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People v. Coleman

October 18, 2002


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Garman


Docket No. 89159-Agenda 1-March 2002.

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Dedrick Coleman, was convicted of the April 26, 1989, first degree murders of Lance Hale and Avis Welch. He was also convicted of armed robbery and home invasion. Defendant waived the right to be sentenced by a jury and the circuit court subsequently sentenced him to death for the murders. Defendant received prison sentences for his other convictions. This court affirmed defendant's convictions and death sentence on direct appeal (People v. Coleman, 158 Ill. 2d 319 (1994)) and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari (Coleman v. Illinois, 513 U.S. 881, 130 L. Ed. 2d 143, 115 S. Ct. 215 (1994)). In 1995, defendant filed a petition for relief under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 1994)), which the circuit court dismissed without an evidentiary hearing. On appeal, this court reversed that decision and remanded the cause for an evidentiary hearing on certain issues raised in the petition. People v. Coleman, 183 Ill. 2d 366 (1998). Following an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court denied the petition and this appeal followed (134 Ill. 2d R. 651(a); 155 Ill. 2d R. 304(b)(3)).


Trial Proceedings

The murders of Lance Hale and Avis Welch 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 falling. 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 black man between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches tall leave the apartment. The man was wearing all black clothing and sunglasses. Lockett later related what she had seen to police officers investigating the murders.

Eventually, police connected defendant to the drug-house murders, due, in large part, to defendant's shooting of McCullough five days later on May 1, 1989. Several persons were present at the time of the McCullough shooting, and defendant told them 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 that 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 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 that 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. As stated, defendant was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders.

Post-Conviction Proceedings

In his post-conviction petition, defendant alleged that the State violated his right to due process and a fair trial by concealing material evidence that 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 this 1995 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." At a later date, Lockett saw a man "on the block" who looked like the gunman. According to the affidavit, while at the lineup, Lockett "felt that the police were trying to get [her] to single out the male who refused to put on the shades, because they went back to him in the lineup and told [her] that this was the guy [they] picked up for the murders. [She] 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 [she] saw come out of the downstairs apartment, but [Kelly] would always say something to try and convince [her] that he was the right guy." Finally, Lockett states that Assistant State's Attorney Kelly and his investigators "would call me every two or three days to go over my story to make sure it didn't change." In exchange for her trial testimony, the investigators promised to move her to her home state of Alabama or to find her a new residence 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's affidavit 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 Lockett. On appeal from the circuit court's order dismissing defendant's petition without an evidentiary hearing, this court determined that, since the State had filed a motion to dismiss defendant's petition, the factual allegations of Lockett's affidavit must be taken as true, and that the circuit court had failed to do so in its dismissal of the petition. Accordingly, this court remanded the cause for an evidentiary hearing as to defendant's claim regarding Lockett's trial testimony and as to his claim of ineffectiveness of trial counsel regarding the alleged failure to interview Lockett.

On remand, defendant's post-conviction counsel filed a motion for discovery, requesting that the State turn over (1) its file on the case, (2) any and all exculpatory evidence in the State's possession, and (3) the personnel files of John Hynes and Michael Kelly, the assistant State's Attorneys who prosecuted defendant. The circuit court granted the motion as to (1) and (2), but denied it as to (3). Defendant's counsel also issued subpoenas to the Office of Professional Conduct (OPS) for its files on Maslanka. The City's counsel filed a motion to quash the subpoenas. At a hearing on the motion, the City's counsel revealed that the subpoenaed records contained eight complaints against Maslanka, five of which were not sustained and three of which were completely unfounded. The circuit court granted counsel's motion to quash, finding no basis for reviewing Maslanka's file. The court also denied post-conviction counsel's request to take the depositions of Maslanka, Hynes, Kelly, and Nicholas Panarese, defendant's trial attorney.

At the evidentiary hearing, post-conviction counsel asked Lockett to review her entire affidavit and then asked if the affidavit was true. Lockett replied that it was. On cross-examination, Lockett testified that the morning of the shooting was "gloomy" and that she saw the gunman's face for less than a second. She could tell that he was a dark-skinned black male of medium height and build. Lockett testified that she is nearsighted and was not wearing her glasses when she saw the man walk out of her building. When asked if she remembered telling a detective who interviewed her the next day that she had never before seen the man who walked out of the downstairs apartment, Lockett stated that she could not remember. The prosecutor noted paragraph 10 of Lockett's affidavit, which stated that at a later date, Lockett remembered seeing a man on the block who looked like the man she saw after the shootings. Lockett admitted that, in a 1999 videotaped interview she gave to post-conviction counsel, she said that she did not remember that part of her affidavit.

Regarding the lineup that Lockett viewed after the shooting, she testified that she did not tell Maslanka that defendant was of the same height, build, and color as the man she saw walk out of her building. Lockett admitted that she could have so testified at the trial, but she did not know why she would have done so, as the man who walked out of her building after the shooting was darker than defendant. Lockett remembered testifying at defendant's trial that in the lineup she saw "one young man that looked like he fit the height and description." She also remembered that she testified that the man who refused to put on the sunglasses matched the height and weight of the man she saw leave her building. Lockett did not recall testifying that she thought the man she picked out of the lineup was the gunman; she said he "could have been" and he had the same "height, build and color." Lockett stated that the reason she did not testify at the trial that the gunman had a darker skin color than the man she picked out of the lineup was because "[they] didn't ask [her]." Lockett then said, "I don't know. I can't remember ten years ago. It's been a long time."

Lockett recalled that at defendant's trial, she was asked if the police said anything to her prior to viewing the lineup. She answered that they told her not to be afraid, that the men could not see her, and to wait until the men "came into the screen" before making any identification. Lockett testified at the evidentiary hearing that she called the State's Attorney's office about a year after she testified at trial, seeking Kelly's help on relocating to another apartment. However, Kelly was no longer an assistant State's Attorney and no one from the State's Attorney's office helped her relocate. Regarding her statement in her affidavit that she was never contacted by any attorneys or investigators working for the defense, she admitted at the evidentiary hearing that in her 1999 videotaped interview with post-conviction counsel, she "probably" stated that she was uncertain to whom she had spoken to 10 years ago. She testified that she could not remember talking to anyone other than Kelly. Lockett stated that she could have spoken to others, but she does not remember now. She also testified at the evidentiary hearing that she "could have" stated in her affidavit that she remembered recognizing the gunman from the neighborhood. She told post-conviction counsel in the videotaped interview that she did not remember saying that in her affidavit. In her testimony at the evidentiary hearing, Lockett stated that she saw this man a few months after the trial and she became afraid. However, she did not call the police or Kelly.

Vernon Jasper, former investigator for the Cook County public defender's office, testified that he assisted defense counsel in defendant's trial. He does not recall interviewing Lockett during his investigation or being requested to do so by defense counsel. Jasper testified that he has no recollection of working on defendant's case. He could have interviewed Lockett and forgotten about it.

Maslanka, a 24-year veteran of the Chicago police department, testified that he and his partner were assigned to do a lineup for Lockett that included defendant. After viewing the men in the lineup, Lockett told Maslanka that defendant had the same physical appearance and complexion as the gunman. Maslanka denied saying anything to try to get Lockett to pick defendant out of the lineup.

On the next hearing date, post-conviction counsel moved to reopen his cross-examination of Maslanka on the grounds of newly discovered material relating to certain judgments against the City of Chicago resulting from incidents in which Maslanka allegedly "tortured victims." Counsel alleged that at least two settlements had been obtained against Maslanka and/or the City of Chicago. Counsel alleged that Maslanka had been investigated by the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) at least once and that he had been suspended by the Chicago police department for misconduct in one case. When the circuit court asked counsel what relevance this had to defendant's case, counsel replied that the issue is whether Maslanka falsified his police report to leave out what Lockett had told him and, in these other cases, Maslanka omitted from his police reports the fact that he had participated in the torture of several suspects. The circuit court characterized counsel's allegations against Maslanka as conclusory and irrelevant and denied the motion.

In his motion for additional discovery regarding Maslanka, defendant identified six incidents of alleged physical abuse of subjects in custody. The motion alleged that lawsuits had been filed and that at least two judgments were obtained against Maslanka and/or the City of Chicago. Defendant alleged that Marcus Wiggins' lawsuit alleged torture and police report falsification and that Wiggins obtained a settlement of the suit. Defendant also alleged that Donald Torrence filed suit for physical abuse and failure to follow established procedures and obtained a settlement. In addition, defendant alleged that others, including Tyrone Burnett, sued Maslanka and the City of Chicago for false arrest and malicious prosecution and obtained a settlement. Defendant further alleged that Maslanka was suspended for "misconduct" in the Wiggins case. Defendant alleged that the State had committed a violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215, 218, 83 S. Ct. 1194, 1196-97 (1963), by failing to turn over this evidence prior to Maslanka's testimony at the evidentiary hearing.

In an affidavit filed by post-conviction counsel, Torrence stated that in 1988 Maslanka and another officer accosted him at his home and that Maslanka struck him on the head with his gun while Torrence was in handcuffs. Torrence filed suit and settled the case for $2,100. In another affidavit, Raymond Mack stated that Maslanka and another officer forced him to don sunglasses and a cap during multiple lineups. Mack stated that, after doing so, he did not look like anyone else in the lineup. Tyrone Burnett stated in an affidavit that he was arrested in July 1996 and that Maslanka deliberately ...

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