The opinion of the court was delivered by: Castillo, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Daniel Alvarez petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Following a jury trial, Alvarez was
convicted of attempted first-degree murder and sentenced to 40
years' imprisonment. Alvarez asserts four grounds for relief in
his petition: 1) the preclusion of cross-examination on the
victim's tendency to faint denied his right to confront
witnesses; 2) the exclusion of pre-trial non-identification
statements violated his right to present a defense; 3) the
cumulative effects of these alleged Sixth Amendment violations
deprived him of a fair trial; and 4) the trial evidence was
insufficient to support his conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.
After careful review of these issues, we conclude that Alvarez
has not established a violation of his constitutional rights.
deny his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Daniel Alvarez and Alicia Godina dated periodically for five
years until spring 1993, when Godina ended the relationship.
Godina encountered Alvarez several times that summer; he
repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, attempted to rekindle their
relationship. While walking to the train station on the morning
of December 14, 1993, Godina heard footsteps approaching behind
her. She testified that she turned her head to see Alvarez
holding a knife. He began stabbing her in the chest. He then
swung Godina around to face him, threw her against a fence, and
continued stabbing her. Alvarez momentarily stopped his attack to
chase a third person while Godina stood on the sidewalk feeling
faint. Alvarez returned, pinned the victim to the ground, and
proceeded to cut her throat. Godina then closed her eyes,
feigning death, and Alvarez ran off. She testified that a
gentleman helped her until an ambulance took her to the emergency
room. At the hospital Godina told Thelma Kuska, a nurse, that she
was stabbed by her ex-boyfriend. Kuska's testimony at trial
corroborated this statement.
Peter Thompson, the gentleman who helped Godina, testified that
he saw the attacker as he rounded a corner by his home. Godina's
attacker fled as Thompson neared the scene with a baseball bat.
Several months after the crime, Thompson viewed a photo of
Alvarez and later met him in person; on both occasions, Thompson
stated that Alvarez was not the man he saw stabbing Godina. (Pet.
Ex. F, Trial Tr., at 17-19; Pet. Ex. B, Pet'r. Aff. at 26-33;
Pet. Ex. C, Vasquez Aff., at 11-14.) Although Thompson was not
permitted to disclose these out-of-court statements during the
trial, he did testify that Alvarez was not the attacker. (Pet.
Ex. F, Trial Tr., at 26-27; Pet. Ex. H, Trial Tr., at 14-18, 20,
According to Alvarez, he was pursuing a job at Royal Crown Cola
(RC Cola) at the time of the attack. He arrived at the RC Cola
plant at about 6:30 a.m. or 6:35 a.m.; an employee, Michael
Arragoni, told Alvarez to come back later for an interview.
Alvarez then saw a friend, Sal Lira, who suggested that he wait
at a local restaurant. Alvarez testified that he ate and returned
to RC Cola at 7:40 a.m. At trial, both Arragoni and Lira
corroborated Alvarez's account of the morning. A security guard,
Michael Kuciver, testified that Alvarez arrived at the plant at
6:10 a.m., left around 6:25 a.m., and returned between 7:39 a.m.
and 8 a.m. After being hired at RC Cola, Alvarez went home. Later
that day, he consented to a police search of his house and car
and denied any knowledge of the stabbing. The police officers did
not recover any physical evidence linking Alvarez to the crime.
(Pet. Ex. G, Trial Tr., at 123; Pet. Ex. I, Trial Tr., at 51.)
During the trial, the two sides presented conflicting testimony
about the length of time that Alvarez would have needed to drive
from the RC Cola plant to the crime scene during morning rush
hour. Alvarez's investigator, John Eirman, stated that it took
him at least 43 minutes to drive the 17-mile distance.
Alternatively, Detective Raymond McCann testified that he
completed the drive in as little as 28 minutes, depending on the
time of day.
To impeach Godina's identification of Alvarez as her attacker,
defense counsel attempted to question her on her tendency to
faint, suggesting that she may have lost consciousness during the
attack. (Pet. Ex. G, Trial Tr., at 97-99.) In response, Godina
testified that she did not faint the day of the stabbing. The
trial court then forbade
any further cross-examination on her fainting history.
Based on this evidence, the jury found Alvarez guilty of
attempted first-degree murder. The Illinois appellate court
affirmed his conviction and subsequently denied his petition for
rehearing. (Pet'r.'s Mem. Supp. at 2.) Alvarez filed a Petition
for Leave to Appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court, which was
rejected. (Pet'r.'s Mem. Supp. at 2.) Having exhausted state
remedies, he now seeks habeas corpus relief in this Court.
(Pet'r.'s Mem. Supp. at 11-12.) Before assessing the merits of
his claims, we set forth the applicable standards that guide our
Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of
1996, Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (AEDPA), a federal court
must deny habeas relief unless the state court's adjudication
"resulted in a decision contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by
the Supreme Court of the United States."
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).*fn3 The standard for mixed questions of law and fact
is whether the state court's application of clearly established
Supreme Court law was reasonable. Spreitzer v. Peters,
114 F.3d 1435, 1441 (7th Cir. 1997). A state court has reasonably applied
Supreme Court caselaw if its application is "at least minimally
consistent with the facts and circumstances of the case." Id.
at 1442. Under this limited analysis, the state court's decision
must stand "if it is one of several equally plausible outcomes."
Ashford v. Gilmore, 167 F.3d 1130, 1134 (7th Cir. 1999),
quoting Hall v. Washington, 106 F.3d 742, 748-49 (7th Cir.
1997). Having set forth the applicable standards for federal
habeas corpus review, we will now address the merits of Alvarez's
I. Prevention of Cross-Examination as Violation of Confrontation
Alvarez claims that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated
when the trial court prohibited cross-examination of Godina's
fainting history. He correctly notes that courts have the power
to limit cross-examination where the interrogation is "repetitive
or only marginally relevant." Delaware v. Van Arsdall,
475 U.S. 673, 679, 106 S.Ct. 1431, 89 L.Ed.2d 674 (1986). Alvarez contends
that the trial court erred in finding the fainting evidence
irrelevant and inadmissible because it concerned the witness'
ability to observe and recall events. He points out that Godina
testified to feeling faint during the attack, that she was
unconscious prior to her surgery, and that Thompson's account of
the attack differs from Godina's testimony. Therefore, the record
evidence raises the inference that she may have fainted that day,
impairing her ability to identify Alvarez and damaging her
credibility. He argues that the state appellate court's review of
this claim was "superficial" because that court ignored this
evidence and prior state appellate court decisions. See, e.g.,
People v. Stalions, 139 Ill. App.3d 1033, 94 Ill.Dec. 471,
488 N.E.2d 297, 301-02 (1986) (allowing cross-examination on a
witness' gluesniffing habit to assess mental processes and
credibility); People v. Spreyne, 256 Ill. App.3d 505, 194
Ill.Dec. 754, 628 N.E.2d 251, 256 (1993) (permitting
cross-examination on the defendant's alcohol consumption on the
day of the crime to test his ability to observe and remember
The Confrontation Clause guarantees a defendant "an opportunity
for effective cross-examination, not cross-examination that is
effective in whatever way, and to whatever extent, the defense
might wish." Delaware v. Fensterer, 474 U.S. 15, 20, 106 S.Ct.
292, 88 L.Ed.2d 15 (1985). Additionally, the subject of
admissibility of evidence is generally a matter of state concern.
Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 65-69, 112 S.Ct. 475, 116
L.Ed.2d 385 (1991); U.S. ex rel. Bryant v. Washington,
869 F. Supp. 601, 603 (N.D.Ill. 1994). Our task is not to
"second-guess" the correctness of the trial court's rulings based
on state evidentiary rules; rather, we are only to decide if a
constitutional right has been violated by those determinations.
Koo v. McBride, 124 F.3d 869, 874-75 (7th Cir. 1997). To make
this decision, we ...