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United States ex rel Hendricks v. Hulick

January 5, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge


In 1991, following a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, petitioner Jerome Hendricks was convicted of murdering of a twelve-year-old girl, Denise J., aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnaping, and concealment of a homicide. The trial court sentenced Hendricks to life imprisonment on the murder conviction and to consecutive sentences of various terms for his other offenses. Hendricks has petitioned the Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He alleges that (1) the Illinois courts erred by denying him new counsel in his state-court post-conviction proceedings; (2) the Cook County States Attorney's office engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by allegedly adducing false testimony; and (3) his sentence is unconstitutional. For the following reasons, the Court denies Hendricks' petition.


Factual findings by the state court are presumed correct in a federal habeas corpus proceeding unless they are rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Mahaffey v. Schomig, 294 F.3d 907, 915 (7th Cir. 2005). Because Hendricks has not rebutted the Illinois Appellate Court's factual findings, the Court adopts the following account from the decision of that court in People v. Hendricks, 253 Ill. App. 3d 79, 625 N.E.2d 304 (1993) (Hendricks I):*fn1

At trial, Yolanda Hill testified that she was the 23 year old cousin of Denise J. On August 1, 1988, Ms. Hill lived at 11720 South Princeton in Chicago. Denise J. was 12 years old at that time and lived with Ms. Hill's mother, Estelle Fields.

Ms. Hill testified that Denise J. came over to her house on August 1, 1988, to baby-sit Ms. Hill's children . . . . At 5:15 p.m. on the evening at issue, Ms. Hill, her two children, her housemate Karlena McCoy and Denise J. were all at Ms. Hill's home. Ms. Hill and McCoy went out onto the porch to discover Denise J., who had Ms. Hill's children with her, speaking with defendant. Ms. Hill told defendant he was not welcome on her porch, took her baby from defendant and gave the child to Denise J. Ms. Hill bent over and told Denise J. that defendant had just been released from jail for rape. Denise J. took the baby indoors and went upstairs. Ms. Hill told defendant that Denise J. was 12 years old and was not allowed to speak to any men. McCoy told defendant to leave, which defendant did after arguing with Ms. Hill and McCoy for five to ten minutes.

Later that evening, after Denise J. spoke to Ms. Hill, Denise J. was allowed to go out onto the porch for five minutes. Ms. Hill checked on Denise J. five minutes later; Denise J. had disappeared. Ms. Hill never saw Denise J. alive again . . . .

James Hill, another cousin of Denise J., testified that on the morning of August 2, 1988, he drove his mother to Ms. Hill's home. Mr. Hill testified that after arriving, he saw defendant coming down the street. Mr. Hill asked defendant whether he had seen Denise J. Defendant stated that he had not. Mr. Hill told defendant that Ms. Hill and McCoy had seen him with Denise J. and described Denise J. Defendant indicated that he had seen Denise J. on his porch at 9:30 p.m. with his nephew. According to Mr. Hill, defendant later told him that defendant had seen Denise J. on 119th Street and told her to go home.

Michael Walker testified that he was approached by defendant on August 2, 1988. According to Walker, defendant told him that the police were looking for defendant. Walker testified that defendant wanted him to say he was with defendant on the night Denise J. disappeared. Walker indicated that he had not been with defendant; rather, he had been searching for Denise J. that evening.

On cross-examination, Walker admitted that he was close to McCoy and Denise J.'s family. Walker admitted that he said nothing of his conversation with defendant to either the police or Denise J.'s family until after defendant was arrested and placed in custody. Walker further admitted that he had been convicted twice for selling cocaine and was currently in prison. Walker testified that the State had promised only to write a letter to the warden indicating that Walker had testified truthfully in court. Walker indicated that he might receive one month of relocation costs from the state upon his release from prison.

Chicago Police Officer John Fassl testified that on August 8, 1988, he and his partner received a call regarding a suspicious odor coming from a garage at 251 W. 117th Street. Fassl indicated that the garage was located behind an abandoned house at that address. Upon entering the garage, Officer Fassl discovered the body of a young girl in the southeast corner of the garage. The girl was lying on her stomach and her hands were bound behind her back with what appeared to be a set of shoelaces. The girl's pants were unfastened, her bra straps were pulled down and her top was tied around her neck. The girl was wearing her right shoe; the left shoe, found near the girl's head, had the name "Denise" written upon it with a red marker . . . .

Area Two Violent Crimes Detective Lawrence Nitsche also testified for the State. The parties also stipulated to Detective Nitsche's testimony from the pretrial motion to quash and suppress, much of which is detailed here. Nitsche testified that he was assigned to investigate the Denise J. homicide the afternoon the body was discovered. Nitsche spoke to Ms. Hill and McCoy, who told him substantially those things to which Ms. Hill testified at trial. In particular, McCoy told Detective Nitsche that defendant had been arrested before regarding a sexual matter with a young girl. Detective Nitsche testified that he spoke to a woman named Paula Townsend, who told him that she saw Denise J. speaking with defendant on the night Denise J. disappeared. Townsend heard defendant ask Denise J. "Would that be okay," to which Denise J. responded that it would. Townsend then saw Denise J. walk toward 119th Street and defendant walk toward his home. Detective Nitsche also interviewed Mr. Hill, who told Detective Nitsche about conversations he had with defendant after Denise J's disappearance. According to Detective Nitsche, defendant initially told Mr. Hill that he had not seen Denise J. on the night of her disappearance, but later told Mr. Hill that he had seen her on 119th Street and still later told Mr. Hill that he saw her on 117th Street. As a result of these interviews, Detective Nitsche conducted a background check of defendant. Detective Nitsche learned that defendant was then on parole from a conviction for criminal sexual assault. Detective Nitsche indicated that the victim in that case had been strangled, though apparently not to the point of death. Detective Nitsche also learned that defendant had been arrested for another criminal sexual assault that occurred at 251 W. 117th Street . . . .

At trial, Detective Nitsche testified that he conducted an initial interview with defendant at Area Two Police Headquarters on the evening of August 8, 1988. Defendant told Detective Nitsche that between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. of the night at issue, he was at his friend Tom's home, which was across the street from his own home. After returning home for a short time, he went to Pullman Park, where he met Walker and a woman. Defendant then went to the Everett White School playground, where he drank and played basketball until 4:30 a.m. According to Detective Nitsche, defendant never indicated that he saw Denise J. on the night of her disappearance.

Detective Michael Baker testified that defendant was then taken for an interview at 11th and State and later returned to Area Two Police Headquarters for a third interview. Detective Baker testified that during the third interview, defendant admitted that he talked to Denise J. on the night of her disappearance. Defendant told Detective Baker that Denise J. went to get ice cream for defendant and that he later saw Denise J. in front of his house talking to his nephew. Defendant then went to play basketball at the Everett White School. Defendant indicated he played basketball with someone named "Shorty Mac" and walked out with Michael Walker. Defendant then went to meet ...

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