United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Johnson Coleman United States District Judge.
the Court is pro se petitioner Rudolph Murchison's
petition for a writ of habeas corpus brought pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). For the following reasons, the
Court denies Murchison's habeas petition and further
declines to certify any issues for appeal under 28 U.S.C.
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
Murchison 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.
September 1999, Murchison and two other men bludgeoned and
robbed eighty-eight year old Ethel Jackson at her home on
South Greenwood Avenue in Chicago. After being taken to the
hospital, Jackson slipped into a coma and never regained
consciousness. Jackson died on March 2, 2001, after which
Murchison was charged with three different counts of first
2006 jury trial, the State introduced Murchison's
video-taped confession in which he admitted that he led his
accomplices to Jackson's home where one of them
repeatedly hit Jackson in the head with a pipe.
Murchison's confession also revealed that the men stole
Jackson's money leaving her bound and gagged. The State
also presented additional evidence corroborating
Murchison's confession, including that before she lost
consciousness, Jackson made a statement to the police
implicating Murchison in the attack and robbery. In September
2006, the jury found Murchison guilty on all three first
degree murder counts, including felony murder, intentional
murder, and knowing murder.
by counsel, filed a direct appeal to the Illinois Appellate
Court arguing: (1) there was insufficient evidence to
establish that he or his accomplices caused Jackson's
death; (2) the trial court erred by instructing the jury with
a non-pattern proximate cause instruction for felony murder;
(3) the trial court erred by not instructing the jury with a
mandatory instruction on armed robbery as a predicate to
felony murder; (4) the trial court abused its discretion by
allowing an expert to testify about causation; and (5) the
trial court violated his right to confrontation when it
allowed the officers to testify that they could identify
Murchison after speaking with Jackson before she went into a
coma. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the conviction of
intentional murder, but vacated the felony murder and knowing
murder convictions. Murchison then filed a counseled petition
for leave to appeal (“PLA”) to the Illinois
Supreme Court arguing that the non-pattern jury instruction
was in error. The Illinois Supreme Court denied
Murchison's PLA in March 2010.
September 2010, Murchison filed a post-conviction petition
pursuant to the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act, 725
ILCS 5/122-1, et seq., raising the same claims that
he raised on direct appeal. The Circuit Court dismissed his
post-conviction petition as frivolous and patently without
merit at the first stage of the proceedings. On appeal, the
parties agreed that the case should continue to the second
stage of post-conviction review, and thus the Illinois
Appellate Court remanded the matter in July 2013.
remand, the trial court appointed Murchison counsel, who
filed a supplemental petition for post-conviction relief
adding one additional claim, namely, that Murchison's
appellate counsel on direct appeal was ineffective for
failing to argue that the trial was defective because the
expert testimony and jury instructions bypassed the question
of foreseeability in relation to causation. The trial court
dismissed both pro se and supplemental post-conviction
petitions in March 2016.
post-conviction appeal, Murchison's appointed counsel
filed a motion to withdraw under Pennsylvania v.
Finley, 481 U.S. 551, 107 S.Ct. 1990, 95 L.Ed.2d 539
(1987). The Illinois Appellate Court granted counsel's
motion and affirmed the post-conviction ruling. In his pro se
PLA to the Illinois Supreme Court, Murchison made only one
argument-that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing
to argue that the expert testimony and jury instructions
bypassed the question of foreseeability in relation to the
cause of Jackson's death. The Illinois Supreme Court
denied Murchison's post-conviction PLA in February 2018.
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 the
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. 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.
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).
“A federal court will not hear a state prisoner's
habeas claim unless the prisoner has first exhausted his