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Lacy v. Swalls

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

May 23, 2018

REGINALD LACY, Petitioner,


          Gary Feinerman, Judge

         Reginald Lacy (which is how he spells his last name, although Illinois court documents spell it “Lacey”), an Illinois prisoner, seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Doc. 6. He was convicted in 2012 of burglary and sentenced to eighteen years' imprisonment. Lacy's petition asserts that: (1) his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested pursuant to an invalid “investigative alert”; and (2) his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were violated when he was convicted on the basis of insufficient evidence. The habeas petition is denied, and the court declines to issue a certificate of appealability.


         Following is the evidence introduced at Lacy's bench trial, as described by the Appellate Court of Illinois. People v. Lacey, 2014 IL App (1st) 123291-U, 2014 WL 4413491 ( Ill. App. Sept. 8, 2014).

         At some point after 8:00 p.m. on April 29, 2011, the Calvary Baptist Church, including the pastor's office, was burglarized. Id. at ¶ 3. Fingerprints lifted from the pastor's desk led to Lacy's arrest some six months later. Ibid.

         At trial, Tommy Wright, the church's custodian and trustee, testified that he was responsible for cleaning the offices in the old and new church buildings, including the pastor's office on the new building's second floor. Id. at ¶ 4. The office had a desk with a glass top, chairs, bookshelves, and a flat screen television set. Ibid. Wright testified that he last cleaned the desk top with Windex and paper towels on April 28, but later stated that he did so on April 29. Ibid. Wright further testified that when he left the church at 8:00 p.m. on April 29, there were still people in the basement for a youth program, and he told the janitor to lock up. Ibid.

         When Wright entered the church the next morning, he noticed “a lot of stuff” on the floor. Id. at ¶ 5. There were no signs of forced entry in the old building, but Wright found equipment missing from the sound room and frames torn out of the basement doors leading to the finance room. Ibid. In the new building, the doors leading to the roof and the janitorial supplies room, and the locks to the pastor's and the superintendent's offices, were broken. Ibid. Upon entering the pastor's office, Wright noticed that the television set was missing and that there were fingerprints all over the desk's glass top. Ibid. Wright recalled that the fingerprints were not there when he cleaned the desk the previous day. Ibid. The parties stipulated that the fingerprints matched Lacy's. Id. at ¶ 7. A counting machine from the finance office and some cash from the secretary's file cabinet were missing as well. Id. at ¶ 5. Wright denied that he or anyone else in the church permitted anyone to remove those items from the building. Ibid.

         Reverend James Ray Flint, Jr., the church's pastor, testified that he was in his office earlier in the day on April 29 and that he locked his door when he left. Id. at ¶ 8. Reverend Flint testified that he did not give anyone other than his custodian permission to enter his office and that no one else was allowed to use it for conferences. Ibid. He further testified that he did not know Lacy, had never seen him in the church or had a meeting with him, and had not given him permission to enter his office. Ibid. On cross-examination, Reverend Flint testified that he brought individuals into his office only for scheduled appointments. Ibid.

         Lacy testified in his own defense. Id. at ¶ 9. He acknowledged his prior convictions for burglary, stealing a car, and drug possession, but maintained that he was innocent of the church burglary. Ibid. Lacy testified that he was released from prison on April 22, 2011, and went to the church in his neighborhood around 11:00 a.m. on April 29 to seek help. Ibid. Lacy entered the new building and asked a woman coming out of the daycare where he could find someone to speak with, and she directed him upstairs to the business office. Ibid. Lacy walked up to the first open door he saw. A man in the office asked how he could help, and Lacy explained that he did not have any money, food, or clothes. Ibid. Lacy testified that the man in the office was dark, tall, bald, and did not look like the pastor. Ibid. They conversed for five to fifteen minutes, while Lacy sat in a chair in front of the desk. Ibid. At the end of the conversation, Lacy and the man stood at the side of the desk and the man put a hand over Lacy's head and prayed over him. Ibid. Lacy did not recall whether or not he touched the desk, but he acknowledged the possibility of his doing so while denying that he touched any item on the desk. Ibid. He then left the church and never returned, and stated that he would not burglarize a church because it was not moral. Ibid.

         The court found Lacy guilty of burglary. Id. at ¶ 10. Lacy appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction. The Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed the conviction, id. at ¶ 28, and the Supreme Court of Illinois denied leave to appeal, People v. Lacey, 21 N.E.3d 716 (Table) (Ill. 2014).


         Lacy's Fourth Amendment claim can be dispatched quickly. For one, Lacy argues only that his arrest was illegal, not that any illegally acquired evidence was used against him at trial. Doc. 6 at 5; Doc. 13 at 5-8. Second, even if Lacy had raised a genuine exclusionary rule argument, he would not be entitled to habeas relief because he has not alleged, let alone shown, that the state court denied him a fair hearing on any Fourth Amendment claim. See Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 494 (1976) (“[W]here the State has provided an opportunity for full and fair litigation of a Fourth Amendment claim, a state prisoner may not be granted federal habeas corpus relief on the ground that evidence obtained in an unconstitutional search or seizure was introduced at his trial.”); Monroe v. Davis, 712 F.3d 1106, 1113 (7th Cir. 2013) (“Relief on a Fourth Amendment claim thus requires a habeas petitioner to show two things: (1) that the state court denied him a full and fair hearing on his claim, and (2) that the claim was meritorious.”).

         That leaves Lacy's insufficient evidence claim. “Federal habeas relief may not be granted for claims subject to § 2254(d) unless it is shown that the earlier state court's decision ‘was contrary to' federal law then clearly established in the holdings of [the Supreme] Court, § 2254(d)(1); or that it ‘involved an unreasonable application of' such law, § 2254(d)(1); or that it ‘was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts' in light of the record before the state court, § 2254(d)(2).” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100 (2011) (one citation omitted). Lacy does not dispute any of the facts upon which the state appellate court relied in rejecting his insufficient evidence argument, so the court will consider his petition under § 2254(d)(1) alone.

         A state court's decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law within the meaning of § 2254(d)(1) “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 did] on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). To obtain relief under the “unreasonable application” prong of § 2254(d)(1), “a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 103. “For purposes of § 2254(d)(1), an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.” Id. at 101 (internal quotation marks ...

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