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U.S. EX REL HINTON v. SNYDER

May 21, 2002

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA EX REL., LEONARD HINTON, PETITIONER,
V.
DONALD SNYDER, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, STATE OF ILLINOIS, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Elaine E. Bucklo, United States District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Leonard Hinton was convicted of three counts of murder in Illinois state court and sentenced to life imprisonment. He petitions for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The respondent (hereinafter "the State") moved to dismiss Mr. Hinton's claims as procedurally barred. I granted the motion on all but one claim, that his confession was coerced, see Hinton v. Snyder, 128 F. Supp.2d 1165 (N.D. Ill. 2001), which is before me now on the merits. Mr. Hinton seeks an evidentiary hearing to present new evidence related to his allegations of physical abuse.

I.

According to the allegations in his petition, Mr. Hinton was arrested on a warrant for an aggravated battery (unrelated to the murder charges here) and taken into custody at 5:00 p.m. on November 25, 1983. He was taken to the Area II Violent Crimes Detective Unit of the Chicago Police Department ("Area II"), then under the command of Lieutenant Jon Burge. He was handcuffed to the wall of a small room with no windows or clocks and no furniture other than an iron bench. Supp. R. at 6-8. He remained in custody until approximately 3:30 p.m. on November 27, when he confessed to the murders of Dorothy McKnight and Edward Bradley and the shooting of John Durham.*fn1

The State proceeded first and offered rebuttal testimony on Mr. Hinton's pretrial motion to suppress his statements. See R. at 2, 32, 101; Supp. R. 70-71. The State presented testimony from officers and a state's attorney who had contact with Mr. Hinton while he was in custody. Officer Bajenski, who arrested Mr. Hinton and interrogated him at Area II, testified that Mr. Hinton was allowed to use the washroom, R. at 38, 42, and that he did not observe any blood on Mr. Hinton's clothing on November 25th, the first night he was in custody, id. at 42. Officer Kripple,*fn2 who interrogated Mr. Hinton along with Officer Bajenski, testified that Mr. Hinton was fed on the morning of the 26th and on the 27th, id. at 54, 58, that he never complained about being struck, Id. at 54, 61, that he remained in the interview room the whole time, id. at 57-58, and that he was not handcuffed for the whole time, id. at 60. Assistant State's Attorney Lori*fn3 Levin, who ultimately took Mr. Hinton's statement, said that he never complained of mistreatment. Id. at 73.

Officers Bajenski and Kripple and Ms. Levin denied that Mr. Hinton was ever struck or threatened in their presence. Id. at 39, 54, 73. Ms. Levin also said that, when she came to take Mr. Hinton's statement, she asked him why he changed his mind, and Mr. Hinton said it was because he was scared before and wanted to tell the truth. Id. at 89.

Mr. Hinton's version of events differed dramatically from the State's witnesses. He testified that, over the course of the two days he was in custody, he was interrogated by several officers and an assistant state's attorney. Mr. Hinton said that, after he was arrested and taken to Area II, he was taken to a small room upstairs with no clocks, windows, or furniture, except for an iron bench. Supp. R. at 6-7. He was handcuffed by one arm to an iron ring in the wall Id. at 7-8. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, two officers came in and began to interrogate him. The officer he identified as the "short one" told him to "start talking." Id. at 10. When Mr. Hinton said he didn't know what the officer was talking about, the other officer, later identified as the "tall one," said "I think he's lying. I think we'd better, you know, show him what we can do to you [sic]." Id. Then the tall officer started to hit Mr. Hinton in the face with an open hand, while he was still handcuffed to the wall. Id. The short officer kicked Mr. Hinton in the stomach, and the tall officer hit him in the face again and told him to talk. Id. at 11. Mr. Hinton said that he begged the officers to stop, but that they just asked if he was ready to talk about the murder. Id. at 12. The officers left and came back about a half hour later and talked to Mr. Hinton, this time without hitting him. Id. at 13-15.

Mr. Hinton said that, later, during another interrogation session, the same two officers showed him a gun, which they told him was the murder weapon, and asked if he was ready to talk. Id. at 16. After Mr. Hinton asked for a lawyer,*fn4 he says that one of the officers hit him on the elbow with the gun, then hit him under the chin. Id. at 17-18. The blow "busted" Mr. Hinton's chin and blood dripped on the jersey that he was wearing. Id. The officers left again, then returned and took Mr. Hinton to a line-up. Id. at 19. After the line-up, the officers brought Mr. Hinton back to the small windowless room and handcuffed him to the wall again. Id. at 20. The tall officer started hitting him again in the face with an open hand. Id. The short officer grabbed his free arm and pulled him away from the wall, and his handcuffed hand became numb. Id.

A little while later, the first two officers returned, and the short officer was carrying a thick plastic trash bag in his hand. Id. at 23-24. The short officer put the plastic bag over Mr. Hinton's head, and the tall officer handcuffed both of his hands to the wall. Id. at 24-25. The short officer hit Mr. Hinton in the stomach while the bag was over his head, and Mr. Hinton struggled and eventually passed out. Id. at 25. When he came to, the tall officer was talking to him, and asked him if he was ready to talk. Id. at 25-26. Mr. Hinton said no, and the officers put the bag over his head again, but did not leave it on as long as the first time. Id. at 26. When the officers could not get Mr. Hinton to talk after the second bagging, they left the room.

About a half an hour later, Ms. Levin came in to see if Mr. Hinton wanted to talk. Mr. Hinton told her that he had been beaten. When she asked him about the murder, he did not respond, and she left. Id. at 26-27. The two officers returned and beat Mr. Hinton again. Id. at 27. Ms. Levin returned and questioned Mr. Hinton for about ten minutes, but Mr. Hinton continued to deny any knowledge of the murders. Id. at 28.

All of this time (it is not clear from his testimony how much time had elapsed), Mr. Hinton said that he had not slept, had not eaten, and had not been allowed to use the washroom. He urinated on the floor of the room where he was handcuffed. Id. When the first two officers returned, they berated him for urinating on the floor and hit him, but left without questioning him. Id. at 30.

After a few hours, Lt. Burge came in and asked Mr. Hinton if he remembered him from a 1980 arrest. Id. at 31. He asked if Mr. Hinton was ready to talk about the murders, and Mr. Hinton again denied any knowledge of them. Id. at 32. Mr. Hinton testified that Lt. Burge asked him if he was familiar with the electric rod. Id. at 33. Lt. Burge told Mr. Hinton that he was "the same one that had the Wilson brothers," that the Wilson brothers had killed a police officer, and that he had gotten them to talk.*fn5 Id. Lt. Surge then told Mr. Hinton that, after he left, the state's attorney would return, and Mr. Hinton would be sorry if he didn't talk to her. Id. at 34. Ms. Levin came back, but Mr. Hinton told her he had nothing to say. Id.

After Ms. Levin left, three new officers, whom Mr. Hinton had not yet seen, came into the room. Supp. R. at 34. They uncuffed Mr. Hinton from the wall, handcuffed his arms behind his back and led him from the small windowless room, down some stairs, to what Mr. Hinton said he thought was the basement.*fn6 They took him to a room and cuffed his hands over a pole above his head. One officer pulled down Mr. Hinton's pants and undershorts, spread his legs apart, and cuffed his ankles to poles in the floor. Id. at 37-38. Another officer came forward with a rod that was attached to a black box carried by the third officer. Id. at 38. ...


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