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UNITED STATES EX REL. WILLIAMS v. PETERS

February 10, 1994

UNITED STATES of America ex rel. ROY WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
HOWARD PETERS, Respondent.


ALESIA


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES H. ALESIA

Roy Williams has petitioned pro se for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. For the reasons set forth below, the court finds petitioner was provided effective assistance of counsel as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Accordingly, the petition is denied.

 I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 The state appellate court's summary of the facts serves as the basis for review of this petition for habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 101 S. Ct. 764, 66 L. Ed. 2d 722 (1981). In December 1986, the petitioner was convicted of rape and sentenced to a 19-year prison term. His wife and codefendant, Emmaline Williams was convicted of indecent liberties with a child and sentenced to a 12-year prison term. The term "indecent" here ranks among the law's great understatements.

 At defendants' joint bench trial, the complainant testified that petitioner and codefendant, complainant's adopted parents, raped and sexually molested her. A letter she had written chronicling the incident was also admitted. More than a year after the incident, following a beating by the codefendant, the complainant reported the rape to her former foster mother, who in turn notified the police. A police officer testified that the codefendant was arrested, waived her rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966), and made statements implicating the petitioner. Subsequently, the petitioner was arrested, waived his Miranda rights, and made an oral statement confessing to the crime. The statement was reduced to writing and signed by the petitioner. Petitioner and codefendant both testified on their own behalf, denying that they had made the statements attributed to them. Petitioner and codefendant were represented by the same attorney at trial.

 Petitioner appealed the decision to the Illinois Appellate Court, claiming he was denied effective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment. The appellate court denied these claims, finding counsel had not operated under a conflict of interest, and was not ineffective on the other grounds alleged. People v. Williams, 182 Ill. App. 3d 598, 538 N.E.2d 564, 131 Ill. Dec. 189 (1st Dist.), appeal denied, 136 Ill. 2d 604, (1989). The court found counsel's decisions did not prejudice the outcome of the case sufficiently to require reversal, and affirmed the conviction.

 Petitioner subsequently sought leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, which was summarily denied. People v. Williams, 127 Ill. 2d 639, 545 N.E.2d 129 (1989). Having exhausted his state court remedies, petitioner now seeks habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, raising the same grounds for reversal on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel as in his petition to the state supreme court. In his brief, petitioner drew extensively from the dissenting opinion of Justice Pincham in the appellate court.

 The grounds raised in his state appeal currently serve as petitioner's basis for relief. Those grounds are as follows: Counsel was ineffective because he failed (1) to file a pretrial discovery motion; (2) to make a motion to suppress petitioner's statement; (3) to make a severance motion; (4) to familiarize himself with and properly utilize the pretrial discovery material voluntarily furnished him by the prosecutor; (5) to learn of the existence, in his own file, of the complainant's letter chronicling the incident; (6) to object to admission of that letter; (7) to cross-examine the complainant on the inconsistencies, contradictions and omissions between her trial testimony and her letter; (8) to present evidence that would have undermined the complainant's credibility; (9) to present evidence that would have bolstered petitioner's and his wife's credibility; (10) to present other favorable evidence on petitioner's behalf; (11) to object to admission of search warrant testimony and other inadmissible evidence; (12) to decline to represent both petitioner and codefendant, although a conflict of interest existed; (13) to object to the prosecutor's improper arguments; and (14) to make proper arguments.

 II. BACKGROUND LAW

 As grounds for habeas corpus relief, petitioner claims the multitude of alleged errors set forth above deprived him of effective assistance of counsel during trial. In his answer, respondent claims the alleged errors were either sound trial strategy or caused no prejudice to petitioner.

 In Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674 (1984), the Supreme Court established a two-prong test for determining whether counsel's omissions or errors have deprived a criminal defendant of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. First, a defendant must demonstrate that counsel's performance was so deficient and that his errors were so egregious that "counsel was not functioning as the 'counsel' guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment." Id. at 687, 104 S. Ct. at 2064. According to the Court in Strickland, a reviewing court, scrutinizing counsel's performance, must be "highly deferential," taking care "to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight, to reconstruct the circumstances of counsel's challenged conduct, and to evaluate the conduct from counsel's perspective at the time." Id. at 689, 104 S. Ct. at 2065. Consistent with this approach, there is a strong presumption that counsel "rendered adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment." Id. at 690, 104 S. Ct. at 2066. The defendant must rebut this presumption and prove that counsel's conduct fell outside "the wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Id. at 689, 104 S. Ct. at 2065.

 The second prong of the Strickland test requires the defendant to show that "counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687, 104 S. Ct. at 2064. As the Strickland Court noted, "the defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Id. at 694, 104 S. Ct. at 2068. "A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id. However, the test is not merely whether the outcome would have been different without the error; instead, the analysis must look at both the outcome and whether the result was fundamentally unfair or unreliable, thereby avoiding the grant of a windfall to a defendant. Lockhart v. Fretwell, 122 L. Ed. 2d 180, 113 S. Ct. 838, 842-43 (1993). As the Seventh Circuit has stated, "Strickland requires us to focus, not upon whether counsel could have done a better job, but upon whether counsel provided the assistance necessary to ensure the fundamental fairness of the proceeding whose result is being challenged." Resnover v. Pearson, 965 F.2d 1453, 1460 (7th Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 113 S. Ct. 2935, 124 L. Ed. 2d 685 (1993).

 Thus, if a defendant can establish both unreasonable error and unfair prejudice as a result of that error, the two prongs of the Strickland test will be satisfied and the defendant will have asserted a valid claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687, 104 S. Ct. at 2064; see also Sullivan v. Fairman, 819 F.2d 1382, 1387 (7th Cir. 1987); Kubat v. Thieret, 867 F.2d 351, 359-60 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 874, 110 S. Ct. 206, 107 L. Ed. 2d 159 (1989). However, "if the defendant makes an insufficient showing on either component of the inquiry -- ...


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