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Staten v. Neal

decided: July 26, 1989.

GARY STATEN, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
MICHAEL V. NEAL, WARDEN, DANVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER, AND NEIL F. HARTIGAN, ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE OF ILLINOIS, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Danville Division. No. 88-C-2158 -- Harold A. Baker, Chief Judge.

Wood, Jr., Manion, and Kanne, Circuit Judges.

Author: Wood

WOOD, Jr., Circuit Judge

Plaintiff-appellant Gary Staten appeals the district judge's denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. He argues that he pleaded guilty to a robbery charge in Iowa, relying on a state's attorney's promise in Illinois that he would not be prosecuted for the separate charge of escape in Illinois. Contrary to what was promised, Staten was prosecuted and convicted of the escape charge in Illinois. The State admits that a state's attorney had agreed not to prosecute Staten but claims that the state's attorney did not have authority to make this promise for the state's attorney of another county. Staten now argues that the prosecution for escape was fundamentally unfair and violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. We must reject Staten's contention and affirm the district court's decision.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The facts are not in dispute and we summarize them from the Illinois Appellate Court's opinion. See People v. Staten, 158 Ill. App. 3d 971, 511 N.E.2d 938, 110 Ill. Dec. 761, appeal denied, 117 Ill. 2d 552, 517 N.E.2d 1094 (1987); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Staten was imprisoned in the Vandalia Correctional Center in Fayette County, Illinois prior to his transfer on February 24, 1982 to the Urbana Community Correctional Center in Champaign County, Illinois under a work release program. On March 24, 1982 Staten departed from the Urbana facility on a three-hour pass. The three hours stretched into more than three months when he did not return, and a warrant charging escape, in violation of Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, para. 1003-6-4(a) (1985), was issued for his arrest. See Staten, 158 Ill. App. 3d at 973, 511 N.E.2d at 939.

Staten remained at large until August 26, 1982 when he was arrested in Indianapolis, Indiana pursuant to an Iowa warrant charging Staten with robbery. The Indianapolis police notified Illinois authorities of Staten's arrest but returned Staten to Iowa. Prior to trial, the Iowa prosecutor contacted the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) to determine if Illinois would waive prosecution on the escape charge. DOC told the Iowa prosecutor that the prosecutor would have to ask the responsible state's attorney. DOC then checked its records and determined that, before the escape, Staten had been imprisoned in the Vandalia Correctional Center in Fayette County, Illinois. DOC's records did not show that Staten had been transferred out of Fayette County and DOC told the Iowa prosecutor to contact the Fayette County State's Attorney. The Iowa prosecutor contacted the Fayette County State's Attorney and asked him if he would waive prosecution of the escape charge. The Fayette County State's Attorney checked his records. Like the DOC records, his records indicated that Staten had been imprisoned only in Fayette County. The Fayette County State's Attorney then waived prosecution of the Illinois escape charge. After receiving this assurance from the Fayette County State's Attorney, Staten pleaded guilty to second degree robbery in Iowa. The Iowa judge sentenced Staten for a maximum term of ten years. See Staten, 158 Ill. App. 3d at 973, 975, 980-81, 511 N.E.2d at 939-40, 944-45.

On May 27, 1986 Iowa authorities released Staten and returned him to Illinois. The Champaign County State's Attorney, who had not been consulted by either the Fayette County State's Attorney or the Iowa prosecutor, proceeded to prosecute Staten for escape upon his return from Iowa. Staten was convicted in a bench trial and sentenced to three years imprisonment. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed Staten's Illinois conviction, holding that a state's attorney in one county could not bind a state's attorney in another county under Illinois law. The Illinois Supreme Court denied review.

Staten then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He charged that the prosecution was fundamentally unfair and violated the Due Process Clause. The district judge denied the writ of habeas corpus and Staten appeals. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253.

II. ANALYSIS

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires the government to treat a criminal defendant with fundamental fairness. See U.S. CONST. amend. XIV. As a general rule, fundamental fairness means that the courts will enforce promises made during the plea bargaining process that induce a criminal defendant to waive his constitutional rights and plead guilty. See Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 262, 30 L. Ed. 2d 427, 92 S. Ct. 495 (1971).

The Iowa prosecutor in good faith promised Staten that he would not be prosecuted in Illinois if he pleaded guilty in Iowa. This promise was not kept in Illinois. Normally, Staten would challenge his Iowa conviction and the courts would determine whether the conviction should be vacated. See Santobello, 404 U.S. at 262-63. Staten, however, is unable to challenge his Iowa conviction. He completed his Iowa sentence before the Champaign County State's Attorney prosecuted him in arguable violation of the Iowa plea agreement. Staten can only obtain relief by challenging his Illinois conviction. Interpreting Santobello narrowly, we could find that Staten is challenging the wrong conviction and end our inquiry there. We do not read the Due Process Clause and Supreme Court precedents so restrictively, however, and proceed to analyze the unique circumstances of Staten's claim.

The State does not dispute that the Fayette County State's Attorney agreed that he would not prosecute Staten for Staten's Illinois escape if Staten pleaded guilty in Iowa. Nor does the State challenge Staten's assertion that this promise induced him to plead guilty in Iowa. Despite these admissions, the State maintains that the Champaign County State's Attorney validly prosecuted Staten because the Fayette County State's Attorney did not have authority to waive prosecution of an offense that occurred in Champaign County.

The issue then, described as succinctly as possible, is whether the Due Process Clause prohibits a state's attorney in Illinois, whose jurisdiction includes the county in which the crime was committed, from prosecuting a defendant when a state's attorney from another Illinois county promised the defendant that he would not be prosecuted. Both parties seem to agree that the resolution of this issue hinges upon a question of Illinois law: whether the Fayette County State's Attorney (the state's attorney who made the promise) had ...


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