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WILSON v. LANE

August 26, 1988

MIRIAM WILSON, NADINE SCHNURSTEIN, RONALD BARROW, GLORIA ABBEY-LYLES AND PATRICIA VADER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIENDS ACTING ON BEHALF OF CHARLES WALKER, PETITIONERS,
v.
MICHAEL LANE, DIRECTOR OF THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stiehl, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Petitioners, Miriam Wilson, Nadine Schnurstein, Ronald Barrow, Gloria Abbey-Lyles and Patricia Vader, filed their petition individually and as next-friends acting on behalf of Charles T. Walker, an Illinois death row inmate currently incarcerated at the Menard Correctional Center, Chester, Illinois.

BACKGROUND

The Court heard oral argument on April 7, 1988, on the petition and ruled on April 19, 1988, that the petitioners could not pursue the action under either jus tertii or citizen standing doctrines. Wilson v. Lane, 697 F. Supp. 1489, 1494-97 (S.D.Ill. 1988). The Court left unresolved the determination as to whether the petitioners have standing to pursue the action as next-friends of Walker.

Under next-friend standing, the Court ruled that petitioners must show why Walker did not sign and verify the petition, as well as the relationship and interest of the would-be next-friends. At 1497, citing Weber v. Garza, 570 F.2d 511, 513-14 (5th Cir. 1978). The Court restricted next-friend standing, ruling that the petitioners may not use the next-friend petition as a device for the unauthorized practice of law. This is to prevent the creation of lay advocates who seek to right all alleged wrongs. Id.

As prospective next-friends, the petitioners alleged that the conditions of confinement on death row have affected Walker's capacity to freely and voluntarily exercise his rights to pursue all post-sentence remedies. After a review of Rees v. Peyton, 384 U.S. 312, 86 S.Ct. 1505, 16 L.Ed.2d 583 (1966), and Lenhard v. Wolff, 603 F.2d 91 (9th Cir.), 443 U.S. 1306 (Rehnquist, J., Opinion in Chambers), stay of execution denied 444 U.S. 807, 100 S.Ct. 29, 62 L.Ed.2d 20 (1979), the Court confined the inquiry to Walker's competence or capacity to terminate his pursuit of judicial remedies. The petitioners' reliance on Smith v. Armontrout, 632 F. Supp. 503 (W.D.Mo. 1986), aff'd, 812 F.2d 1050 (8th Cir. 1987), and Groseclose v. Dutton, 589 F. Supp. 362, 594 F. Supp. 949 (M.D.Tenn. 1984), was found to be misplaced, and the Court determined that the actual causes of Walker's alleged incapacity were not at issue. At 1498-99. The issue of capacity or competence was further limited by the petitioners' acknowledgement that Walker does not suffer from a mental disease or disorder. Remaining at issue was whether Walker's waiver was voluntary, or the result of a flawed mental state due to an overborne will.

The Court determined that the November 20, 1987 hearing in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Illinois was insufficient as a matter of law, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), (2), (3) and (6). The Court held that the state court hearing failed to "address the issue of whether Walker suffered from a flawed mental state due to an overborne will." Further, "the sole issue before the Court is whether Walker suffers from an overborne will which substantially affects his capacity, thereby rendering his decision to abandon further relief involuntary." At 1499-1500.

The Court held an evidentiary hearing on August 8, 1988, and took the matter under advisement. Testifying at the hearing were Curtis L. Barrett, Ph.D., petitioner's expert; Robert E. Becker, M.D.C.M., the Court's expert; and Charles T. Walker. Respondent chose not to have an expert examine Walker. Both experts filed written reports with the Court.

THE ISSUE OF VOLUNTARINESS

The inquiry before the Court concerns the voluntariness of Walker's decision. The original petition relied on the Groseclose decision, and attempted to frame the issue in terms that the conditions of Walker's confinement rendered any decision he made involuntary. The Court, however, refused to review the conditions, per se, and determined that the threshold question was simply whether Walker's decision not to pursue further legal remedies was made voluntarily. As the Court in Groseclose stated, "a defendant's conduct is not voluntary if it is the result of an overborn will or the product of an impaired self-determination brought on by the exertion of any improper influences." 594 F. Supp. at 957.

In its prior Order, this Court determined that the voluntary issue would be reviewed under the capacity test set forth by the Supreme Court in Rees v. Peyton, 384 U.S. 312, 86 S.Ct. 1505, 16 L.Ed.2d 583 (1966). At 1499. The Rees Court established the following standard:

  [W]hether he has capacity to appreciate his position
  and make a rational choice with respect to continuing
  or abandoning further litigation or on the other hand
  is suffering from a mental disease, disorder or
  defect which ...

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