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Turner v. Mueller

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

August 7, 2019

MICHAEL TURNER, Petitioner,
v.
ROBERT MUELLER, Warden, Centralia Correctional Center, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN Z. LEE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In June 2009, Petitioner Michael Turner was convicted of being an armed habitual criminal and unlawful use of weapons by a felon in the Circuit Court of Will County. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of ten years of imprisonment for each conviction. Currently before the Court is Turner's pro se habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [1]. For the reasons stated herein, the petition is denied.

         Factual Background[1]

         A police officer stopped Turner for a traffic violation in December 2007 and discovered that his driver's license was suspended. Resp't Ex. B, Direct Appeal Br., People v. Turner, No. 3-09-0756 ( Ill. App. Ct.), ECF No. 13-1; Turner, No. 3-09-0756, at 2. According to the officer's testimony, he also noticed a bulge in Turner's clothing. Turner, No. 3-09-0756, at 2.

         When the officer asked Turner to exit his vehicle, Turner fled. Id. Police officers followed Turner to his apartment building, where an officer observed him walking from an upper floor to a lower floor, where his apartment was located. Id. Officers recovered a handgun from underneath a doormat on the floor above Turner's. Id. Following a standoff, Turner was arrested in his apartment. Id.

         Two officers testified that Turner admitted that the gun recovered from the apartment building was his. Id. According to the officers, Turner had been a confidential informant and stated that he had the gun because he feared retaliation. Id. Turner had previously been convicted of aggravated unlawful use of weapons by a felon and unlawful possession of weapons by a felon. Id.

         Procedural Background

          Turner's case proceeded to trial twice; his first trial ended with a hung jury. See Resp't Ex. H, Postconviction Finley Br., People v. Turner, No. 3-12-0374 ( Ill. App. Ct.), at 5, ECF No. 13-2. The jury in Turner's second trial convicted him of being an armed habitual criminal and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. Resp't Ex. A at 2. He was sentenced to two concurrent terms of ten years of imprisonment. Id.

         On direct appeal, Turner argued that his conviction for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon violated Illinois's “one-act, one-crime” rule; that he was denied a fair trial because the State attempted to shift the burden of proof during its closing argument; that trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance by failing to raise the prior two arguments; and that trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance by failing to redact from a State exhibit information regarding prior charges of which he had not been convicted. See Id. at 2-3, 6; see also Resp't Ex. B. The Illinois Appellate Court vacated Turner's conviction for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, but rejected his other claims. Resp't Ex. A at 2-3, 16.

         Turner subsequently filed a pro se petition for leave to appeal (“PLA”) in the Illinois Supreme Court, again raising the claims that he was denied a fair trial by the State's shifting of the burden of proof and that trial counsel had been ineffective for failing to redact information about his prior criminal charges. See Resp't Ex. E, Direct Appeal PLA, People v. Turner, No. 112575 (Ill.), ECF No. 13-1. The Illinois Supreme Court denied the PLA in 2011. See Resp't Ex. F, People v. Turner, 955 N.E.2d 479 (Ill. 2011), ECF No. 13-2.

         Turner then filed a pro se postconviction petition in 2012, raising various claims. See Resp't Ex. R, Trial Court Pleadings, at 386-94, ECF No. 13-8. The trial court dismissed the petition. Id. at 338. Turner appealed and was appointed counsel; however, counsel moved to withdraw pursuant to Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551 (1987), on the basis that his review of the facts and applicable law revealed Turner's claims to be meritless. See Resp't Ex. H.

         For his part, Turner filed a pro se brief alleging various ineffective-assistance and due process claims. See Resp't Ex. I, Postconviction Finley Response Br., People v. Turner, No. 3-12-0374 ( Ill. App. Ct.), ECF No. 13-2. The appellate court concluded that the appeal was frivolous, permitted counsel to withdraw, and summarily affirmed the denial of the petition. Resp't Ex. G, People v. Turner, No. 3-12-0374 (Ill.App.Ct. Aug. 29, 2013), ECF No. 13-2; see also Resp't Ex. H.[2]

         Next, Turner filed a pro se PLA, raising many of the same claims raised in the appellate court. See Resp't Ex. J, Postconviction PLA, People v. Turner, No. 116671 (Ill), ECF No. 13-2. The Illinois Supreme Court denied the PLA in 2013. See Resp't Ex. K, People v. Turner, 2 N.E.3d 1050 (Ill. 2013), ECF No. 13-3.

         Turner then filed a petition for relief from judgment in 2014, arguing that the State had relied on perjured testimony; that trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance by not raising the perjury claim; and that the conviction for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon was void because the law was unconstitutional. See Resp't Ex. R at 531-41. The trial court denied the petition. Id. at 661.

         On appeal, Turner was appointed counsel who again moved to withdraw under Finley, concluding that an appeal “would be frivolous” and meritless. See Resp't Ex. M, Relief from Judgment Finley Br., People v. Turner, No. 3-14-0501 ( Ill. App. Ct.), at 1, ECF No. 13-3. Turner responded, asserting the same claims he had raised in the trial court. See Resp't Ex. N, Relief from Judgment Finley Response Br., People v. Turner, No. 3-14-0501 ( Ill. App. Ct.), ECF No. 13-3. The Illinois Appellate Court found the appeal frivolous, granted counsel leave to withdraw, and affirmed the dismissal of the petition. See Resp't Ex. L, People v. Turner, No. 3-14-0501 (Ill.App.Ct. Apr. 18, 2016), at 3, ECF No. 13-3.

         Turner filed a PLA, raising the perjury claim and a claim that his conviction was void. See Resp't Ex. O, Petition for Relief from Judgment PLA, People v. Turner, No. 120994 (Ill.), ECF No. 13-3. The Illinois Supreme Court denied the PLA in 2016. See Resp't Ex. P, People v. Turner, 60 N.E.3d 881 (Ill. 2016), ECF No. 13-4.

         Turner then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in October 2016. See § 2254 Pet., ECF No. 1.[3]

         Legal Standard

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), a writ of habeas corpus may issue only if the petitioner demonstrates that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The availability of habeas relief serves as a “guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102-03 (2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). A federal court may grant habeas relief only if it determines that the state court's decision on the merits “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” or that the state court's decision was “based on an unreasonable determination of the facts.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         For purposes of applying the standard, the Supreme Court has defined “clearly established federal law” as the “holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court's] decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.” Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 74 (2006) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000)). The state court need not cite, or even be aware of, controlling Supreme Court decisions, as long as the state court does not contradict precedent. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002). Furthermore, federal courts must presume that state courts know and follow federal law. Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002). This presumption is especially strong when a state court considers well-established legal principles that have been routinely applied in criminal cases for many years. Burt v. Titlow, 571 U.S. 12, 19 (2013).

         A state court's decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law under § 2254(d)(1) if the state court applied a rule different from the governing law under the Supreme Court's precedents, or if it decided a case differently than the Supreme Court has done on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Premo v. Moore, 562 U.S. 115, 128 (2011). In turn, a state court's decision involves an “unreasonable application” of clearly established federal law under § 2254(d)(1) if the state court identified the correct legal principle from Supreme Court precedent but unreasonably applied that principle to the facts of the petitioner's case. Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374, 380 (2005). These deferential standards are “intentionally difficult to meet, ” Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (internal quotation marks omitted), and habeas relief is available only “where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [the Supreme Court's] precedents.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 102.

         In analyzing the state court decision, a federal court must review the decision of the last state court to rule on the merits of the habeas petitioner's claims. McNary v. Lemke, 708 F.3d 905, 913 (7th Cir. 2013). The state court's factual determinations are presumed correct, and the petitioner bears the burden of overcoming this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. Thompkins v. Pfister, 698 F.3d 976, 983 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)).

         In addition, the analysis is “backward looking, ” meaning that the federal court is limited to reviewing the record before the state court at the time the state court made its decision. Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181-82 (2011). The court is also limited to considering Supreme Court precedent as of the time the state court rendered its decision. Greene v. Fisher, 565 U.S. 34, 38 (2011).

         Discussion

         Turner's § 2254 petition presents the following 15 grounds[4] for relief:

Ground One: Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to redact from a prosecution exhibit information concerning prior charges of which Turner was not convicted.
Ground Two: Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object when the prosecution attempted to shift the burden of proof during closing argument by arguing that cross-examination of the State's witnesses had ...

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