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Perri v. Director

decided: April 29, 1987.

STANO PERRI, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, STATE OF ILLINOIS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 83 C 1439--John A. Nordberg, Judge.

Coffey, Flaum, and Easterbrook, Circuit Judges.

Author: Flaum

FLAUM, Circuit Judge.

Stano Perri was convicted of murdering his wife, Adelina. After exhausting his state remedies, he filed suit seeking a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court. Perri alleged that he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his Miranda rights, and that his confession was not voluntary. He asserted that, as a result, the admission of his confession into the trial violated his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. We conclude that Perri's confession was knowing and intelligent, and voluntary, and accordingly affirm the denial of his habeas petition.

I.

A.

Stano Perri was born in Italy. Perri completed five years of school, but never received formal training in the English language. In 1974, Perri decided to move to Elmwood Park, Illinois. There he landed a construction job. On the job, and at home, he spoke Italian.

In October of 1977, Perri returned to Italy to get married. He and his wife Adelina returned to Elmwood Park in 1978. They soon began to experience marital problems. This was confirmed to Perri on the night of July 17, 1978, when he came home to find his wife alone, and partially unclothed, with the apartment manager. A domestic quarrel ensued, and the Elmwood police were called in.

About one month later, on August 18, 1978, Perri told his wife that he would like her to move out. She refused and admitted to having an affair with the apartment manager. A violent argument followed and later that evening Adelina was found dead. She had been beaten, and then strangled to death.

Perri was arrested for Adelina's murder. At the time of his arrest, the police gave Perri his Miranda warnings. The record reflects that the assistant state's attorney first gave each warning in English. The Elmwood Park chief of police then translated each warning into Italian. The chief of police had no formal training in Italian; he had learned the language from his parents (who spoke a different dialect than Perri). Perri responded in Italian to the translation of each warning. After each warning, the assistant state's attorney asked Perri in English "if he understood." Perri responded in English that he did.

The trial court admitted Perri's confession into evidence, and the jury found him guilty of murder. Perri appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court, which affirmed his conviction. The Illinois Supreme Court denied review.

B.

Perri filed a habeas corpus petition in the district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254 (1982). In the district court, Perri argued that the Elmwood Park chief of police was not competent to translate the Miranda warnings, because the chief was not "fluent" in Italian and spoke a different dialect than Perri. As a result, Perri asserted that his confession was not knowing and intelligently made, and therefore, was not voluntary. Perri argued, therefore, that the admission of his confession at trial violated his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.

The district court found that Perri's confession was voluntary. The district court also held that Perri understood his rights and knowingly and intelligently waived them based upon the fact that the state trial judge found that Perri made his confession voluntarily. The district court believed that determinations by state courts, including a finding of voluntariness, must be presumed to be correct in federal habeas actions.*fn1 Section 2254(d) of title 28 provides that in habeas proceedings, the federal courts are to presume state court factual findings are correct, if these findings are made after a hearing on the merits, and are fairly supported by the record. See generally Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412, 426-30, 105 S. Ct. ...


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