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DALTON v. SMITH

December 16, 2005.

LAWRENCE DALTON, Petitioner,
v.
JUDY SMITH,[fn1] Warden, Oshkosh Correctional Institution, and LISA MADIGAN, Attorney General of Illinois, Respondents.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY ST. EVE, District Judge

*fn1 Habeas petitioner Lawrence Dalton is currently incarcerated at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Judy Smith is the Warden at Oshkosh Correctional Institution, and thus is a proper Respondent in this habeas action. See Rule 2(a) of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On September 5, 2003, the Court denied Petitioner Lawrence Dalton's habeas petition brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his habeas petition, Dalton brought three constitutional claims, including that (1) he was not mentally competent to plead guilty, (2) his trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel, and (3) he did not knowingly and voluntarily give his guilty plea because the state court judge did not advise him of the possibility of an extended term sentence under Illinois law. The Court denied Dalton's claims for habeas relief, but granted his request for a certificate of appealability as to his claim that he did not knowingly and voluntarily plead guilty. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). On appeal, the Seventh Circuit only considered the merits of Dalton's claim that he did not knowingly and voluntarily plead guilty and vacated the Court's order concerning that claim. The Seventh Circuit then remanded the case for the Court to conduct an "evidentiary hearing on whether Petitioner Lawrence Dalton knew that he was eligible for an extended term sentence when he pleaded guilty." Dalton v. Battaglia, 402 F.3d 729, 739 (7th Cir. 2005). On November 17, 2005, the Court held that hearing.

  BACKGROUND

  I. Dalton's State Court Convictions

  Prior to his Illinois convictions, a Wisconsin jury convicted Dalton of first-degree murder, kidnaping by deceit, and second-degree sexual assault. The trial court sentenced him to life in prison for the murder count and fifteen years imprisonment for the kidnaping count to be served consecutively. See State v. Dalton, 98 Wis.2d 725, 298 N.W.2d 398 (Wis.Ct.App. 1980).

  After his Wisconsin conviction, Dalton faced murder and rape charges in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. On August 23, 1981, two days after arriving in Illinois from Wisconsin, Dalton attempted suicide and was admitted to Cermak Hospital of Cook County. At the request of Dalton's defense counsel, Gerald Maupin, the presiding Cook County judge, Thomas Maloney,*fn2 ordered a clinical behavioral examination of Dalton. On September 9, 1981, a prison health services psychiatrist diagnosed Dalton with "schizophrenia paranoid type in remission" and placed him on an anti-psychotic drug. Also, Dr. Gerson Kaplan of the Psychiatric Institute examined Dalton and deemed him mentally fit for trial. On October 8, 1981, Judge Maloney found Dalton fit to stand trial. On November 18, 1981, Dalton attempted to commit suicide. On November 20, 1981, Dalton pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and one count of rape. Judge Maloney then sentenced Dalton to an extended term sentence of 70 years' imprisonment for the three murder counts, thirty years on the rape count, and ordered that Dalton serve the sentences concurrently. See 730 ILCS 5/5-8-2 (authorizing terms of imprisonment in excess of maximum sentence provided by statute if factors in aggravation present). Judge Maloney also ordered that Dalton serve his Illinois sentences concurrently with his Wisconsin sentences.

  II. Dalton's Illinois Post-Conviction Petition

  Dalton did not directly appeal his convictions and sentences to the Illinois Appellate Court. Instead, eight years after his conviction in 1989, Dalton filed a petition pursuant to the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act in the Circuit Court of Cook County. See 725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. In his post-conviction petition, Dalton argued that his Illinois convictions should be vacated because he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his rights when he pleaded guilty as he was under the influence of medication, and thus did not understand the nature of the proceedings. Meanwhile, throughout this time period, Dalton repeatedly attempted to obtain a copy of his state court record, including the transcript of his plea hearing. In a letter dated February 2, 1992, the Office of the Official Court Reporters of the Circuit Court of Cook County informed Dalton that the State could not locate his plea hearing transcript. Because the plea hearing transcript is unavailable, there is no official state court record of the exchange between Dalton, his defense counsel, and Judge Maloney when Dalton pleaded guilty.

  In 1995, while his post-conviction petition was still pending, Dalton filed a self-styled motion for summary judgment in support of his post-conviction petition. At that time, Dalton explained that because his plea hearing transcript was missing, there was no record to show that Judge Mahoney informed him of the possibility of an extended term sentence, and thus his sentence for the three counts of murder should be reduced from 70 to 40 years.

  On October 24, 1995, the Circuit Court of Cook County denied Dalton's post-conviction petition because Dalton failed to demonstrate a deprivation of a constitutional right. The Circuit Court noted that it was disturbed by Dalton's missing plea hearing transcript. Nevertheless, the post-conviction court concluded that Dalton entered his guilty plea knowingly and voluntarily.

  Thereafter, Dalton appealed the denial of his post-conviction petition to the Illinois Appellate Court. The Appellate Court appointed a public defender to represent Dalton. Dalton's post-conviction appellate counsel, however, filed a motion for leave to withdraw pursuant to Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551, 107 S.Ct. 1990, 95 L.Ed.2d 539 (1987). Thereafter, Dalton filed a pro se response to the motion to withdraw. The Illinois Appellate Court summarily rejected Dalton's petition and granted counsel's Finley motion, stating: "We have reviewed the record in the case, defendant's lengthy pro se response and the aforesaid brief in compliance with Finley, and we find no issues of arguable merit." On December 4, 1996, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Dalton's petition for leave to appeal.

  III. Dalton's Habeas Petition

  Dalton filed his initial habeas petition in federal court on April 3, 1997, and the district court appointed counsel. Dalton filed the present amended habeas petition on November 16, 1998. On August 30, 2002, Dalton's habeas petition was reassigned to this Court. Dalton brought several constitutional claims in his habeas petition, including two issues not presently before the Court — Dalton's ineffective assistance of counsel claim and his mental competency claim. Relevant to this remand is Dalton's claim that Judge Maloney violated his due process rights when he failed to advise Dalton of the possibility of an extended term sentence, and thus Dalton did not enter his guilty plea knowingly and voluntarily. The Court rejected Dalton's habeas claims, but granted Dalton's request for a certificate of appealability with respect to his due process claim. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).

  IV. Appeal to the Seventh Circuit

  On appeal, Dalton requested that the Seventh Circuit expand his certificate of appealability to include his claim that his trial attorney's failure to request a competency hearing after his November 18, 1981 suicide attempt and before his November 20, 1981 guilty plea denied him effective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). The Seventh Circuit denied Dalton's request because Dalton's trial attorney had requested an examination of Dalton shortly before the November 18, 1981 suicide attempt. Dalton, 402 F.3d at 738-39. The Seventh Circuit thus concluded that "there is nothing in the record to suggest that the circuit court might have altered its competency determination if it had been aware of Dalton's most recent suicide attempt, given its familiarity with his extensive history of such attempts." Id. at 739.

  The Seventh Circuit also vacated the Court's denial of Dalton's habeas petition as to Dalton's claim that Judge Maloney violated his due process rights when he failed to advise him of the possibility of an extended term. The Seventh Circuit remanded this claim for an evidentiary hearing to determine "whether Dalton knew, through communications with either his counsel or Judge Maloney, that he was eligible for an extended term sentence under Illinois law when he pleaded guilty." Id. at 737. V. Evidentiary Hearing

  Pursuant to the Seventh Circuit's remand, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on November 17, 2005. At the hearing, Respondents presented the testimony of Lawrence Hyman, the Assistant Cook County States' Attorney who prosecuted Dalton, and Gerald Maupin, Dalton's defense attorney. In addition to the witness testimony, the Court admitted into evidence Respondents' exhibits, including the "blue back," "pen letter," docket sheets, and order of sentence and commitment in People v. Dalton (81-C-3113), among other documents. Dalton also testified at the hearing. The Court admitted into evidence Dalton's exhibits, including two affidavits of Dalton's deceased mother and a letter Dalton wrote to his defense counsel.

  HABEAS STANDARD

  Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), habeas relief cannot be granted unless the state court's decision on the merits was "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); Bell v. Cone, ___ U.S. ___, 125 S.Ct. 847, 951, 160 L.Ed.2d 881 (2005). Normally, a state court's factual findings are presumed to be correct unless the petitioner rebuts this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Miller-El v. Dretke, ___ U.S. ___, 125 S.Ct. 2317, 2325, 162 L.Ed.2d ...


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