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Spates v. Lashbrook

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

December 27, 2017

Willie Spates, R50820, Petitioner,
Jacqueline Lashbrook, Warden, Respondent.


          Philip G. Reinhard Judge.

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


         On January 17, 2017, petitioner Willie Spates filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition challenging his state court judgment of conviction. See [1][1]. Respondent filed an answer to the petition on June 19, 2017 [17], along with the state court record [18]. Petitioner filed a reply on July 19, 2017. See [23]. These matters are now ripe for the court's review. The court will first discuss the relevant factual and procedural background before analyzing petitioner's various claims.

         I. Factual and Procedural History.

         The following findings of facts are drawn from the state record. See [18].[2] On April 23, 2002, petitioner forced his way into his sister's home on West Garden Street in DeKalb, Illinois, and shot his ex-wife, Anita, multiple times. She died several hours later at the hospital. Petitioner was ultimately arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder, aggravated unlawful restraint, and home invasion and the case proceeded to a jury trial in DeKalb County, Illinois.

         A. Evidence at Trial.

         At trial, petitioner's sister, Ruby Williams, testified at about 10:30 a.m. on April 23, 2002, she heard a woman at her front door calling for Anita. Anita and Anita's two-year-old son had been staying with Williams. When she went to the door, she saw a woman she did not recognize holding balloons. Williams then spotted petitioner hiding near the door and she quickly closed the door and locked it. She then yelled upstairs to Anita, who was preparing to take a shower, to call 911. Petitioner then broke down the door and ran up the stairs with a gun. Williams grabbed Anita's son and ran out the door to the neighbor's house to call 911. Before she left the house, she saw petitioner forcing open the bathroom door and Anita “begging for her life.” Ellen Chandler testified she was driving a taxicab on April 23 and picked up the petitioner at a gas station. Petitioner told Chandler he wanted to surprise his wife with “a second Christmas.” At petitioner's request, Chandler helped petitioner carry some things to the apartment, including balloons. Petitioner asked Chandler, with balloons in hand, to knock on the apartment door and ask for Anita. When Williams opened the door, Chandler noticed Williams spot petitioner who was hiding around the corner. Chandler testified Williams then slammed the door shut. Petitioner then broke down the door and forced Chandler into Williams' apartment with him. Chandler testified petitioner had a gun and forced her up the stairs of the apartment and into a bedroom where she could hear petitioner speaking with Anita in the bathroom. She also testified she heard a woman screaming and multiple gun shots. Inside the bedroom, Chandler called 911.

         City of DeKalb police officers testified that when they arrived at the scene they were directed to the apartment by Williams who was screaming and very upset. Inside the apartment the officers safely removed Chandler and found Anita in the bathroom, covered in blood. Anita told the officers she had been shot and was dying. She told the officers, “Willie shot me.” Anita died several hours later at the hospital.

         Dr. Bryan Mitchell, the forensic pathologist who examined Anita's body, testified at trial that the body had multiple gunshot wounds with a total of 18 entrance wounds. He explained that a single bullet could cause multiple entrance and exit wounds if the bullet were to enter one part of the body, exit another part, and re-enter (and possible re-exit) another part of the body. Because of this, Dr. Mitchell could only say that Anita had been shot between 8 and 18 times. Dr. Mitchell further testified that some of Anita's gunshot wounds showed a presence of “stippling” - unburnt gunpowder particles discharged from the end of the gun and visible when the weapon is fired at close range. Dr. Mitchell testified that a wound to Anita's chest was likely the wound that caused her death. He identified stippling around this wound.

         The ballistics evidence at trial revealed that 10 of the recovered bullets were fired from petitioner's 9 mm semiautomatic pistol. A recovered bullet fragment was of the same caliber as the other 10 bullets, but ballistics experts were unable to determine conclusively whether it had been fired from petitioner's gun due to its condition. The experts testified that all bullets had been fired from inside the bathroom.

         A communications coordinator for the City of DeKalb also testified to the City's computed aided dispatch system (CAD system). The coordinator testified that information in the CAD system is entered manually. Because the information is not generated electronically, the times recorded on the CAD system report do not necessarily reflect the precise time the police officers performed the action.

         Petitioner turned himself in to the police and made inculpatory statements. At the time, he was wearing clothing with blood stains that genetically matched Anita. At trial, petitioner represented himself.

         The jury found petitioner guilty of first-degree murder and home invasion. The trial court sentenced petitioner to 60 years imprisonment for the murder consecutive to 25 years imprisonment for the home invasion.

         B. Direct Appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court.

         On direct appeal, petitioner made 16 arguments. He contended the trial court erred in (1) denying his motion to dismiss the grand jury indictment for perjury; (2) denying his motion for discharge for speedy trial violations; (3) denying his response to the state's fitness hearing; (4) granting the state's request to call the defense's expert; (5) excluding a police report at trial; (6) allowing the state to put on perjured testimony of multiple police officers; (7) refusing to admit a ballistics report at trial; (8) allowing the state to use evidence that was lost or destroyed in violation of Brady; (9) rejecting and excluding admissible documents; (10) excluding 911 telephone records from Verizon; (11) allowing the state to put on false and fabricated evidence; (12) denying his Batson challenge; (13) sustaining the jury's guilty verdict; (14) denying his motion for a new trial; (15) allowing him to represent himself at trial after he had been found unfit; and (16) aiding the prosecution with trial strategy.

         The appellate court affirmed petitioner's conviction. Petitioner filed a pro se petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that the appellate court abused its discretion in allowing the state to file time-barred pleadings, and allowing the state to utilize counsel whose license to practice law was suspended, in addition to many of the same arguments presented on direct appeal.

         The Illinois Supreme Court denied petitioner's PLA on March 24, 2010.

         C. Post-conviction Petition.

         In November of 2010, petitioner filed a pro se post-conviction petition in the Illinois Circuit Court that alleged his rights were violated when the state prosecutors fabricated evidence against him and used this ...

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