449 F.3d 784 (7th Cir. 2006), 04-2759, Jones v. Hulick

Docket Nº:04-2759.
Citation:449 F.3d 784
Party Name:Adell JONES, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Don HULICK, Acting Warden, [*] Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:June 01, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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449 F.3d 784 (7th Cir. 2006)

Adell JONES, Petitioner-Appellant,

v.

Don HULICK, Acting Warden, [*] Respondent-Appellee.

No. 04-2759.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

June 1, 2006

Argued March 31, 2006.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, No. 04 C 596—Ronald A. Guzman, Judge.

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Andrew E. Tauber (argued), Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, Washington, DC, for Petitioner-Appellant.

Ira Kohlman (argued), Office of the Attorney General, Chicago, IL, for Respondent-Appellee.

Before Rovner, Evans, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

Evans, Circuit Judge.

Adell Jones appeals from the dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

In 1999, Jones waived his right to a jury trial and, following a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, was found guilty of first degree murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking. The trial court found Jones eligible for a death sentence but declined to impose it, opting instead for a sentence of life for the murder plus a concurrent term of 30 years for the hijacking.

The crime was gruesome and frighteningly random. The situation started innocently enough. At 4 a.m., Jones and a friend, in Jones's brother's car, followed two women into a gas station in an attempt to obtain their telephone numbers. Jones approached the women and apparently succeeded in obtaining a phone number. When he was returning to his brother's car, a woman (simply described as a "woman with blonde hair" by the Illinois Appellate Court) asked him to tell another man, who was at the station, to stop harassing her. Jones did, and the man drove off. Then Jones saw that someone was driving away in his brother's car. Jones and his friend then hijacked the blonde woman's van in order to pursue Jones's brother's car. The woman began screaming and struggling, at which point Jones hit her with his gun, which discharged and struck her in the face. The shot was not fatal. At some point, Jones stopped at a house to speak with his cousin. When he returned to the van, he placed the woman in a headlock and shot her several times in the head, killing her.

After exhausting his state court remedies, Jones filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He claimed, in abbreviated fashion, that his counsel was ineffective and that his sentence violated Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000). United States District Judge Ronald A. Guzman ordered Jones to file an amended § 2254 petition on the form required by the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Although Jones filed an amended petition on the form, he wrote "See original petition ...." on the part that asked about his issues and grounds for relief. This petition, too, was dismissed because it violated the order dismissing the first petition, in which the judge said that "grounds contained in the original petition will not be considered if they are not included in the amended petition." The judge also stated that Apprendi did not apply retroactively and could not be a basis for relief. Another amended petition and a motion for reconsideration were ultimately filed, but they were dismissed for essentially the same deficiencies noted the first time around. Jones appeals, and we granted a certificate of appealability on two issues.

(1) Whether the district court can rely on N.D.Ill. Local Rule 81.3 in dismissing his petition and deciding not to examine Jones's second claim. Specifically, whether the requirement in the rules governing § 2254 cases that the "petition must substantially follow either the form appended to these rules or a form prescribed by a local district-court rule" means that prisoners must use the district court's forms and, if so, whether

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it is sufficient that the petition includes the information that would otherwise be written on the form.

(2) Whether Jones's sentence violates Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000). The parties should address when Jones's sentence became final. See Beard v. Banks, 542 U.S. 406, 124 S.Ct. 2504, 2510, 159 L.Ed.2d 494 (2004) (a conviction becomes final when direct review to the state courts is exhausted and the time to file a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court expires).

We then clarified the order, making clear that we intended to certify Jones's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim as well.

In its brief in this court, the State raises the issue of the timeliness of the petition. Jones has replied to that claim so we consider it first. Although the issue was not raised in the district court, we can affirm a district court's dismissal on any ground supported by the record, so we push ahead. U.S. ex rel. Lewis v. Lane, 822 F.2d 703 (7th Cir. 1987). Tangentially related to our consideration of the issue is a recent Supreme Court decision in which the Court determined that even when the state has filed an answer which does not allege a statute-of-limitations defense (thus arguably waiving the defense), a district court has the discretion to dismiss a petition as untimely under AEDPA's one-year statute of limitations. Day v. McDonough, --- U.S. ----, 126 S.Ct. 1675, 164 L.Ed.2d 376 (2006). Under Day, a court dismissing a petition sua sponte must give the parties fair notice and an opportunity to present their positions.

In the case before us, the issue is not whether the defense can be raised sua sponte. The State has explicitly raised the issue. Jones has had an opportunity to respond, and we have listened...

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