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Wright v. Walls

April 24, 2002


Appeals from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 93 C 2105--Harold A. Baker, Judge.

Before Flaum, Chief Judge, and Easterbrook and Williams, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Flaum, Chief Judge.

Argued February 26, 2002

A jury convicted Patrick Wright of murder, attempted murder, attempted rape, armed robbery, home invasion and residential burglary. The trial court sentenced him to death. Following the exhaustion of all state remedies, Wright petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus alleging numerous constitutional errors at both the trial and sentencing phases. The district court vacated Wright's death sentence because the sentencing judge impermissibly failed to consider mitigating evidence related to Wright's traumatic childhood. The district court also affirmed Wright's conviction, holding that Wright did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.*fn1 Both Wright and the State of Illinois appeal. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm.

I. Background

On June 6, 1983, Wright entered Carol Specht's apartment, put a knife to her throat and attempted to rape her. After binding and gagging Carol, Wright proceeded through the rest of the Spechts' home when he discovered Carol's daughter, Connie. Wright forced Connie into her mother's bedroom where he sexually abused her. Wright later slashed Connie's throat multiple times and stabbed Carol in the back. Connie survived, but Carol died.*fn2 Wright was charged with murder, attempted murder, attempted rape, armed robbery, home invasion and residential burglary.

At trial, Wright's counsel did not contest the fact that Wright committed the crimes charged. Instead, trial counsel argued that Wright suffered from a mental disease involving a fetish for women's shoes. The sole evidence offered at trial supporting this theory was Wright's testimony that he had a women's shoe fetish, that he suffered from the fetish since the age of seven, that his adoptive mother beat him because of his mental impairment, and that he had been institutionalized in various mental hospitals since the age of 13. Wright also testified, contrary to his tapedconfession, that he had entered the Spechts' apartment seeking women's shoes for sexual gratification. Dr. William Fowler testified for the State in rebuttal. He stated that Wright did not suffer from a mental disease at the time of the offense, but rather suffered from a non-pathological psychosexual disorder. The trial court provided the jury with general verdict forms, including verdicts of not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, guilty but mentally ill ("GBMI"), and guilty for each of the offenses. The jury found Wright guilty of all the crimes charged.

Wright waived a sentencing jury. At the sentencing hearing, Wright offered the testimony of Dr. Arthur Traugott, who opined that although Wright was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts, Wright's shoe fetish controlled his lifestyle and was the cause of prior incarceration and institutionalization. The sentencing judge ultimately imposed the death penalty. Before doing so, however, the sentencing judge commented extensively on the factors that he would-- and would not--consider in determining an appropriate sentence. Initially, the court focused on Wright's traumatic childhood, stating:

I don't think any reasonable person who has heard all of the evidence in this case can feel anything but sympathy for the pathetic creature, Patrick Wright, who has been paraded through the courtroom in the trial of this case. He is a man who has wandered the forty wretched years of his life from institution to institution, from prison to prison; the evidence indicating that his fetish for women's shoes being perhaps the one and only purpose for his life.

After acknowledging Wright's "pathetic" history, the sentencing judge made three statements giving rise to the current appeal. First, the sentencing judge noted that "sympathy for the defendant [was] not an appropriate consideration" in determining Wright's sentence. Second, the judge listed all of the factors that he would exclude from the death penalty calculus:

To repeat in part, any matters dealing with sympathy, outrage, who the victim was, all the matters that I just mentioned have no bearing on whether the defendant shall receive the death penalty. And again, I note for the record that I have cited them so the record is clear that I have rejected them, and I have disregarded them in making my decision.

Third, in weighing the mitigating and aggravating circumstances according to Illinois law, the sentencing judge stated that he was unable to "determine the existence of any mitigating factors within or without the statute with the exception of [extreme mental emotional disturbance at the time of the crime.]"

Wright appealed his conviction and sentence directly to the Illinois Supreme Court. In his appeal, Wright raised eight separate issues, only one of which is relevant to this appeal. Wright argued that in imposing the death sentence, the sentencing court failed to consider all of the mitigating evidence presented by Wright, including evidence related to his troubled youth. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed Wright's death sentence. The Court first acknowledged that lower courts must consider "any mitigating facts in the record of the trial as well as any which the defendant offers at the sentencing hearing." People v. Wright, 490 N.E.2d 640, 656 (Ill. 1985) ("Wright I") (citing People v. Lewis, 88 Ill. 2d 129, 144 (1981)). However, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the sentencer took account of all of the mitigating evidence because (1) the State specifically requested the court to consider all of the evidence presented during trial, and (2) the sentencing judge's comments that he found one mitigating factor--extreme emotional disturbance at the time of the crime--indicated that he considered "the defendant's troubled youth and its contribution, if any, to the mental disturbance existing at the time the crime was committed." Id. at 656.

Following the exhaustion of all appeals and applications for post-conviction relief in state court,*fn3 Wright petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus based upon numerous arguments. The current appeal deals with two of them. Wright first claimed that the sentencer's comments during sentencing conveyed a misapprehension of the law that precluded him from considering evidence of Wright's traumatic childhood in mitigation. Wright also asserted that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to argue, investigate and introduce during the liability phase evidence of Wright's men tal health problems. Although counsel had investigated Wright's mental health history, Wright relied on approximately 50 pages ...

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