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People v. Coleman

October 01, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Justice Freeman delivered the opinion of the court

Agenda 3-May 1998.

Following a trial in the circuit court of Cook County, a jury convicted defendant, Dedrick Coleman, of two counts of first degree murder, armed robbery, and home invasion. Defendant waived his right to a jury for the ensuing capital sentence hearing, and the circuit court sentenced him to death on the murder convictions. The circuit court also sentenced defendant to concurrent terms of 30 years for each of the home invasion convictions and concurrent terms of 30 and 60 years for the armed robbery convictions. The sentences for the armed robbery convictions were to be served consecutively to the terms for home invasion. On direct appeal, this court affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences. People v. Coleman, 158 Ill. 2d 319 (1994). The United States Supreme Court subsequently denied defendant's petition for writ of certiorari. Coleman v. Illinois, 513 U.S. 881, 130 L. Ed. 2d 143, 115 S. Ct. 215 (1994).

Defendant thereafter filed a petition, which was later amended with leave of court, for relief pursuant to the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 1994)). The circuit court dismissed the amended petition without an evidentiary hearing, and this appeal followed. 134 Ill. 2d R. 651. We now affirm in part and reverse in part the order of the circuit court and remand the cause for an evidentiary hearing.


This court previously detailed the evidence adduced at defendant's trial in our opinion on direct appeal. See People v. Coleman, 158 Ill. 2d 319. Accordingly, we will reiterate here only those facts which are germane to the issues raised in this appeal. Defendant's convictions stemmed from the double murders of Lance Hale and Avis Welch, which occurred in the first-floor apartment of a two-flat home in Chicago on April 26, 1989. The first-floor apartment was a known "drug house" owned and operated by Alex McCullough. Defendant knew McCullough through his employment in McCullough's drug operation. McCullough was also the boyfriend of defendant's sister. About one month before the murders, defendant and McCullough had argued about defendant's alleged theft of cocaine and $2,000.

At trial, Aldene Lockett, who lived in the second-floor apartment of the two-flat, testified that at around 5:30 a.m. on April 26, 1989, she heard voices coming from the first-floor apartment. A short while later, she heard a gunshot and something fall. Two more shots later rang out, and Lockett heard a door open. At this time, she looked out her window and saw a dark-complected young man between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches leave the apartment. The man was wearing all black clothing and sunglasses. Lockett later related what she had seen to police officers investigating the Hale/Welch murders.

Eventually, police connected defendant to the drug house murders, in large part due to defendant's shooting of McCullough five days later on May 1, 1989. Several people were present at the time of the McCullough shooting, and defendant told them that he wanted it said that he shot McCullough in self-defense. Nevertheless, some of these witnesses later turned themselves in to the police and informed them of defendant's true role in McCullough's shooting, as well as his involvement in the double homicide at the drug house. As a result, defendant participated in a lineup which was viewed by Aldene Lockett on May 2, 1989. At trial, Lockett testified that one of the lineup participants "looked like he fit the height and description" of the man she had seen leave the drug house. Lockett further told police that the man had been wearing sunglasses. The police then asked each of the lineup participants to put on sunglasses. All but one of the participants complied. According to Lockett, the participant who did not put on the sunglasses was the same participant who had the weight and height of the man she had seen leave the drug house. On cross-examination, Lockett stated that she did not positively identify anyone to police from the lineup, but merely told the police that the man who did not put on the glasses "could have been" the same man she had seen leave the murder scene because "he had the same height, and build, and color."

Chicago police Detective Tony Maslanka testified that he and his partner, Detective Carroll, conducted the lineup which Lockett viewed. According to Maslanka, Lockett told him that one of the men in the lineup, identified by Maslanka as defendant, "looked like the individual she saw leave the first-floor apartment *** in regard to height, complexion, and physical build." Maslanka stated that because Lockett had seen the suspect leave the building wearing sunglasses, each of the lineup participants was asked to put on a pair of sunglasses. All of the participants in the lineup complied, with the exception of defendant. Lockett again stated to Maslanka that the man who did not put on the sunglasses "was the individual whom she saw that day in question with regard to height, physical build, and complection [sic]." On cross-examination, Maslanka admitted that Lockett did not positively identify defendant as the man she had seen leave the scene of the murders. Rather, Maslanka characterized her identification as "tentative" because Lockett had told him that she had not been wearing her glasses when she saw the suspect leave the building and that she was nearsighted. The only other aspect of defendant's original trial which is at issue in this post-conviction proceeding is defendant's sentencing hearing. As noted previously, defendant waived his right to a jury at the capital sentence hearing. At the eligibility phase of the hearing, the circuit court found that defendant was over 18 years of age at the time of the murders and that the murders were committed during the course of an armed robbery. Accordingly, the court found defendant eligible for the death penalty. The court then commenced the aggravation/mitigation phase of the hearing. In aggravation, the State stressed the facts of the double murders and also adduced evidence concerning defendant's prior criminal record and disciplinary record while incarcerated. At the close of the State's case in aggravation, the circuit court granted defense counsel's request for additional time to gather evidence in mitigation. The circuit court also ordered that a presentencing investigation (PSI) report be prepared on defendant. However, the court was informed, at the next hearing, that the PSI report had not been prepared because defendant refused to be interviewed.

After several more continuances, the proceedings reconvened. The circuit court first denied defendant's previously filed motion for a new trial, but granted defendant's motion for allocution during the sentence hearing. The transcript of proceedings then reveals the following colloquy between the court, defense counsel, and defendant: "THE COURT: *** Does defense have any evidence to submit in mitigation? MR. PANARESE [defense counsel]: No evidence. I would like to make a record of some of the people that I did talk to, your Honor, some of Dedrick Coleman's family: specifically Laurence Coleman, *fn1 Erica Coleman who are sisters and Bernice Coleman and Fred Coleman who are the mother and father of Dedrick Coleman, Leaetta McGee, Lorrine McGee, Carl and Jerry McGee who are relatives on his mother's side. Your Honor, I had spoke with them all and they conveyed to me that it was through conversation with the defendant that defendant did not want them to testify in that matter. They were unwilling to testify and they are not here obviously your Honor, and so we do not have any witnesses to speak on behalf of the defendant at this time. Mr. Coleman, Mr. Panarese had discussed the fact that those people-he spoke to these people and they did not wish to testify at this hearing. DEFENDANT: Yes, I told them not to. Do you have anybody that you wish to call to testify before the Court in this hearing? DEFENDANT: Yes, I do, but I don't want them here. I just-you know. Well, you have to tell me if you have anybody you wish to call? DEFENDANT: I don't have nobody I wish to call. Pardon me. DEFENDANT: No, sir. I don't have nobody I wish to call. You understand we will issue subpoenas if you wish? MR. PANARESE: Could I have one minute, Judge. Yes." After a short recess, defense counsel informed the court that defendant did not "wish any subpoenas to be issued."

The court next asked counsel to present their arguments in aggravation and mitigation. After hearing both arguments, the court allowed defendant to address the court in allocution. In his statement, defendant told the court that he did not commit the murders and that his sister, Laurarence, testified against him because "Mr. Hynes [the assistant State's Attorney] threatened to take her kids as well as lock her up. *** Now my little sister as well as the rest of them is willing to stand up in open court and tell what was really going on because this case is not mine." At the Conclusion of these remarks, the court allowed defense counsel another opportunity to confer with defendant before any sentence was imposed. The following colloquy then occurred: "MR. PANARESE: Judge, in light of the statement, we are asking the Court to grant a continuance in this case for defendant to reopen mitigation phase of the hearing and also the possibility to file an amended motion for new trial. I would ask for a continuance to talk to the people he spoke about. Who is that for the record. MR. PANARESE: Specifically, Laurarence Coleman, Sophia Coleman and the mother of the defendant, Bernice Coleman and I will serve them with subpoenas, Judge and get them into court. Mr. Coleman, I previously asked you when during mitigation hearing if you wish any witnesses called to testify on your behalf. Mr. Panarese at that time had read off a list witnesses [sic] I believe which included these particular persons, is that correct, Mr. Panarese. MR. PANARESE: Yes. And I asked you Mr. Coleman if you wish any of those persons called or if you wish any other persons called to testify during mitigation hearing and you at that time indicated that you did not want them called, is that correct? DEFENDANT: Yes, sir, your Honor, but I misinterpreted on how mitigation - I thought you would just speak as far as if I wanted anybody to come in and you know - Well, you have had a misunderstanding then with regards to that? DEFENDANT: Yes. You were asked that question and you indicated you did not wish any of them to testify? DEFENDANT: I did say that. Now is it my understanding from the motion of Mr. Panarese that he has asked that mitigation hearing be reopened so you may call these witnesses? DEFENDANT: Yes, sir, your Honor." The court granted the motion and continued the cause for one week so that the mitigating witnesses could be secured.

When court reconvened, defendant called Laurarence and Sophia Coleman as mitigation witnesses. Both women denied that anyone had threatened to take away Laurarence's children in order to pressure her to testify against defendant. Defendant also presented the stipulated testimony of two cousins, Edward and Laura Davis, both of whom would have testified that Sophia told defendant that she did not know of any threats by the State's Attorney's office against Laurarence in order to compel her testimony at trial. The defense then rested in mitigation.

After taking note of the aggravating evidence, the circuit court individually listed the mitigating factors listed in the death penalty statute. With respect to the first mitigating factor, i.e., the lack of a significant prior criminal activity, the court specifically found that the factor was not met in this case, due to defendant's three prior felony convictions. The court further found that the murders were not committed while defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance, the second listed factor in mitigation. The court then ruled that the third, fourth, and fifth factors in mitigation were not applicable to the case in view of the circumstances surrounding the double homicide. Moreover, based on the evidence of defendant's disciplinary record while previously incarcerated, the court concluded that defendant could not be rehabilitated or restored to useful citizenship, the sixth factor listed in the statute. Finally, the court noted that the statute provides that any other evidence in mitigation which was supported by the evidence could be considered in deciding whether defendant should not be sentenced to death. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 9-1. The court stated that it "can find no reasons why-or no mitigating factors applicable to this defendant based upon this record that would prevent him from receiving the death penalty." The circuit court therefore sentenced defendant to death.

As noted earlier, this court affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences on direct appeal. Defendant subsequently filed an amended post-conviction petition, which alleged that several constitutional errors occurred during defendant's trial and sentencing hearing. Attached to the petition were numerous affidavits, a psychological evaluation, and a social history investigation prepared by a mitigation specialist. We will only discuss those claims that are raised by defendant in this appeal.

Defendant's petition initially alleged that the State violated defendant's right to due process and a fair trial by concealing material evidence which was favorable to the defense and by using perjured testimony to obtain the convictions. In support of this claim, defendant attached to his petition the affidavit of Aldene Lockett. In the affidavit, Lockett states that she saw the gunman's face as he was leaving the first-floor apartment and that she remembers "recognizing it from the neighborhood." According to the affidavit, while at the lineup, Lockett "felt that the police were trying to get me to single out the male who refused to put on the shades, because they went back to him in the lineup and told me that this was the guy we picked up for the murders. I told them that this guy was not dark enough to be the guy who had come out of the downstairs apartment." Lockett also states in her affidavit that she does not "remember seeing the guy who refused to wear the shades during the police lineup in the neighborhood before" and that she remembers "telling the States Attorney, Michael Kelly, about how this guy in the lineup didn't look like the guy I saw come out of the downstairs apartment, but [Kelly] would always say something to try and convince me that he was the right guy." Finally, Lockett states that Assistant State's Attorney Kelly and his investigators "would call her every two or three days to go over [her] story to make sure it didn't change." In exchange for her testimony, the investigators promised to move her to her home state of Alabama or to find her a new place to live in Chicago. After one year had passed and Lockett was ready to move, she called the State's Attorney's office, but was told that Kelly no longer worked there. Lockett further states that no one from the defense team ever contacted her. Defendant's amended petition also alleged ineffective assistance of counsel based on this affidavit in addition to counsel's failure to interview certain witnesses to the Alex McCullough shooting. Finally, defendant's petition alleged that defendant was denied effective assistance of counsel during his sentence hearing because counsel failed to investigate and present certain mitigating evidence. The circuit court dismissed the petition without an evidentiary hearing on motion of the State. In ordering the dismissal, the court specifically ruled that "[t]here's nothing remarkable about the Defendant's argument in support of the petition for post-conviction relief. This Court finds the allegations do not rise to a significant deprivation of rights under the constitutions of the United States and the State of Illinois." This appeal followed.


We begin our analysis with a Discussion of the standard of review to be employed in this case. Defendant argues that the correct standard is one of de novo review. In support of his position, defendant points out that a post-conviction petitioner is entitled to an evidentiary hearing when the allegations in the petition make a substantial showing of a deprivation of rights under the United States and/or Illinois Constitutions. Moreover, defendant notes that in determining whether an evidentiary hearing is required, the circuit court must take all well-pleaded facts in the petition and affidavits as true. See People v. Caballero, 126 Ill. 2d 248 (1989). As such, defendant contends, the issues raised in this case are purely legal and the decisions of the circuit court in this regard are not entitled to any deference by a court of review. The State, on the other hand, maintains that the determinations of the circuit court in post-conviction matters will not be disturbed on review unless they are manifestly erroneous.

A proper standard of review cannot be articulated without first examining the substantive and procedural backdrop against which the appealed order or ruling arose. The Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act provides a mechanism by which those under criminal sentence in this state can assert that their convictions were the result of a substantial denial of their rights under the United States Constitution or the Illinois Constitution or both. See 725 ILCS 5/122-1 (West 1994).

Proceedings under the Act are commenced by the filing of a petition in the circuit court in which the original proceeding took place. The petition must clearly set forth the respects in which the petitioner's rights were violated. See 725 ILCS 5/122-2 (West 1994). Section 122-2 of the Act requires that affidavits, records, or other evidence supporting the petition's allegations be attached to the petition. See 725 ILCS 5/122-2 (West 1994).

Section 122-2.1 of the Act directs the circuit court to dismiss the petition if the petitioner is sentenced to imprisonment and if the court determines that "the petition is frivolous or is patently without merit." 725 ILCS 5/122-2.1(a)(2) (West 1994); see also People v. Brisbon, 164 Ill. 2d 236, 242-43 (1995) (discussing the Act's differing procedures for prisoners under sentence of death and those sentenced to imprisonment). We note that section 122-2.1 does not contemplate any type of responsive pleading by the State to be filed at that time. If a petition is not dismissed under section 122-2.1, then it is to be docketed and considered in accordance with sections 122-4 through 122-6 of the Act (725 ILCS 5/122-2.1(b) (West 1994)). In such cases and in the cases of petitioners under sentence of death, section 122-5 directs that the State shall either answer or move to dismiss the petition. In the event that a motion to dismiss is filed and denied, the State must file an answer within 20 days after such denial. See 725 ILCS 5/122-5 (West 1994). Under section 122-6, the court may receive proof by affidavits, depositions, oral testimony or other evidence. If the court finds in favor of the petitioner, it shall enter an appropriate order. See 725 ILCS 5/122-6 (West 1994).

As the foregoing statutory scheme makes clear, post-conviction relief is limited to constitutional deprivations which occurred at the original trial. This court has construed the Act to require "that when a petition is filed invoking the act, the trial court shall examine the petition with a view to determining whether the allegations of fact, liberally construed in favor of the petitioner, and taken as true, make a showing of imprisonment in violation of the Federal or State constitution, such as, for example, conviction upon a coerced confession, conviction by the use of testimony known by ...

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