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Reynolds v. Lawrence

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

December 4, 2019

ANTHONY REYNOLDS (R10672), Petitioner,
v.
FRANK LAWRENCE, [1] Acting Warden, Menard Correctional Center, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is pro se petitioner Anthony Reynolds' petition for a writ of habeas corpus brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). For the following reasons, the Court denies Reynolds' habeas petition and declines to certify any issues for appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).

         Background

         When considering habeas petitions, federal courts presume that 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). Where Reynolds has not provided clear and convincing evidence to rebut this presumption, the following factual background is based on the Illinois Appellate Court's decisions on direct and post-conviction appeal.

         Factual Background

         This case arises from the shooting death of Martel Edwards on April 28, 2006. That evening, Edwards was at a car wash near Harvey, Illinois with David Dabbs, William Blasingame, and several other individuals when Reynolds, Raymond Lipscomb, and Kendall Edwards arrived in a blue Buick Park Avenue sedan. Reynolds and Lipscomb exited the car and walked up to Dabbs. Reynolds then shook Dabbs hand. At his May 2009 jury trial, Reynolds testified that he went to the car wash to talk to Dabbs about maintaining peace between rival factions in Harvey, but on cross-examination Reynolds admitted that he was seeking revenge for the death of his friend, Willie Matthews. After shaking hands, Lipscomb fired multiple shots at the victim Edwards and Dabbs before Reynolds drew his gun and fired it. Edwards and Dabbs fled from the scene, but Edwards fell to the ground and later died of gunshot wounds.

         The trial court instructed the jury on two kinds of first degree murder-intentional or strong probability and felony murder based on the aggravated discharged of a firearm-as well as on second degree murder. Following deliberations, the jury found Reynolds guilty of both types of first degree murder. The trial court then merged the felony murder conviction into the intentional and strong probability conviction and sentenced Reynolds to 40 years in prison for first degree murder and 20 years for the firearm enhancement.

         Procedural Background

         Reynolds, by counsel, filed an appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court arguing: (1) the trial court erred by refusing to give his proposed self-defense jury instructions; (2) trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to propose a jury instruction defining self-defense; (3) the felony murder jury instructions violated his right to a fair trial; (4) prosecutorial misconduct violated his right to a fair trial; and (5) the trial court erred by allowing the State to impeach him in violation of Illinois law. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed Reynolds' conviction and sentence in April 2012. Reynolds then filed a counseled petition for leave to appeal (“PLA”) bringing the same claims to the Illinois Supreme Court. The Illinois Supreme Court denied his PLA in September 2012.

         In March 2013, Reynolds filed a post-conviction petition pursuant to the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act, 725 ILCS 5/122-1, et seq. He presented the following arguments: (1) trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to investigate and call occurrence witnesses; and (2) the State improperly used his 2007 proffer agreement to his detriment. The trial court dismissed Reynolds' post-conviction petition at the second stage of the proceedings in January 2014.

         On post-conviction appeal, Reynolds, by counsel, argued: (1) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and call certain occurrence witnesses; and (2) the State violated the 2007 proffer agreement. In June 2016, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the second stage post-conviction dismissal. The only issue Reynolds raised in his post-conviction PLA is that counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and call occurrence witnesses at trial. The Illinois Supreme Court denied Reynolds' post-conviction PLA in November 2016.

         Legal Standards

         “Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), a federal court cannot issue a writ of habeas corpus on a claim rejected on the merits in state court unless the petitioner surmounts high obstacles.” Janusiak v. Cooper, 937 F.3d 880, 888 (7th Cir. 2019). Specifically, under AEDPA, the Court cannot grant habeas relief unless the state court's decision was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of federal law clearly established by the Supreme Court. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 402-03, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000); Felton v. Bartow, 926 F.3d 451, 464 (7th Cir. 2019). The Supreme Court has explained that a state court's decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court law “if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by this Court on a question of law” or “if the state court confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and arrives at a result opposite to ours.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 405. Under the “unreasonable application” prong of the AEDPA standard, a habeas petitioner must demonstrate that although the state court identified the correct legal rule, it unreasonably applied the controlling law to the facts of the case. Id. at 407.

         “[A] state prisoner must exhaust his remedies in state court before seeking relief in federal court.” Snow v. Pfister, 880 F.3d 857, 864 (7th Cir. 2018). “Inherent in the habeas petitioner's obligation to exhaust his state court remedies before seeking relief in habeas corpus, is the duty to fairly present his federal claims to the state courts.” King v. Pfister,834 F.3d 808, 815 (7th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). If a habeas petitioner fails to fully and fairly present his federal claims through ...


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