Finley motion on appeal from the trial court's denial of leave to file a successive post-conviction petition, the Illinois Appellate Court ...


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