Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois.
No. 95-1125 Joe Billy McDade, Judge.
Before CUMMINGS, ROVNER, and DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.
DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judge.
On February 8, 1983, Anthony Hall, then an inmate at Pontiac Correctional Center, fatally stabbed Frieda King and stuffed her body in a closet next to a large walk-in freezer in the prison kitchen. King had been the civilian supervisor of the kitchen at Pontiac. After a brief investigation, Hall was charged with the murder and went to trial before Judge William T. Caisley of the Circuit Court for Livingston County, Illinois. After a trial to the court, Judge Caisley found Hall guilty of murder and, following a sentencing hearing held six weeks later for which Hall also purportedly waived his right to a jury, he sentenced Hall to death. Hall appealed his conviction and sentence to the Illinois Supreme Court, which affirmed. People v. Hall, 499 N.E.2d 1335 (Ill. 1986) ("Hall I"). He then filed a post-conviction petition pursuant to Illinois law, 725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (1994), which Judge Caisley denied following an evidentiary hearing. That denial was also affirmed by the Illinois Supreme Court. People v. Hall, 626 N.E.2d 131 (Ill. 1994) ("Hall II").
Once his state remedies were exhausted, Hall filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. sec. 2254. He presented a total of seven alleged constitutional violations (one of which had ten sub-parts), some of which allegedly invalidated his conviction and his sentence, and some just the sentence. The district court denied his petition and he now appeals to this Court, attacking the entire proceeding on two grounds and his sentence on three additional grounds. Although we find no reversible error in the district court's judgment denying habeas relief on the case as a whole, we conclude that Hall received ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing. He is therefore entitled to a writ of habeas corpus limited to his sentence.
The pre-trial and trial proceedings in Hall's case were unusually contentious. Hall initially informed the court he would obtain private counsel, but when he was unsuccessful, the court, on March 8, 1983, appointed David Ahlemeyer, the Public Defender of Livingston County, to represent him. The relationship between Ahlemeyer and Hall was poor from the outset. After his appointment, Ahlemeyer did not visit Hall to discuss his case for over three months, during which time Hall fruitlessly attempted to reach Ahlemeyer by phone and through letters. Although the State had begun to provide Ahlemeyer with discovery materials, Ahlemeyer did nothing to share this information with Hall. Unhappy with his attorney's services, Hall began again to search for another lawyer. He sent several requests to the court for new counsel, in which he described Ahlemeyer's lack of attention to the case, but the court decided that it would appoint another attorney only if Hall could show that Ahlemeyer had a conflict of interest. On June 29, 1983, Ahlemeyer tried (apparently for the first time) to meet with Hall to discuss the case, but Hall refused to see him. This prompted Ahlemeyer to move on July 11, 1983, to withdraw from the case. Consistently with its earlier ruling, the court again denied the motion because Ahlemeyer did not allege a conflict of interest.
Matters went from bad to worse between Hall and Ahlemeyer following the July motion. In late September, Ahlemeyer sought a second meeting with Hall, which Hall again refused to grant. At a fitness hearing held on October 4, 1983, Ahlemeyer informed the court that Hall was being uncooperative. Hall replied threateningly that his refusal to cooperate was a rational act and implied that if Ahlemeyer ever came "within an arm's length" of him, he would assault the lawyer. The court found Hall was fit for trial and denied a second motion to withdraw presented by Ahlemeyer. At that time, however, the court offered to appoint Steven Skelton, the Public Defender of McLean County, as additional counsel. Hall initially refused the offer, but later (after an unsuccessful effort to convince the court to appoint a private attorney he had found) he acquiesced and the court appointed Skelton. In the course of three more court appearances between December 5, 1983, when Skelton was appointed, and February 21, 1984, when the trial began, nothing in the record indicates that Hall was being uncooperative.
Hall's behavior problems were not, however, at an end. Following jury selection, Hall informed the court that he wished to proceed pro se because his attorneys refused to call two particular witnesses on his behalf. Hall, Ahlemeyer, Skelton, and the judge adjourned to chambers to discuss the matter outside the presence of the jury. Judge Caisley warned Hall of the dangers of proceeding unrepresented in a capital case, while Ahlemeyer and Skelton objected to Hall's proposal that he proceed pro se with backup help from the lawyers. Judge Caisley then began to ask Hall about the witnesses, and in his own words, the following events took place:
. . . let the record further show that defense counsel, Steven Skelton, has just been struck on the head by the defendant with a chair and that the court has also been struck by the defendant on the head with his fist . . . . Hall I, 499 N.E.2d at 1339.
Hall had also hurled a chair at Ahlemeyer before he was restrained. When court reconvened, the court denied Hall's request to represent himself and ordered that Hall be shackled for the duration of the trial. Skelton and Ahlemeyer moved to withdraw, arguing that the attorney-client relationship was now irretrievably lost, and asked the judge to recuse himself. The court denied both requests, the jury returned to the courtroom, and the trial proceeded with Hall seated away from his attorneys, shackled and with several guards standing behind him.
During the prosecution's opening statement, Hall personally interrupted the proceedings to tell the court that he wanted to waive his right to a jury. The judge replied that he would consider the waiver request after opening statements. Following completion of the State's opening statement, the judge explained the seriousness of the charges and the range of penalties Hall faced. He told Hall that if Hall waived a jury, the judge would determine both the facts and the law in the case. When Hall realized that the court intended to accept his waiver only for the guilt/innocence stage of the proceedings, he attempted to waive a jury in advance for any possible sentencing proceedings that might follow. After a somewhat lengthy exchange with Hall, his lawyers, and the prosecutor, the court decided to accept Hall's waiver only for the guilt/innocence stage of the trial and to reserve decision on the request to waive the jury for sentencing. At no time during this exchange did anyone discuss the operation of capital sentencing juries under Illinois law.
On March 2, 1984, the court announced its finding that Hall was guilty of the murder. The State promptly reiterated its intention to seek the death penalty and requested that Hall decide whether to have a jury make the capital sentencing determination. Noting that this was a decision Hall might wish to discuss with counsel, the court recessed for an hour. When court reconvened, the judge opened by reciting the sections of the Illinois Criminal Code that would govern the sentencing phase and by noting that Hall had a right to a jury determination of his penalty. The judge then asked Hall directly whether he had "had an opportunity to discuss with [his] counsel whether or not [he] desired to have a jury determination of whether capital punishment or some other lawful sentence is to be imposed." Hall replied "no," which prompted the court to order another short recess at which he could discuss the issue with counsel. Hall and his lawyers talked for a mere 40 seconds, during which time they told Hall simply that he had a right to a jury at sentencing. Neither of his defense attorneys advised Hall that under Illinois law, while it takes a unanimous jury to impose death, it takes the vote of only ...