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Williams v. Pfister

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

August 26, 2019

ABRAHAM WILLIAMS, (#R57566), Petitioner,
v.
RANDY PFISTER, Warden Stateville Correctional Center, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sharon Johnson Coleman, United States District Judge.

         Pro se Petitioner Abraham Williams petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). For the following reasons, the Court denies Williams' habeas petition and declines to certify any issues for appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).

         Background

         When considering habeas petitions, federal courts presume the factual findings made by the last state court to decide the case on the merits are correct unless the habeas petitioner rebuts those findings by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Sims v. Hyatte, 914 F.3d 1078, 1095 (7th Cir. 2019). Since Williams failed to provide clear and convincing evidence to rebut this presumption, the following factual background is based on the Illinois Appellate Court's decisions.

         Factual Background

         At Williams' murder trial, Alvester Morman testified that on December 1, 2003 around 1 p.m., she was on the second floor of her home on Maypole Street in Chicago when she heard a crash and gunshots outside. When she looked out her front window, she saw that a car had hit three parked cars and then came to a stop. Thereafter, a man got out of the car and ran. At the same time, Morman saw two men exit a white van and shoot at the man who ran from the car. The running man tripped, and the men from the van continued to shoot at him. The driver of the van looked at Morman in her window and she saw his face. On January 16, 2004, Morman viewed a line-up at the Chicago Police Department Area 4 Headquarters. She identified Williams as the driver of the van and as one of the men she saw shooting at the victim. At trial, Morman made an in-court identification of Williams.

         Two other individuals saw the shooting while they were parked in separate cars on Maypole Street on December 1, 2003 at around 1 p.m. One of the individuals, Ben Trapp, testified that he was talking on his cell phone when he heard gunshots. He then looked in his rearview mirror and saw a white van following a four-door sedan. People in the van were shooting at the car. Shortly after, Trapp saw the car hit a parked car and a man run out of the car. The van then stopped, and two men got out chasing the victim. Trapp testified that the victim fell to the ground after being shot.

         Another eyewitness, Ann Griffin, testified that while she was double-parked on Maypole, she heard gunshots and saw a car followed by a white van. A passenger in the van was leaning out of the window and was pointing a gun at the car. She heard gunshots and fell to the floor of her car. She then heard a crash and more gunfire. Later, Chicago police took Griffin to another street to identify the van, which she did. She also identified a photograph of the van in court.

         Dan Miranda also testified at Williams' jury trial. He stated that on the morning of December 1, 2003, Williams had called him to borrow his van, after which Williams stopped by to pick it up. A few hours later, Williams called Miranda at work and told him that the police had his van.

         Also at trial, Charles Green testified that on December 1, 2003, Williams and another man picked him up in a white van. After driving for a while, Green stated that Williams and the other man got out of the van and then he heard gunshots. At trial, Green claimed he did not specifically see either man shoot at anyone. Nonetheless, an Assistant State's Attorney testified to Green's earlier written statement saying Williams shot the victim. Another Assistant State's Attorney testified as to Green's grand jury testimony.

         Police arrested Williams on January 16, 2004 in Country Club Hills, Illinois and transported him back to Chicago Police Area 4 Headquarters. A police sergeant and detective interviewed Williams several times that day. At one point, Williams confessed to his role in the murder. Meanwhile, guns were recovered from the van and forensic evidence confirmed that they were used in the victim's shooting.

         After the jury deliberated, they found Williams guilty of first degree murder and also that Williams had personally discharged a firearm in the commission of the offense. The trial court later sentenced Williams to 40 years for the first-degree murder and 20 years for discharging the firearm.

         Procedural Background

         Williams filed a direct appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court arguing that the admission of Green's statement and the grand jury testimony violated Illinois evidentiary law. On June 10, 2009, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed Williams' conviction and sentence. Williams filed a petition for leave to appeal (“PLA”) to the Supreme Court of ...


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