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Henderson v. Eckstein

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 27, 2018

JAMES LAMAR HENDERSON, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN SCOTT ECKSTEIN, Respondent.

          ORDER

          J. P. STADTMUELLER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         1. INTRODUCTION

         On January 11, 2013, a jury in the Racine County Circuit Court found Petitioner James Lamar Henderson ("Henderson") guilty of attempted murder and other charges related to an incident where Henderson fired a gun at two people and hit one of them. (Docket #1 at 2). On February 15, 2013, Henderson was sentenced to over fifty years' imprisonment. Id. He filed a direct appeal and a later post-conviction motion in the Wisconsin courts, both of which were denied at each stage of review. Id. at 3-6. Henderson filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus on June 19, 2017. As explained further below, the Court previously dismissed three of the four grounds for relief Henderson's petition presents. (Docket #15). As to the final ground, Henderson filed a brief in support on November 29, 2017. (Docket #17). Respondent submitted his brief in opposition on January 22, 2018. (Docket #18). Henderson filed a reply on February 26, 2018. (Docket #19).[1]For the reasons explained below, Henderson's petition must be denied.

         2. BACKGROUND

         Though the underlying criminal proceedings have produced multiple opinions from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the only relevant decision was issued on March 15, 2017. State of Wisconsin v. Henderson, 2016- AP-159, 2017 WL 1026237 (Wis. Ct. App. 2017). There, the court addressed Henderson's post-conviction motion filed pursuant to Wis.Stat. § 974.06. Id. at *1. The court aptly summarized the operative facts:

James Lamar Henderson appeals pro se from an order denying his motion for postconviction relief. He contends that the circuit court erroneously admitted hearsay testimony in violation of his constitutional right to confrontation. He further contends that his trial counsel was ineffective. Finally, he contends that he is entitled to a new trial in the interest of justice. We reject Henderson's arguments and affirm.
In January 2012, the State filed a criminal complaint charging Henderson with two counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon, one count of first-degree reckless injury with use of a dangerous weapon, one count of first-degree reckless endangerment with use of a dangerous weapon, and four related counts of misdemeanor bail jumping. The charges stemmed from an incident at a New Year's Eve party in which Henderson shot a firearm at two individuals, striking one with several bullets.
The matter proceeded to trial. There, the jury heard from Sergeant Terrance Jones of the Racine Police Department. Sergeant Jones testified that on December 31, 2011, he was off-duty, working security at the American Legion in Racine. Shortly after midnight, his partner, Officer Robert Thillemann, entered the building and said that there was a report of a shooting outside. Sergeant Jones and Officer Thillemann headed outside to investigate.
Sergeant Jones testified that as he was heading outside, he talked to a woman who refused to give her name. When the prosecutor asked Sergeant Jones what the unidentified woman said to him, defense counsel objected on grounds of hearsay and the right to confrontation. After a brief voir dire of Sergeant Jones outside the presence of the jury, the circuit court overruled the objection. The court determined that the woman's statements were admissible as present sense impressions and did not raise a confrontation issue.
Sergeant Jones went on to describe two conversations that he had with the unidentified woman. In the first conversation, he asked whether she saw anyone shooting a gun. The woman said that she saw a man firing one in the back of the parking lot. This caused Sergeant Jones to investigate the back of the parking lot where he discovered the shooting victims.
After talking to the shooting victims, Sergeant Jones spoke again with the unidentified woman. In this second conversation, the woman described the gunman. At that point in time, Sergeant Jones did not know whether the gunman was still in the area.
On the basis of this and other evidence, the jury convicted Henderson of one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon, one count of first-degree recklessly endangering safety with use of a dangerous weapon (this charge had been amended from attempted first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon), one count of first-degree reckless injury with use of a dangerous weapon, and three counts of misdemeanor bail jumping.

Id. The court affirmed the denial of Henderson's post-conviction motion in all respects. Id. at *2-3.

         Henderson's habeas petition initially presented four grounds for relief. The first three were dismissed upon Respondent's motion, as they were issues of state law beyond review in a federal habeas proceeding. (Docket #15). Henderson's fourth and final ground for relief is that his Sixth Amendment right to confront ...


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