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United States ex rel Gonzalez v. Pierce

August 15, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert W. Gettleman


Petitioner Marcelino Gonzalez has brought a pro se petition for habeas corpus relief pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254, seeking to overturn his state conviction for attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, and aggravated discharge of a firearm. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.


On July 2, 1998, there was a shooting at Copley Park One in Aurora, Illinois in which four people were shot and injured. Shortly thereafter, petitioner was arrested in the vicinity of 536 Woodlawn, Aurora, Illinois, at approximately 7:45p.m., and transported to the Aurora Police Department. Petitioner was a juvenile at the time of his arrest, just two months shy of 17 years old. He had an IQ of 67, making him mildly mentally retarded, and his reading ability was that of a first grader. He attended school until only the 9th grade, and was enrolled in a "special school" for children with mental disabilities. His vocabulary comprehension was that of a 9 year old child. At the time of his arrest, petitioner was in the process of being initiated into a gang by older offenders. As part of his initiation, the gang threatened to harm petitioner's family if he did not accept responsibility for the actions of others in the gang.

Petitioner gave a confession to Detective Jeffrey Sauer ("Sauer") and Investigator R. Downs ("Downs"). Additionally, at the time of his confession, petitioner asked if his parents had been contacted. The officers did not respond and did not call petitioner's parents. Petitioner therefore had no friendly adult or family member present at any time during his investigation or otherwise.

Petitioner's interrogation and confession were both videotaped and both took a total of twenty minutes. Before petitioner gave his confession, Downs (a certified juvenile police officer) read petitioner his rights out loud and asked Petitioner if he understood those rights. Petitioner responded that he did. Additionally, petitioner was able to read the first right listed on the Miranda form out loud. Petitioner claims that both Sauer and Downs were armed, although ultimately the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that they were not. Petitioner further alleged that during the interrogation, the police officers who questioned him never inquired into his educational background or mental capacity, employed the use of a juvenile officer, or made any attempt to treat him differently than an adult defendant. The Appellate Court disagreed with petitioner and found that the officers had done those things. Finally, petitioner alleged that Sauer lied to him about statements his co-defendants had made, creating an environment of coercion that was impermissible under the United States and Illinois Constitutions. The record does not contain the statements Sauer allegedly made.

After a hearing, petitioner was moved from the juvenile court to the adult criminal division for prosecution. Petitioner moved to suppress his confession, claiming that he did not waive his Miranda rights knowingly and intelligently, but his motion was denied. Petitioner was subsequently convicted on August 2, 2002, of one count of attempted first-degree murder, four counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, and five counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm. Petitioner was sentenced to four consecutive terms of 6 to 9 years on his aggravated battery charges and a concurrent term of 14 years on the attempted first degree murder conviction. Defendant's sentence totaled 27 years. There is no indication in the Appellate Court's opinion as to why it took four years for the trial to be completed.

Petitioner appealed his convictions to the Illinois Appellate Court in the 2nd District on October 30, 2003, stating that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his confession because it was involuntary. He argued it was involuntary because he lacked the mental capacity to understand the Miranda warnings, he did not waive his rights, and the police failed to notify his parents of his arrest. Petitioner also argued that the consecutive sentences should run concurrently because there was no evidence that the victims suffered severe bodily injury, and that was in direct conflict with the 6th Amendment and his due process rights. In Illinois, when a judge determines that severe bodily injury has occurred, he has the discretion to impose concurrent or consecutive sentences on the defendant. People v. Paino, 137 Ill.App.3d 645, 653 (1st Dist. 1985). After the appeals court affirmed the trial court sentence and conviction on July 15, 2004, petitioner filed a petition for leave to appeal (PLA) to the Illinois Supreme Court on August 2, 2004, but it was denied on October 6, 2004. On January 6, 2005, petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging the two claims raised in both his direct appeal and PLA.


Count I: Involuntary Juvenile Confession

Petitioner argues that his petition for a writ of habeas corpus should be granted because he did not waive his Miranda rights knowingly, intelligently, or voluntarily, rendering his confession inadmissible. He argues alternatively that should this court need more evidence, an evidentiary hearing should be ordered. The state argues first that the confession was knowing and intelligent within the totality of the circumstances, and that petitioner's argument can prevail only if this court decides from looking at the evidence that the trial and appellate courts made a decision that was contrary to or an unreasonable application of United States Supreme Court precedent. The state also argues that an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary.

To obtain habeas relief under the AEDPA, petitioner must establish that the state court proceedings resulted in a decision that was: (1) "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," or (2) "based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings." McFowler v. Jaimet, 349 F.3d 436, 446 (7th Cir.2003). The state court's decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if: (1) the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to one reached by the United States Supreme Court on a question of law; or (2) the state court confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent, and arrives at a result opposite to the Court. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000).

A federal habeas court "may not issue the writ simply because the court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Jackson v. Frank, 348 F.3d 658, 662 (7th Cir.2003). The court can issue a writ only if it determines that the state court's application of federal law was "objectively unreasonable." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. at 409. It is a difficult standard to meet, because unreasonable means "something like lying well outside the boundaries of permissible differences of opinion." McFowler, 349 F.3d at 447.

The Illinois Appellate Court in the instant case was required to look to the totality of the circumstances to determine whether petitioner's confession was given knowingly and voluntarily. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 226 (1973). Specifically, the court stated, "In determining whether a defendant's will was overborne in a particular case, the Court has assessed the totality of all the surrounding circumstances-both the characteristics of the accused and the details of the interrogation." Id. Courts should look to a defendant's youth, education, intelligence, advice or lack thereof of his Constitutional rights, length of detention, ...

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