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UNITED STATES EX REL. GREEN v. PETERS

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS, EASTERN DIVISION


September 17, 1993

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ex rel. SIMON GREEN, Petitioner,
v.
HOWARD PETERS, et al., Respondents.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: MILTON I. SHADUR

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

 Simon Green ("Green") originally filed a self-prepared 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Section 2254") petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus because of his allegedly unconstitutional 1988 conviction on a state armed robbery charge (Green is now serving a 20-year sentence for that offense). Because this Court found that Green's petition survived the required initial surface evaluation--that is, it was non-"frivolous" in the legal sense defined by Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 104 L. Ed. 2d 338, 109 S. Ct. 1827 (1989) and most recently refined in Denton v. Hernandez, 118 L. Ed. 2d 340, 112 S. Ct. 1728, 1733-34 (1992):

 

1. Leave was granted to Green to file in forma pauperis.

 

2. Locke Bowman, Esq. ("Bowman") was appointed to act as Green's counsel on a pro bono publico basis.

 

3. All of the state respondents were ordered to answer the petition.

 After respondents had filed an Answer and accompanying Memorandum of Law that (1) challenged several of the grounds advanced by Green in his pro se petition and (2) asked that the writ be denied, Bowman submitted an Amended Petition on Green's behalf, coupled with a motion for evidentiary hearing. After that motion had been fully briefed, this Court's short October 21, 1992 memorandum opinion and order granted the motion, and the required evidentiary hearing has been held. Each party has now tendered post-hearing submissions, and the case is ripe for decision on the merits.

 Because Green's claimed constitutional deprivation is grounded on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, *fn1" the familiar two-pronged standard established by Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-94, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 104 S. Ct. 2052 (1984) has said that he must demonstrate both (1) that his representation at sentencing fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and (2) that a reasonable probability exists that but for his attorney's unprofessional representation the result of the proceeding would have been different. Most recently the Supreme Court has framed the second ("prejudice") branch of that inquiry in a somewhat narrower fashion ( Lockhart v. Fretwell, 122 L. Ed. 2d 180, 113 S. Ct. 838, 844 (1993)):

 

It focuses on the question whether counsel's deficient performance renders the result of the trial unreliable or the proceeding fundamentally unfair. Unreliability or unfairness does not result if the ineffectiveness of counsel does not deprive the defendant of any substantive or procedural right to which the law entitles him.

 En route to that restatement the Court said (113 S. Ct. at 842-43 (footnote omitted)):

 

Thus, an analysis focusing solely on mere outcome determination, without attention to whether the result of the proceeding was fundamentally unfair or unreliable, is defective. To set aside a conviction or sentence solely because the outcome would have been different but for counsel's error may grant the defendant a windfall to which the law does not entitle him.

 And see our Court of Appeals' current decision in Durrive v. United States, 4 F.3d 548, 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 23565, slip op. at 4-5 (7th Cir. 1993), which characterizes Lockhart as "rejecting the equation between causation [in the but-for sense] and prejudice."

 In this instance Green's claim focuses on the assertion that his trial counsel Harry Irby ("Irby") did not investigate the circumstances of a key eyewitness' identification of Green as the driver of the getaway car in an armed robbery. As a result of that failure, Irby neither moved to suppress that photospread identification nor--assuming that a motion to suppress would have been made and denied--presented the circumstances of that identification to the jury so as to raise questions as to the witness' credibility.

 Although Strickland lists the two components of the inquiry in the order stated two paragraphs earlier in this opinion, Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697 also teaches that they need not be dealt with in that sequence--indeed it is not essential to analyze both components, because a defendant's failure to satisfy either of them is fatal to his claim ( United States v. Slaughter, 900 F.2d 1119, 1124 (7th Cir. 1990)). Indeed Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697 says expressly:

 

If it is easier to dispose of an ineffectiveness claim on the ground of lack of sufficient prejudice, which we expect will often be so, that course should be followed. Courts should strive to ensure that ineffectiveness claims not become so burdensome to defense counsel that the entire criminal justice system suffers as a result.

 It is wise to heed that lesson in this case. Although it is at least arguable that Irby's failure to pursue all the available issues on Green's behalf did not fall below the constitutional threshold, *fn2" an analysis of the second prong makes it unnecessary to pursue that first avenue of approach in any event. Hence this opinion will turn directly to the prejudice or absence of prejudice to Green from the asserted taint in the identification procedures.

 In that respect Green's appointed counsel Bowman has done an admirable job of constructing a multi-step argument. First Bowman challenges the procedures that were used by Joliet Police Department Detective Dan Hulbert (1) in causing a photograph of Green to be published in a newspaper article (the "Crime Stoppers" column, which referred to Green as wanted on an arrest warrant for armed robbery *fn3" ), where it was seen by key eyewitness Timothy Beno ("Beno"), and then (2) in using the identical photo in a photo spread shown to Beno something less than two weeks later. Bowman also attacks Detective Hulbert's use of a photo array rather than an in-person lineup as part of the assertedly suggestive identification procedures, but that argument is really unpersuasive. *fn4" And the final aspect of counsel's argument on Green's behalf is that the asserted taint in the earlier identification procedure made any later identification--specifically Beno's in-court identification of Green at trial--equally tainted because the identification well had been irrevocably poisoned.

 On that score Green must again overcome a double hurdle, this time the one defined in Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188, 34 L. Ed. 2d 401, 93 S. Ct. 375 (1972) and further refined in Manson v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98, 114, 53 L. Ed. 2d 140, 97 S. Ct. 2243 (1977):

 

We therefore conclude that reliability is the linchpin in determining the admissibility of identification testimony for both pre- and post-Stovall confrontations. The factors to be considered are set out in Biggers. 409 U.S. at 199-200. These include the opportunity of the witness to view the criminal at the time of the crime, the witness' degree of attention, the accuracy of his prior description of the criminal, the level of certainty demonstrated at the confrontation, and the time between the crime and the confrontation. Against these factors is to be weighed the corrupting effect of the suggestive identification itself.

 Thus even if a photographic identification is impermissibly suggestive, the identification remains admissible if the totality of the just-described circumstances demonstrates its reliability.

 In that respect it is worth quoting at length what the Illinois Appellate Court said on Green's appeal as to whether a new trial should be granted based on the identical factor that is relied on here: the claim that an impermissibly suggestive photospread shown to Beno tainted both of his identifications, first in singling Green out of that photospread and then in pointing Green out in court during the trial. Because the Appellate Court treated that as newly-discovered evidence, and because the Illinois standard for that purpose essentially matches (or is perhaps more generous than) the second (prejudice) branch of the Strickland-Lockhart analysis, *fn5" the Appellate Court's inquiry was really quite parallel to that now before this Court. Here is the relevant part of that opinion (198 Ill. App. 3d at 528-29, 555 N.E.2d at 1210-11):

 

Assuming that the photographic identification was impermissibly suggestive, the State may nevertheless overcome that obstacle, by a clear and convincing showing, based on the totality of the surrounding circumstances, that "the witness is identifying the defendant solely on the basis of his memory of events at the time of the crime." People v. McTush (1980), 81 Ill. 2d 513, 520, 43 Ill. Dec. 728, 410 N.E.2d 861 quoting Manson v. Brathwaite (1977), 432 U.S. 98, 122, 97 S. Ct. 2243, 2257, 53 L. Ed. 2d 140 (Marshall, J., dissenting). In Manson the Court stated:

 

[quoting the same language that this opinion has already quoted from that case]

 Applying these factors to the case at bar, it is apparent that:

 

1. At approximately 12:45 p.m. on a clear sunny day witness Beno observed the defendant from a distance of 10-15 feet for a period of one-two minutes. Beno described the defendant as "sweaty."

 

2. Beno had just been advised that the store next door had been robbed. He and the other two employees went to the back of the store to see if they could observe the robber. It certainly can be inferred that he had a high degree of attention at that time, i.e. he wasn't a passive observer but rather went out to see what was going on.

 

3. Beno's description to the police shortly after the incident was of a heavy set black male, approximately 30-40 years of age, with a bushy afro haircut, small beard and mustache.

 

The pre-sentence report indicates that the defendant is a 5'9", 260 pound black male in his late 30's. The photograph of the defendant which was introduced at trial shows the defendant to have a small beard and mustache. Beno testified that other than having longer hair, the defendant appeared the same in the photograph as he did the day of the robbery.

 

4. Beno never wavered in his identification of the defendant as the driver, either at the pretrial photo line-up or at the in-court identification of the defendant.

 

5. The photo line-up took place approximately one month after the robbery. The in-court identification took place in mid-October, 1988, four months after the robbery.

 

6. It is true that the photo Beno saw in the article was identical to the photo he picked out of the police line-up. However, when he saw the photo, he immediately recognized the defendant as the driver of the automobile on June 6, 1988.

 Balancing the first five against the sixth, we are of the opinion that an independent basis existed for

 

Beno's identifications of the defendant. Accordingly, evidence of these would have been admitted at trial even if the identifications were tainted by Beno's viewing of the Crime Stoppers article.

 To the extent that the Appellate Court's determinations are factual in nature, they bind this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) and Sumner v. Mata, 455 U.S. 591, 597, 71 L. Ed. 2d 480, 102 S. Ct. 1303 (1982) (per curiam). Sumner too involved a question whether a pretrial photographic identification procedure was impermissibly suggestive, and the court said this (footnotes omitted):

 

We agree with the Court of Appeals that the ultimate question as to the constitutionality of the pretrial identification procedures used in this case is a mixed question of law and fact that is not governed by § 2254(d). In deciding this question, the federal court may give different weight to the facts as found by the state court and may reach a different conclusion in light of the legal standard. But the questions of fact that underlie this ultimate conclusion are governed by the statutory presumption as our earlier opinion made clear. Thus, whether the witnesses in this case had an opportunity to observe the crime or were too distracted; whether the witnesses gave a detailed, accurate description; and whether the witnesses were under pressure from prison officials or others are all questions of fact as to which the statutory presumption applies.

 On all of the numbered findings made by the Illinois Appellate Court, this Court concurs (it rejects the contention by Green that some of those "factual determinations were not fairly supported by the record," the potential exception specified in Section 2254(d)(8)). And to the extent that the Appellate Court was ruling on questions of law (determinations that are not binding on this Court as such--see, e.g., Brown v. Allen, 344 U.S. 443, 458, 97 L. Ed. 469, 73 S. Ct. 397 (1953)), this Court independently agrees entirely with its analysis and conclusion.

 Finally, this Court does not find that a presentation to the jury (1) of the Crime Stoppers article, (2) of the fact that Beno had seen it before he saw the photospread and (3) of the inclusion of that same photographs in the photospread establishes "a reasonable probability that . . . the result of the proceeding would have been different" ( Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694)--let alone meeting what seems to be the more demanding showing of prejudice required by Lockhart.

 In summary, Green certainly cannot complain about the excellent quality of the representation that he has received before this Court. But advocacy cannot supplant the need for proof, and on that score Green has failed to show prejudice, the second branch of the Strickland-Lockhart inquiry. This action is dismissed with prejudice.

 Milton I. Shadur

 Senior United States District Judge

 Date: September 17, 1993


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