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Lewis v. Lane

decided: November 4, 1987.


Appeals from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Danville Division, No. 86 C 2086 -- Harold A. Baker, Judge.

Cummings, Cudahy, and Coffey, Circuit Judges.

Author: Cummings

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

Petitioner, Cornelius Lewis, his sister, Bernice Lewis, and Willie Sangster were indicted in Macon County, Illinois, on February 21, 1979, and charged with the offenses of murder, armed robbery, and aggravated kidnapping in connection with the robbery of the Citizens National Bank in Decatur, Illinois, on December 14, 1978, during which a bank security guard was shot and killed. Sangster's case was continued and petitioner and his sister Bernice were tried together. A jury found both guilty of all three charges. Petitioner was subsequently sentenced to death for murder. Bernice was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of forty years for murder, thirty years for armed robbery, and thirty years for aggravated kidnapping.

The Illinois Supreme Court on direct appeal affirmed petitioner's conviction and death sentence. People v. Lewis, 88 Ill. 2d 129, 430 N.E.2d 1346, 58 Ill. Dec. 895 (1981). The Supreme Court of the United States subsequently denied certiorari. Lewis v. Illinois, 456 U.S. 1011, 73 L. Ed. 2d 1308, 102 S. Ct. 2307 . Petitioner then sought post-conviction relief in the Illinois courts. See Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 38, para. 122-1 et seq. An Illinois circuit court denied post-conviction relief, and the Illinois Supreme Court again on direct appeal affirmed the lower court's order. People v. Lewis, 105 Ill. 2d 226, 473 N.E.2d 901, 85 Ill. Dec. 302 (1984). Certiorari was again denied. Lewis v. Illinois, 474 U.S. 865, 106 S. Ct. 184, 88 L. Ed. 2d 153 .

On November 13, 1985, the Illinois Supreme Court granted petitioner a stay of execution pending his filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The stay was subsequently extended to cover the outcome of the federal habeas corpus proceedings which were commenced pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on March 31, 1986. The habeas petition challenged both the conviction and the death sentence. Petitioner claimed that his conviction had been obtained in violation of his right under the Sixth Amendment to effective assistance of counsel. He further claimed that his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel had also been denied during the sentencing phase of his case. Finally, he claimed that the Illinois Death Penalty Act, Ill. Rev. Stat. ch 38, para. 9-1, was unconstitutional under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The district court held that petitioner had failed to demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 104 S. Ct. 2052, during the guilty phase of his trial. See United States ex rel. Lewis v. Lane, 656 F. Supp. 181 (C.D. Ill. 1987). However, the court held that he had been denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel during the sentencing phase of his prosecution and accordingly issued a writ of habeas corpus vacating the death sentence and ordering resentencing. In light of its holding with regard to petitioner's sentencing, it did not reach the constitutionality of the Illinois Death Penalty Act. Respondent appeals the court's grant of the writ of habeas corpus ordering resentencing. Petitioner cross-appeals the district court's denial of relief as to his conviction. We affirm.


28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) provides that the factual findings of a state court are presumed to be correct in a federal habeas corpus proceeding. See Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 66 L. Ed. 2d 722, 101 S. Ct. 764 . like the district court, we adopt the Illinois Supreme Court's following statement of facts in People v. Lewis, 88 Ill. 2d 129, 136-141, 430 N.E.2d 1346, 1349-1351, 58 Ill. Dec. 895 (1981):

"The testimony of the principal witnesses was as follows. Jodi Myers testified that, at 6:45 a.m. on the morning of the crime, she noticed two or possibly three persons in a maroon Monte Carlo automobile in the parking lot of the day-care center where she worked. As she walked near the Monte Carlo, a black man seated in the driver's seat (whom she later identified from a line-up as Maurice Farris) lowered his sun visor.

"Mary Comerford testified that, after delivering her child to the same day-care center, she returned to her car, noticing two black persons in a maroon Monte Carlo parked next to her white Mercury automobile. When she entered her car, a black man wearing a ski mask appeared in her back seat and forced her to drive away, eventually taping her eyes and hands and placing her in the trunk of the Mercury.

"Kaye Pinkley, a teller at the Citizens National Bank, testified that decedent Bivens normally drove a van with five tellers, the bank's parking garage to an auto-banking facility. Shortly before 8 a.m. on December 14, as decedent was about to start the van in which the tellers were seated, a tall black man pulled the right front door open, leaned his elbows on the witness's legs, ordered the tellers to remain silent, and shot decedent, as the latter apparently reached for his gun. Then the gunman and another robber took three of the tellers' five briefcases containing money for the day and banking paraphernalia, ran to a light-colored Mercury and drove away. Teller Pinkley and two other tellers alter identified items recovered from the Macon County landfill as items which had been in their briefcases that morning.

"Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Dennis from rural Macon County stated that, while sitting in their car near the Citizens National Bank, they saw two blacks park Mrs. Comerford's Mercury, enter the bank's parking garage, later return to the Mercury, with three black briefcases, and drive off. Gail Thompson, a florist, saw a black man or person dressed as a man, carrying a black briefcase in the vicinity of the parking lot near the bus station, where Norman Goenne, an office worker, saw the driver in a maroon Monte Carlo, waiting with the engine running at around 7:45 a.m.

"Maurice Farris testified that he and Willie Sangster (who according to the prosecution's theory was the mastermind of the robbery) surveyed the Citizens National Bank and the route to the home of Margaret Morgan, where defendant apparently was staying. On two mornings, Farris observed the tellers' routine. Sangster introduced defendant and his sister (using the names 'Denise' and 'Mingo') to Farris, who at trial estimated the sister's height as 5 feet 11 inches, defendant's as over 6 feet and his own as 5 feet 8 inches. The Lewises and he discussed plans for the robbery of the bank. Farris was to drive the car, the Lewises were to do the actual robbing, and Sangster was to get $10,000 'off the top' the day after the robbery, apparently for his role in planning. On the morning of December 13, when the had intended to carry out the plan, the Lewises and Farris were unable to steal a car for use in the robbery, but they did observe the tellers' routine and drove along the route to Mrs. Morgan's. The next morning defendant and his sister, with Farris driving, went to the day-care center in the Monte Carlo looking for a car to steal. Maurice lowered his sun visor to avoid being identified. Defendant left the car and concealed himself in the back seat of Mrs. Comerford's Mercury. When she entered the car he forced her to drive away and eventually took control of her car, forcing her to get into the trunk. Defendant's sister then left Farris in the Monte Carlo, which had accompanied the Mercury, and sat on the passenger side of the front seat of the Mercury. Farris drove to a parking lot near the bus station, got some coffee at about 7:40, and waited with the motor running until defendant and his sister rejoined him, carrying one and two briefcases respectively. The Lewises concealed themselves on the floor of the maroon Monte Carlo. On the drive to Mrs. Morgan's siren prompted comments by the sister, and defendant stated, 'The guard went for his gun. I had to burn him.' Except for the possibility of perjury prosecution, Farris received total immunity in return for his testimony.

"Mrs. Morgan testified that the Lewises had stayed with her beginning on December 12, 1978. On the morning of December 14, at about 8:05 or 8:10 a.m., she observed the defendants with three black briefcases. She asked Bernice Lewis whether Bernice knew that the bank had been robbed, to which Bernice, with defendant present, replied, 'Did he die?' Later that morning Mrs. Morgan saw both Lewises counting a large quantity of money on her coffee table, with black briefcases and 'blank money orders from the bank and money wrappers' present. Defendant gave Mrs. Morgan a paper sack to take to Willie Sangster at Jelk's Barbershop, where he worked. Later that day, Bernice Lewis and Mrs. Morgan went to a deteriorated section of Decatur to dispose of the black briefcases and a garbage bag containing two handguns, money wrappers, and other miscellaneous items. Subsequently Mrs. Morgan and two neighbors moved these things from the garbage cans, where Bernice Lewis and she had put them, to a 'dumpster.' Mrs. Morgan, Shirley Brummet (a neighbor), and the Lewises drove to the Davenport, Iowa, bus station, where defendant and his sister caught the bus to Des Monies. Mrs. Morgan eventually turned over to the FBI some money which she said included that given her by defendant. Mrs. Morgan testified that she discovered a .357-Magnum handgun, testified that she discovered a .357-Magnum handgun, which a ballistics expert indicated could have fired the bullet which killed decedent, under a mattress in the room in which the Lewises had been staying. She stated she observed the gun during a January 25 FBI consent search of the room when the agents lifted the foot of the mattress on the bed. According to her testimony the gun was located near the head of the bed and was not seen by the agents. She did not then mention the gun to them but later that day took it to a friend's home from which the agents later recovered it at her direction. The agents both testified that only the lower corners of the mattress were lifted and they did not observe the gun. On January 31 Mrs. Morgan did give to FBI agents five live rounds of .357-caliber ammunition which she had earlier removed from the gun.

"Barbara Rigney (one of Mrs. Morgan's children) and Florida Eubanks and Shirley Brummet (two neighbors) testified that Bernice and Cornelius Lewis had been staying at Mrs. Morgan's in mid-December, 1978. Wyonia Adams, another neighbor, testified that she and Shirley Brummet had moved garbage bags containing guns and miscellaneous items from a trash can to a 'dumpster.' Shirley Brummet testified that, on December 14, she had traveled with the Lewises and Mrs. Morgan, to the Davenport, Iowa, bus station. Officer McQuaid, of the Decatur police, testified that he observed a black lady carrying a sack into Jelk's Barbershop on the morning of December 14, 1978.

"Defendant's brother-in-law, Dwight David, testified that in later December 1978 defendant had asked him to keep a box which contained money. After he heard that defendant had been arrested, David took the money from the box, put it in a bag, and asked a friend, Mrs. Bradford, to hold it for him. He later retrieved it, and gave it, still in the bag, to the FBI, together with the box from which had had taken it. FBI Agent Ryan testified that new $20 bills with serial number (G21536201A through G21536247A were included in the money turned over by David. Daniel Kinsella, an official of the Federal Reserve Bank, testified that numbers written on the back of a form (Exhibit 80) indicated that $20 notes with serial numbers G21536001A through G21540000A were in a shipment of currency which had been sent to the Citizens National Bank in Decatur.

"Lee Jarombeck, an employee of a Minnesota car dealer, testified that defendant had rented from him the maroon Monte Carlo which had been observed in the day-care lot and eventually recovered from Farris' garage.

"Defendant offered no testimony, adopting Bernice Lewis' case, which primarily emphasized Mrs. Comerford's lineup identification of Farris as her kidnapper, and teller King's positive statements to Decatur police officers that the robbers were both male.


The focus of both the principal appeal and the cross-appeal is whether petitioner was denied effective assistance of counsel in violation of his rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. On the principal appeal the State challenges the district court's determination that the performance of petitioner's attorney during the sentencing phase was constitutionally deficient. On the cross-appeal petitioner challenges the court's determination that he did not receive ineffective representation within the meaning of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 104 S. Ct. 2052, during the guilt phase of the proceedings.

"The essence of an ineffective assistance claim is that counsel's unprofessional errors so upset the adversarial balance between defense and prosecution that the trial was rendered unfair and the verdict rendered suspect." Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U.S. 365, 106 S. Ct. 2574, 2583, 91 L. Ed. 2d 305 ; see Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. at 686; United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648, 655-657, 80 L. Ed. 2d 657, 104 S. Ct. 2039 . In discussing the content of the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel, the Supreme Court has emphasized the important of the adversarial process and the ...

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