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Howard v. Lashbrook

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 18, 2017

CHRISTOPHER J. HOWARD,
v.
JACQUELINE LASHBROOK Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DAVID R. HERNDON, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Introduction

         Petitioner Christopher J. Howard, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections and currently housed at Menard Correctional Center, brings this action for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is challenging his October 2008 conviction in St. Clair County, Illinois (Case No. 08-cf-881) for first degree murder. Plaintiff is serving a 41-year sentence in connection with this conviction.

         This matter is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the § 2254 Petition pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in United States District Courts. Rule 4 provides that upon preliminary consideration by the district court judge, “[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner.”

         Instant Petition

         Petitioner seeks to overturn his conviction on two grounds: (1) violation of his Miranda rights and (2) failure to suppress evidence allegedly obtained in violation of his Miranda rights.

         Petitioner admits that he has not exhausted his state court remedies with respect to these claims. Petitioner claims exhaustion is not presently possible because a federal court must first decide the Miranda rights issue. Petitioner also indicates that neither claim has been exhausted because “both grounds are pending.” (Doc. 1, p. 16). In connection with this statement, Petitioner references a civil action in St. Clair County, Illinois, Howard v. Butler, No. 16-MR-195 (dismissed with prejudice on September 6, 2016). According to Petitioner, “grounds one and two are currently pending in a motion for status with the Circuit Court of St. Clair County.” (Doc. 1, p. 7).

         Criminal Trial, Post-Conviction Motions, and Direct Appeal [1]

         Following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Petitioner was found guilty of first degree murder and was sentenced on December 18, 2008, to 41-years of imprisonment. On January 6, 2009, Petitioner filed a pro se notice of appeal and, on April 6, 2009, the Illinois Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

         Also on April 6, 2009, the trial court denied Petitioner's motion to reconsider and Petitioner's remaining pending pro se motions. Petitioner, again pro se, filed a notice of appeal regarding these judgments. Petitioner subsequently obtained counsel and directed his attorney to file a motion to dismiss the appeal, which was granted by the appellate court. The case was dismissed in November 2010.

         On January 12, 2011, Petitioner filed a pro se document with the trial court, later construed to be an amended post-conviction petition. In that petition, Petitioner argued a single ground for relief, that the circuit court violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when he was not given notice nor present in court for a September 8, 2008 motion hearing. The State filed a motion to dismiss the case and the Court granted the State's request on May 16, 2011. Petitioner did not appeal.

         Initial § 2254 Petition

         On December 10, 2009, Petitioner filed a federal habeas petition challenging his conviction for failure to comply with his speedy trial rights. See Howard v. Hulick, No. 09-cv-1026-DRH. The undersigned dismissed the claim without prejudice on June 15, 2010 because Petitioner's post-conviction claim was still pending in state court.

         Second ...


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