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People v. Hobley

May 29, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bilandic

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, the defendant, Madison Hobley, was found guilty of seven counts of felony murder, one count of arson, and seven counts of aggravated arson. The charges related to an arson fire in which seven persons died and several other persons were injured. Following a sentencing hearing, defendant was sentenced to death. This court affirmed defendant's convictions and death sentence on direct appeal. People v. Hobley, 159 Ill. 2d 272 (1994). Defendant's petition for a writ of certiorari was denied. Hobley v. Illinois, 513 U.S. 1015, 130 L. Ed. 2d 491, 115 S. Ct. 575 (1994).

Defendant subsequently filed a second-amended petition for post-conviction relief, which the circuit court dismissed without conducting an evidentiary hearing. He appeals to this court from the dismissal of that post-conviction petition. 134 Ill. 2d R. 651(a). We now affirm in part and reverse in part, and remand to the circuit court for an evidentiary hearing.


Trial Evidence

The evidence presented at defendant's trial is detailed in part in this court's opinion on direct appeal. Hobley, 159 Ill. 2d 272. Because an understanding of the trial evidence is necessary to evaluate the first claim presented in defendant's post-conviction petition, we present a summary of that evidence.

State's Case

The State's evidence showed that, on January 6, 1987, at approximately 2 a.m., a fire broke out in a multiple-unit apartment building at 1121-23 East 82nd Street in Chicago. The fire claimed the lives of Anthony Bradford, Johnny Mae Dodds, Shelone Holton, Schalise Lindey, and Robert Stephens, as well as Anita Hobley and Philip Hobley, defendant's wife and infant son. The cause of death for each victim was acute carbon monoxide toxicity.

The apartment building consisted of four floors: the garden-level English basement and the first, second and third floors. The building was long and narrow, with an inside stairwell located at its front and an outside stairwell located at its rear. A single hallway ran the length of each floor and could be accessed by both stairwells. The top three floors each contained seven apartments, numbered _01 through _07. The fire was located in the front stairwell of the building, nearest the apartments numbered _01 and _02.

At the time of the fire, defendant lived in apartment 301 with his wife and son. Apartment 301 was located directly across from the front stairwell on the third floor.

Investigation revealed that gasoline, an accelerant, was used to start the fire. The front stairwell completely collapsed as a result of the fire. Tests of stairwell debris revealed the presence of gasoline in the front stairwell. Experts for both the State and the defense agreed that the fire was intentionally set with gasoline somewhere in the front stairwell.

Tests of the area outside of apartment 301 revealed no traces of gasoline. The door and door jam of apartment 301 were burned almost completely.

A firefighter called to the scene saw that the fire was burning hotter on the third floor, and he smelled the presence of gasoline in the burning stairwell.

While the fire still raged, firefighters discovered four bodies in the third-floor hallway. Another body was found in the second-floor hallway. A firefighter located the bodies of Anita and Philip Hobley inside of apartment 301, lying to the right of the window up against the wall. He testified that, when he arrived, the door was shut but burned off. The window had been stripped or blown out. Some furniture in the apartment had melted tops, which evidenced the enormous heat that had been in the apartment. He smelled the odor of gasoline.

Louis Casa, the building manager, testified that he rented apartment 301 on November 12, 1986, to defendant. A woman named Angela McDaniel was also there. Casa was under the impression that defendant and McDaniel would live together. Casa was not aware that at some time between November 12, 1986, and the day of the fire, McDaniel had moved out and defendant had moved his wife and son into the apartment.

Two witnesses testified regarding a gasoline purchase on the night of the fire. Andre Council testified that he was visiting Kenneth Stewart while Stewart worked at an Amoco station located at 83rd and Cottage Grove in Chicago. Council parked his car next to a gasoline pump. Sometime after midnight on January 6, 1987, Council saw a man walk up to the station. The man was carrying a gasoline can and asked to purchase one dollar's worth of gasoline. Council was not certain of the size of the can, but he said it looked like a one-gallon can. Council made an in-court identification of defendant as the man who had purchased the gasoline. Council described defendant as wearing a navy blue or black pea coat, a hat and jeans while at the station.

Council stated that the man then left the station, walking toward the direction of the building. Sometime later, fire trucks passed the station. Council left because he lived near the direction where the fire trucks were heading. After a brief stop at home, Council went near the fire. While there, he again saw the man, now standing near the viaduct, about two houses away from the fire. Council claimed that the man was wearing the same thing as when he saw him at the Amoco station. When Council later saw defendant on television as a suspect in the fire, he called police and told them about the gasoline purchase.

The second witness, Kenneth Stewart, was working at the Amoco station on the night of January 5 and 6, 1987. He recalled that a short man purchased one dollar's worth of gasoline with a standard red and yellow gasoline can. The can was a one-gallon can. Stewart acknowledged that the gasoline can introduced as People's exhibit 8 was a two-gallon can, but said that it looked similar to the can he saw. Stewart witnessed a lineup at 4 p.m. on January 6, 1987. After some difficulties, Stewart stated that defendant "favored" the man who purchased the gasoline. He also stated that he could not tell with "any degree of certainty." At trial, Stewart expressed more certainty, but acknowledged that he saw the man's face for only three to four seconds.

A number of professionals investigated the fire to determine its cause. One of them was Fire Marshall Francis Burns. He testified that the extreme heat outside of apartment 301, and the damage sustained at that location, evidenced that an accelerant had been poured on the floor outside the door of apartment 301. He also stated, however, that if the door to apartment 301 had been left open and a window inside the apartment was open, the fire would have been drawn to apartment 301 more intensely because fire seeks oxygen.

Detective Virgil Mikus, a Chicago police officer then assigned to a federal arson task force, arrived at the scene at 3:10 a.m. and was assigned to investigate the cause and origin of the fire. As part of his investigation, he examined the exterior and interior of the building, and collected debris samples for examination. Mikus testified that a flammable liquid was poured in front of apartment 301. As evidence of this, he noted a circular pour and burn pattern outside the apartment door with a four to six foot diameter, and that the roof and baseboards had been completely burned.

Chicago police Detectives Robert Dwyer and James Lotito also investigated the fire. At about 9 a.m. on January 6, 1987, Dwyer and Lotito interviewed defendant at his mother's home after determining that he had been a tenant of apartment 301. Dwyer, Lotito and defendant sat in Dwyer's vehicle, and Dwyer told defendant that the fire had been intentionally set and asked defendant if he had any idea who may have done it. Dwyer testified that defendant mentioned a suspicious fire in the building on December 31, 1986. Defendant also mentioned that he suspected a woman named Angela McDaniel, with whom he had previously had an affair. Defendant then agreed to accompany the officers to Area Two Police Headquarters (Area 2).

After arriving at Area 2, Dwyer learned information that contradicted defendant's story. Defendant was read his Miranda rights so that he could be questioned again. Defendant gave Dwyer the address and telephone number of McDaniel.

Defendant was then taken to another area police headquarters, at 11th and State Streets, where he was interviewed by Sergeant Patrick Garrity. In the meantime, Dwyer and Lotito interviewed McDaniel over her lunch hour. Garrity testified that no one else was present during their interview. According to Garrity, defendant first denied involvement with the fire, but mentioned his suspicions of McDaniel. Garrity told defendant that he had reason to believe that he was lying. Defendant then allegedly broke eye contact and made an admission. Garrity testified that defendant told him that he had gone to a gasoline station with a can, purchased gasoline, poured it in the stairwell and in the hallway outside his apartment, lit the gasoline with a match, and then threw the gasoline can down the second-floor hallway. Defendant said that he did this because he was experiencing trouble with his girlfriend Angela and his wife. Garrity took notes during this interview, but those notes stated only that defendant made "admissions." Garrity stated that he did not write down defendant's confession, but rather notified the investigating detectives.

Subsequently, Dwyer interviewed defendant in an interview room. Lotito and Officer McWeeney were either in or just outside of the room during this time. Dwyer testified that defendant repeated his confession to him. Defendant also told Dwyer that he could not handle his wife anymore and that he wanted to be with McDaniel in the future. Defendant was then allowed to speak to his attorney, who had arrived, and was then taken to the lineup. After the lineup, Dwyer was escorting defendant back to Area 2 when they were approached by reporters. Defendant told the reporters that the police have the wrong man.

Dwyer testified that he took notes of defendant's confession, but those notes do not exist anymore. Dwyer destroyed them because "They were a mess. Quite frankly they were soaking wet. You know, ink was running on them. Once I completed my report I no longer had need for the notes and it is my custom that if I don't need them to just discard them." The report that still exists was written on January 31, 1987. Dwyer denied ever physically brutalizing or racially harassing defendant.

Detective John Paladino testified that when he started his shift on the afternoon of January 6, 1987, another officer contacted him and told him to go to the fire scene and locate a gasoline can on the second floor. He also spoke with Dwyer. Paladino went to the fire scene and found the gasoline can inside of apartment 206 in the kitchen under the sink. He located the arson investigators and had them take photographs of the can. Paladino found the can at 5 p.m. on January 6, 1987. This two-gallon can was introduced at trial as People's exhibit 8.

Paladino further testified that the black powder appearing on the can at trial appeared to be fingerprint powder. He stated that the can had been sent to the crime lab for fingerprint testing.

Some tenants testified about the night of the fire. Debra Bedford of apartment 302 testified that her apartment was directly across the hall from apartment 301. After being awakened by a smoke alarm, she touched her front door and noticed that it was hot. She did not open the door. She called the fire department. She then sat in her window for about 10 to 15 minutes as her apartment filled with extreme heat and smoke. The fire department finally arrived and rescued her with a ladder.

After her rescue, Debra Bedford saw defendant at the scene of the fire. He was upset. Defendant told her that he thought his wife and baby were still in there, and that he thought maybe they were behind him as he ran out. Defendant was wearing a short jacket, like a pea coat, and pants, but no shoes. Bedford testified further that the coat introduced as defense exhibit 1 looked like the coat defendant was wearing. She examined the coat and noted that it is a ladies coat, since it buttons on the left side.

Althea Tucker of apartment 203 testified that she went to the window when she realized the building was on fire. Her brother Curtis Tucker, who had just escaped from apartment 207, called for her to throw her children down. From her window, Tucker saw defendant near the viaduct, which was two houses away. Defendant ran toward the building. Defendant then helped her brother catch her son when she dropped him from the window. Defendant was wearing a T-shirt and pants, but no shoes and no jacket.

Angela Slatton testified that she lived in apartment 206 with Howard Wilson and her toddler daughter. Apartment 206 was near the rear of the building. She awoke after her daughter bit her. The apartment was full of smoke. She opened the door and saw that the hallway was full of smoke, real hot and dark. She closed the door. She threw her daughter out the window. Firemen then rescued her and Wilson with a ladder. Slatton denied that the two-gallon gasoline can later found in her apartment belonged to her or Wilson. This was the gasoline can introduced as People's exhibit 8.

Brian Greene, a firefighter, testified that while the January 6, 1987, fire was still burning, he entered the second-floor hallway through the back stairwell with his supervisor. Greene did not know if other firefighters had already been in the second-floor hallway. Although he was equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment, the heavy smoke and heat required him to crawl on the floor. He crawled halfway through the building. As he crawled, he looked at the floor. He located the body of Anthony Bradford and took it outside. Green never saw a gasoline can in the hallway.

There was brief testimony regarding an earlier fire in the building on December 31, 1986. Some tenants testified that there had been a small fire on the third floor on December 31, 1986, a few days earlier than the instant fire. Louis Casa, the building manager, fixed the damage caused by the December 31, 1986, fire. He described the damaged area as being in the third-floor landing area, about nine feet outside of apartment 301.

At the close of the State's case, defendant moved for a mistrial. Defendant argued that Detective Paladino's testimony revealed that the State had performed fingerprint testing on the gasoline can introduced as exhibit 8. Defendant asserted that he was entitled to a mistrial because the State had never disclosed to the defense that a fingerprint analysis had been performed on that can. Nor did the State disclose to the defense the results of that test. The assistant State's Attorney told the trial Judge that no such fingerprint report existed. The trial judge accepted the State's representation and denied defendant's motion for a mistrial.

Defense Case

Defendant testified that he did not set fire to his apartment building and that he never confessed to doing so. Defendant admitted having had an affair with Angela McDaniel while he was married. He met McDaniel at a going-away party during the third week of October 1986. The affair lasted about one month. In November 1986, defendant rented apartment 301 in the building on 1121-23 East 82nd Street for McDaniel because she had no credit. McDaniel moved into the apartment, but defendant did not. Defendant's wife discovered the affair in mid-November 1986, after McDaniel moved into apartment 301. A week later, his wife threw defendant out of their home and told him not to return until he ended the affair. Defendant stayed with McDaniel for four days. Defendant then informed McDaniel that he was ending the affair. McDaniel moved out of the apartment after Thanksgiving Day, 1986, because she could not afford it on her own. At Thanksgiving, defendant admitted the affair to his wife's grandparents, who had raised her. He and his wife then reconciled.

According to defendant, he and his wife and child moved into apartment 301 during the week before Christmas of 1986 because it was nicer than where they were living. When defendant came home from work on December 31, 1986, there was a large burn hole in the carpeting outside their apartment. His wife told him that she and another tenant had put out a fire there. Defendant suspected that McDaniel may have had something to do with the fire because their affair had ended badly.

After New Year's Day, 1987, defendant called McDaniel and arranged to meet her at a lounge. Defendant asked McDaniel if she knew anything about the fire in the building. She asked if the fire was on the third floor, but then denied having any knowledge of the fire. McDaniel stated that she wanted the $590 back that she had put down on the apartment. When defendant said that he wanted to stay with his wife and baby, she slapped him and said that he "was going to pay for *** wasting her time."

Defendant testified that he was home with his wife and child on the night of the fire. He was awakened that night by what he initially thought was his watch alarm. After realizing that the noise was a smoke alarm, he woke his wife and got out of bed. When he opened the hallway door, he saw and smelled smoke. Defendant told his wife there was a fire and to get the baby.

Defendant went out into the hallway to investigate, leaving the door to his apartment open. The smoke appeared to be coming from apartment 304. The smoke was low in the hallway near that apartment. Defendant was walking over to knock on the door to that apartment when he heard a popping noise. The doorway to his own apartment went up in flames. The fire had come up the stairwell. Defendant could not get back inside his own apartment. He pounded at the wall and screamed at his wife to shut the door and go to the window. Defendant then "got down low" and ran out the back door because he could not breathe.

Once outside, defendant went and stood below his bedroom window. The window was open a few inches, as it always was because the apartment tended to be warm. He saw smoke coming out of his window, but never saw his wife or baby. Defendant was wearing only a T-shirt and shorts, and was not wearing shoes.

Defendant ran to the front of the building where some people had gathered. He was looking for help to get his wife and baby out. A man gave defendant some oversize pants to wear.

After defendant put the pants on, he could see fire trucks driving by. He ran after the trucks, but could not catch them, so he ran back to the building. He helped a man catch a baby who was being thrown out a window. He then saw flames coming out of his apartment. Defendant went back to the front of the building searching for help. There he saw Debra Bedford, whom he knew. He told Bedford that he did not know if his wife and baby got out of the fire and asked to use a telephone. He went into the house next door, called his mother and asked her to bring him and his family some clothes. A lady then gave him some gym shoes to wear.

When defendant went back toward the building, he saw a fireman. He asked the fireman to save his wife and baby, and pointed to his window. The fireman told him that some people had been rescued from the third floor and he should go around the back. There, a policeman told him to check the trauma units in the front. He went to the trauma units. He saw a lot of confusion and people everywhere. He returned to the house next door and called his mother again.

Once outside again, defendant could see that all the windows to his apartment had been broken out by the firefighters. Flames were coming out of his apartment. A woman came up to him and wrapped a coat around him. Defendant asked a firefighter if he knew if his wife and baby had been saved, and he said no. His mother, Myra Hobley, then arrived at the fire scene with her landlord.

Defendant told his mother that he could not find his wife and baby. They were hugging and crying. His sister Robin Milan then arrived. Robin directed their mother to take him home, and Robin stayed to look for defendant's wife and baby.

At his mother's house at 8006 South Rhodes, several relatives began arriving. They called hospitals searching for defendant's wife and child. Robin arrived a short time later stating that she could not find Anita or Phil at the fire scene.

Robin called for an ambulance for defendant. Defendant was taken to St. Bernard's Hospital in Chicago, where Robin asked that he be given a sedative. When the doctors informed her that tests would be needed first, Robin took defendant back to his mother's house.

Later in the morning, police officers arrived at his mother's home. Defendant's mother gave the officers the clothes he was wearing during the fire. The officers then told defendant to come out to their car. They questioned defendant about the fire and asked him if he had any enemies. Defendant told the officers about his affair with McDaniel and how it had ended badly. The officers then took defendant to Area 2 headquarters to avoid the news media.

At Area 2, Detective Dwyer placed defendant in an interview room, handcuffed him to a wall ring, and began to physically abuse and racially harass him. Later, defendant was taken to 11th and State after giving out McDaniel's telephone number. There defendant was asked a series of questions by Sergeant Patrick Garrity. When defendant denied setting the fire, Garrity kicked him. Defendant denied that he confessed to Garrity that he had set the fire.

Detectives Dwyer and Lotito and Officer McWeeney escorted defendant to another room where he was again handcuffed. Defendant complained that his handcuffs were too tight. The officers hit and kicked defendant and told him to confess. Lotito put a plastic typewriter bag over his head until he blacked out. When he regained consciousness, Dwyer told defendant that they had interviewed McDaniel. Defendant was then allowed to see a lawyer, Steven Stern, and was placed in a lineup.

As defendant was being escorted back to Area 2, the media was there. A reporter asked defendant why he did it. Defendant said, "I didn't do it. They got the wrong person. I didn't do it." A videotape of this discussion was entered into evidence. Therein, defendant denies setting the fire, denies knowing who set the fire, and says he awoke to a smoke detector.

On cross-examination, defendant admitted having had some difficulties with his wife after Thanksgiving, 1986. On November 30, 1986, he took his son away from his wife. Defendant also admitted lying to McDaniel about his wife to convince McDaniel to have sex with him.

John Campbell, an expert in the field of fire investigation and analysis, testified that gasoline poured in the hallway outside of apartment 301 could not have been the cause of the damage to that area. Rather, the damage outside of apartment 301 was the result of a "chimney effect," which caused the fire to burn hotter and gain intensity as it traveled up the stairwell. The fire "mushroom[ed] out" at the upper level of the stairwell, which acted like a firebox. In Campbell's opinion, accelerant actually burned only in the stairwell at a point above the entry to the building. He further opined that the fire happened exactly as defendant described it.

Robin Milan, defendant's sister, testified and corroborated some of defendant's testimony. She stated that, after she arrived at the fire, she stayed to look for defendant's wife and son while her mother took defendant home. She could not locate them. Later, she followed defendant to the emergency room so he could get a sedative. She removed defendant from the hospital when she realized how long it would take.

Myra Hobley, defendant's mother, testified and she also corroborated some of defendant's testimony. She stated that defendant was shaking and crying when she arrived at the fire scene. She took defendant to her home so he could calm down. A family member later called the paramedics because defendant "was hysterical." The next morning, police arrived and she gave them the clothing that defendant was wearing during the fire, but forgot the coat. After realizing that she had forgotten to give the coat to police, she gave the coat to ...

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