United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Clarence Charles Trotter brings this action for a writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Dkt. 1.)
Most of Trotter's claims were previously dismissed on
timeliness grounds, with the exception of a single claim
which was stayed pending exhaustion of state remedies. (Dkt.
29, 51.) Upon conclusion of the state proceedings, the stay
was lifted and briefing resumed. (Dkt. 94.) For the reasons
stated below, the Court now denies habeas relief, and
declines to issue a certificate of appealability.
1994, a Cook County judge convicted Clarence Trotter of
murder, aggravated kidnapping, and residential burglary
following a bench trial. (Dkt. 100-8 at 4, People v.
Trotter, No. 1-10-2081 (Ill.App.Ct. Oct. 24, 2012.) As
detailed in previous opinions in this matter, Trotter
appealed his conviction and sought post-conviction relief in
the state courts. (See Dkt. 29, Mem. Opinion &
Order; dkt. 51, Mem. Opinion & Order.) He then petitioned
this Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. (Dkt. 1, Habeas Pet.) Trotter later amended his
petition by filing a “Supplemental Habeas Corpus Issue,
” in which he added a new claim under Brady v.
Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963). (Dkt. 17, Supp.
Issue.) Specifically, Trotter alleged that he had recently
discovered that prosecutors had withheld information about
the extent of prosecution witness Charles Coker's
criminal history and the fact that certain criminal charges
had been pending against Coker at the time he testified.
(Id.) He supported his claim with two certified
statements of conviction he said showed Coker's
undisclosed additional convictions under aliases.
(Id. at 5-12.) Trotter's initial habeas claims
were subsequently dismissed on timeliness grounds (dkt. 29,
Mem. Op. & Order), with the exception of his supplemental
Brady claim which was later stayed so Trotter could
return to state court to exhaust. (Dkt. 51, Mem. Op. &
Trotter filed a pro se motion for leave to file a
successive postconviction petition in the Circuit Court of
Cook County, arguing that he had been denied a fair trial
because evidence of Coker's criminal history had been
concealed from the defense and because the prosecutor
knowingly allowed Coker to commit perjury by understating his
criminal history. (Dkt. 100-5 at 1-21, Mot. to File.)
According to Trotter, his motion was proper because he could
not have discovered its factual predicate sooner and based on
his claim of actual innocence. (Id.) He later
supplemented his motion with an additional submission in
which he argued that an investigator had interviewed Coker
and learned that Coker had in fact received favorable
treatment from prosecutors in exchange for his testimony
against Trotter. (Dkt. 100-5 at 22-25, Supp. Postconviction
Issue.) Attached to his filing was an undated memorandum from
the investigator documenting his purported conversation with
Coker. (Id. at 24-25.)
March 20, 2010, the Circuit Court of Cook County denied
Trotter's motion, finding that his evidence was
insufficient to warrant a new trial and not of such character
to change the result on retrial, and that he had failed to
establish that he could not have discovered the materials
earlier with the exercise of due diligence, or that the issue
so infected the trial that his resulting conviction and
sentence violated due process. (Dkt. 100-5 at 26-33,
People v. Trotter, 86 CR 10969 (Cir. Ct. Cook County
Mar. 20, 2010).) On June 16, 2010, the court denied
Trotter's motion for reconsideration. (Dkt. 100-5 at
34-38, People v. Trotter, 86 CR 10969 (Cir. Ct. Cook
County June 16, 2010).) Trotter appealed the decision,
arguing that the failure to disclose that Coker had received
favorable treatment in exchange for his testimony against
Trotter violated his right to due process, and thus arguably
met the cause and prejudice test. (Dkt. 100-6, Pet'r
Brief and Arg.) The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed (dkt.
100-8 at 1-10, People v. Trotter, No. 1-10-2081
(Ill.App.Ct. Oct. 24, 2012)), and the Illinois Supreme Court
denied Trotter's petition for leave to appeal. (Dkt.
100-9, People v. Trotter, No. 115174 (Ill. Mar. 26,
the conclusion of the state court proceedings, the Court
lifted the stay and set a briefing schedule on Trotter's
Brady claim. (Dkt. 94, Order.) Briefing resumed, and
Trotter's subsequent motion to reconsider the dismissal
of his other claims was denied. (Dkt. 113, Order.) The
Brady claim is now ripe for resolution.
to Trotter, habeas relief is proper because prosecutors
withheld evidence of Coker's alias convictions and
allowed Coker to falsely testify that he had no pending
criminal charges and no other convictions beyond those which
he disclosed. (Dkt. 17, Supp. Issue at 1-2.) Respondent
argues in opposition that Trotter's claim is time-barred
and procedurally defaulted, and that, in any event, it fails
on the merits. (Dkt. 99, Resp. at 12-22.) The Court declines
to consider the issue of timeliness because even if
Trotter's Brady claim is timely presented, it
fails both by procedural default as well as on the merits.
Standards of Decision
of habeas corpus cannot be issued unless 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). Under the Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act of 1996, a federal court may only grant
habeas relief if the state court's decision on the merits
“resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United
States, ” or the state court decision was “based
on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) and (2). The standard under Section
2254(d) is “difficult to meet, ” and
“highly deferential.” Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011) (quotations
omitted); accord Snow v. Pfister, 880 F.3d 857, 864
(7th Cir.), cert. denied sub nom. Snow v. Nicholson,
138 S.Ct. 2637 (2018) (internal quotations omitted).
seeking a writ of habeas corpus in federal court, a state
prisoner must first give the state courts a full and fair
opportunity to resolve any federal constitutional claims.
O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845
(1999); Snow, 880 F.3d at 864. The exhaustion
requirement not only requires that the broad claim be raised
but also the legal arguments and operative facts supporting
it. McNary v. Lemke, 708 F.3d 905, 919 (7th Cir.
2013). “Exhaustion serves an interest in federal-state
comity by giving state courts the first opportunity to
address and correct potential violations of a prisoner's
federal rights.” Perruquet v. Briley, 390 F.3d
505, 513 (7th Cir. 2004). Accordingly, a federal court will
not hear a state prisoner's habeas claim unless the
prisoner has first exhausted his state remedies by presenting
the claim to the state courts for one full round of review.
O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 845; Snow, 880
F.3d at 864. In Illinois, a prisoner must include his claims
in a petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme
Court in order to fulfill his exhaustion requirement.
Snow, 880 F.3d at 864.
a federal court may not reach the merits of “claims
that the state court denied based on an adequate and
independent state procedural rule.” Crutchfield v.
Dennison, 910 F.3d 968, 973 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting
Davila v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 2058, 2064 (2017)). Here
too, where the state court declines to address a
petitioner's habeas claim because the petitioner did not
meet state procedural requirements, “principles of
comity and federalism dictate against upending the
state-court conviction, and instead, finding that the
petitioner's claim is procedurally defaulted.”
Thomas v. Williams, 822 F.3d 378, 384 (7th Cir.
order for a federal court to hear a procedurally defaulted
claim, the petitioner must establish either: “(1)
‘cause for the default and actual prejudice' or (2)
‘that the failure to consider the claims will result in
a fundamental miscarriage of justice.'”
Thomas, 822 F.3d at 386 (quoting Coleman v.
Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991)); accord
Davila, 137 S.Ct. at 2064-65. “‘Cause'
is an objective factor external to the defense that impeded
the presentation of the claim to the state courts.”
Crutchfield, 910 F.3d at 973. “A
factor is ‘external to the defense' only if it
‘cannot fairly be attributed to' the
prisoner.” Id. (quoting Coleman, 501
U.S. at 750). A fundamental miscarriage of justice may be
demonstrated where the petitioner shows “that a
constitutional violation has probably resulted in the