conclusion is not sufficient to substantiate the accusation that the state courts misapplied the relevant law. Therefore, the first claim does not warrant habeas relief.
In his second claim, McCoy contends that Officer Ballard's testimony regarding John's hearsay statement about McCoy's involvement in the murder violated McCoy's right to confront all witnesses against him. Before trial, McCoy moved to exclude evidence of John's conversation with Officer Ballard. The trial court ruled that Officer Ballard may testify that he talked to people in the neighborhood and as a result of such investigation he sought McCoy. The trial court further ruled that Officer Ballard may not testify as to John's description of McCoy. But, during the examination of Officer Ballard on the witness stand, he inadvertently read a portion of his report that read, "but said Michael Iceberg McCoy and Insane Wayne were the people the police were looking for." McCoy moved for mistrial which the trial court denied. Instead, the trial court struck the statement and instructed the jury to disregard it.
The Illinois Appellate Court agreed with McCoy that Officer Ballard's inadvertent testimony directly implicated McCoy in violation of his right to confrontation. McCoy, 606 N.E.2d at 251. Nonetheless, the appellate court affirmed the conviction because it found that the violation was harmless. Id. While this court agrees that any error that may be attributable to the inadvertent testimony was a harmless error, it cannot concur with the conclusion that such testimony violated McCoy's right to confrontation. The presumption of correctness that the court must apply to state court findings are limited only to facts and not to issues involving questions of law or to mixed questions of law and fact. Savory v. Lane, 832 F.2d 1011, 1018 (7th Cir. 1987). Thus, the Illinois Appellate Court's holdings on the issues of confrontation right and the harmless error are subject to independent federal review. Id.
The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires that defendants in criminal prosecutions have the right to confront all witnesses against him or her. Lee v. McCaughtry, 892 F.2d 1318, 1324 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 497 U.S. 1006, 111 L. Ed. 2d 754, 110 S. Ct. 3244 (1990). The purpose of the Confrontation Clause is to "advance a practical concern for the accuracy of the truth-determining process in criminal trials by assuring that 'the trier of fact [has] a satisfactory basis for evaluating the truth of the prior statement.'" Dutton v. Evans, 400 U.S. 74, 89, 27 L. Ed. 2d 213, 91 S. Ct. 210 (1970) (quoting California v. Green, 399 U.S. 149, 161, 26 L. Ed. 2d 489, 90 S. Ct. 1930 (1970)). The evidentiary rules governing hearsay are designed to protect the similar values which the confrontation clause seeks to preserve. Lee, 892 F.2d at 1324.
Generally, statements offered not for the truth of the matter asserted, but to explain the context of the witness' testimony or to explain the reason for the investigation are not hearsay and do not violate the Confrontation Clause because there is no need to evaluate the truth of such statement. United States v. Martinez, 939 F.2d 412, 414 (7th Cir. 1991); United States v. Mejia, 909 F.2d 242, 247 (7th Cir. 1990); Lee, 892 F.2d at 1325. It is not an absolute rule, however, that reference to a non-hearsay statement will never violate the Confrontation Clause. Id. at 1325. A non-hearsay statement may violate the Confrontation Clause if the trial court fails to give proper limiting jury instructions, if the prosecutor destroys the non-hearsay nature of the statement during the trial by arguing the truth of the matter, and if the statement implicates the defendant. Id. at 1325-27; see also Stoner v. Sowders, 997 F.2d 209, 213-14 (1993) (held that the non-hearsay statement violated the Confrontation Clause because it was the only evidence connecting defendant to the crime).
In this case, the State did not offer, introduce, or solicit the inadvertent statement for the truth of the matter asserted, but it simply "slipped-out" while Officer Ballard was reading a portion of his report describing the background of his investigation which ultimately lead to McCoy's arrest. Additionally, the State did not emphasize the inadvertent statement or argue to the jury that there was no reasonable doubt because John's statement directly implicated McCoy. Furthermore, the trial court struck the inadvertent statement and instructed the jury to disregard it. The court must presume that the jury understood and followed the limiting instruction. Greer v. Miller, 483 U.S. 756, 766 n.8, 97 L. Ed. 2d 618, 107 S. Ct. 3102 (1987); Francis v. Franklin, 471 U.S. 307, 324 n.9, 85 L. Ed. 2d 344, 105 S. Ct. 1965 (1985). Under these circumstances, the statement inadvertently introduced and subsequently stricken did not violate McCoy's right to confront under the Sixth Amendment.
Even if Officer Ballard's mistake can be characterized as a constitutional error, such error was harmless and does not warrant habeas relief. McCoy argues that in order for a constitutional error to be harmless, the State must prove that the error was "harmless beyond a reasonable doubt," the standard enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 17 L. Ed. 2d 705, 87 S. Ct. 824 (1967). The Chapman standard is still recognized by the United States Supreme Court as the standard governing harmless constitutional error analysis, Sullivan v. Louisiana, 124 L. Ed. 2d 182, 113 S. Ct. 2078, 2081 (1993), and has been applied to Confrontation Clause violations. Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673, 684, 89 L. Ed. 2d 674, 106 S. Ct. 1431 (1986); Ashford v. Director of Illinois Dept. of Corrections, 871 F.2d 680, 688 (7th Cir. 1989).
The United States Supreme Court in Brecht v. Abrahamson, 123 L. Ed. 2d 353, 113 S. Ct. 1710 (1993), however, announced that the Chapman standard is no longer applicable to habeas proceedings. Id. at 1721; Tague v. Richards, 3 F.3d 1133, 1139 (7th Cir. 1993). Instead, federal courts are instructed to follow the less vexatious standard announced in Kotteakos v. United States, 328 U.S. 750, 90 L. Ed. 1557, 66 S. Ct. 1239 (1946), to review constitutional errors in habeas proceedings. Brecht, 113 S. Ct. at 1721-22. Under the Kotteakos standard, a constitutional error is deemed harmless, unless the habeas petitioner establishes that the error "had substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict." Id. at 1722. The Brecht Court reasoned that:
Under this standard, habeas petitioners may obtain plenary review of their constitutional claims, but they are not entitled to habeas relief on trial error unless they can establish that it resulted in "actual prejudice." See United States v. Lane, 474 U.S. 438, 449, 106 S. Ct. 725, 732, 88 L. Ed. 2d 814 (1986). The Kotteakos standard is thus better tailored to the nature and purpose of collateral review, and more likely to promote the considerations underlying our recent habeas cases. Moreover, because the Kotteakos standard is grounded in the federal harmless-error rule (28 U.S.C. § 2111), federal courts may turn to an existing body of case law in applying it.