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United States ex rel Terrell v. Mathy

April 21, 2009


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


In 1986, following a bench trial, an Illinois judge convicted Drew Terrell of the felony murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault of Laura Hampton and sentenced Terrell to death. The Illinois Supreme Court ultimately affirmed Terrell's conviction and sentence. Terrell filed a state post-conviction petition in 1997. In 2003, Illinois governor George Ryan commuted Terrell's sentence to life imprisonment without parole. A state trial judge thereafter denied Terrell's post-conviction petition, and the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed that decision on appeal.

Terrell has petitioned the Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his original petition, Terrell alleged that his constitutional rights were violated by his trial counsel's inadequate investigation regarding evidence that another person committed the crime; trial counsel's failure to present evidence of Terrell's innocence; the state trial court's refusal to hold an evidentiary hearing on his post-conviction petition; the state appellate court's affirmance of the dismissal of the post-conviction petition; and that court's allegedly erroneous statement of the evidence. The Court later gave Terrell leave to supplement his petition with additional claims.

For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Terrell's petition.*fn1


The evidence presented at Terrell's trial showed that he and his mother, Elizabeth, shared an apartment with Markeeter Hampton*fn2 and her fifteen-month-old daughter, Laura Hampton. On August 27, 1985, Markeeter went to work, leaving Laura in Elizabeth's care. Markeeter testified that Terrell later called her and told her that her daughter was in the hospital and in a coma because she had pulled a stereo down on herself. Laura died later that afternoon. People v. Terrell, 132 Ill. 2d 178, 186, 547 NE.2d 145, 148 (1989).

Two police officers testified that they were called to the hospital to investigate a possible child abuse case. They questioned Terrell, who, they testified, said he was alone with Laura and believed she had been injured by falling stereo equipment. One of the officers, a detective, testified that he observed Laura's injuries and that a doctor told him that one of those injuries, a laceration extending from her vagina to her anus, was not consistent with the story Terrell had given. The officers then took Terrell in for questioning. Id. at 187, 547 N.E.2d at 148.

Another detective testified that at the police station, Terrell initially gave a story similar to the one he had given to the officers at the hospital. A little after four hours later, after questioning by a prosecutor in the presence of two detectives, Terrell gave another statement. A court reporter was summoned, and Terrell gave a statement in the court reporter's presence. The statement was reduced to writing, and Terrell signed it. In that statement, which was read into evidence at trial, Terrell said he was left alone with Laura when his mother left to cash a check. He stated that after Laura woke up crying, he struck her several times on her back, face, and stomach. Terrell said he put stereo equipment on the floor at that point. After changing her diaper, Terrell stated, he inserted a Q-tip and then his finger into Laura's vagina and "handl[ed] her" for a few minutes, "looking for a pain response." The baby "hollered for a few minutes, then stopped hollering." This continued for a period, until Terrell heard Elizabeth knock at the door. He stated that he told his mother that Laura had accidentally pulled the stereo down on herself. Id. at 188-89, 547 N.E.2d at 148-49.

The Cook County medical examiner described Laura's injuries, including vaginal and rectal lacerations, and stated that they had preceded her death. He stated that the death was a homicide and that the genital lacerations were consistent with a finger or Q-tip being inserted into her vagina. Id. at 189, 547 N.E.2d at 149.

Terrell testified in his own defense at trial. He stated that on the morning in question, he left the apartment after his mother left. He spoke for about forty minutes with "associates" whose names he could not recall and then returned to the apartment, where, he said, it appeared that a stereo had fallen on Laura. Later, Terrell testified that he heard the stereo fall after returning to the apartment. Terrell denied portions of his transcribed statement to the police but conceded that the words in the statement were his and that the police had not beaten him or told him what to say. He stated, however, that he had given the statement because a police officer confronted him and asked if he knew what happened to people who do not cooperate with the police. He testified that his earlier statements to the officers -- the statements he made while at the hospital -- were true. Id. at 189-90, 547 N.E.2d at 149.

On direct appeal, Terrell argued that the trial court had erred in denying his motion to suppress his confession, challenged the sufficiency of the evidence, challenged the constitutionality of the pertinent criminal sexual assault statutes, and raised various issues concerning sentencing. The Illinois Supreme Court rejected all of Terrell's arguments except for his contention that the trial judge should not have imposed consecutive sentences for murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault.

Following remand, Terrell was again sentenced to death. On appeal, he raised a variety of sentencing-related issues. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence. People v. Terrell, 185 Ill. 2d 467, 708 N.E.2d 309 (1998).

In 1997, while his case was pending before the Illinois Supreme Court on appeal, Terrell filed a post-conviction petition in state court. In that petition, he contended that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present the theory that Terrell had falsely confessed to protect his mother and for failing to conduct an adequate investigation of potential witnesses to support that theory. In support of his petition, Terrell submitted affidavits from eight relatives. They stated that Elizabeth had mistreated Terrell and influenced him to misbehave and commit crimes. Certain of the affiants stated that Terrell had told them Elizabeth killed Laura and told Terrell to confess because he would not be punished as severely. One affiant, Elizabeth's brother Napoleon Wells, stated that Elizabeth told him she had killed Laura and later coerced Terrell into confessing. Another affiant, Eloise Chambers, stated that she saw Markeeter Hampton visiting Terrell sometime before his resentencing in 1995.

In June 2004, a state trial judge dismissed Terrell's post-conviction petition. Terrell appealed, arguing that the trial judge had erred in dismissing his claim without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed in July 2006. People v. Terrell, No. 1-04-2266 (Ill. App. July 26, 2006). The court ruled that Terrell's affidavits did not support his contention that his trial counsel had failed to conduct an adequate investigation. Specifically, the court stated that because two of the affiants had stated they had talked to trial counsel, their affidavits did not support a claim of failure to investigate. Id., slip op. at 5. The court stated that four of the affiants who said they were not asked to testify had not claimed that trial counsel had not interviewed them. Id. at 6. The seventh affiant, the court stated, said only that Elizabeth was a negative influence on defendant and acted violently; the affiant provided no information that either Terrell or Elizabeth said Elizabeth had committed the crime. This witness, the court stated, would not have supported a claim of failure to investigate Terrell's allegedly false confession. Id. at 7. The final affiant, Lottie Banks, stated that Terrell told her during the trial that Elizabeth committed the crime and that she was never contacted by trial counsel and was not asked to testify about her information at Terrell's sentencing hearing even though she appeared as a character witness ...

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