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United States ex rel Palinski v. Mathy

May 28, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Judge

Judge Virginia M. Kendall


On November 6, 2003, a jury in the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Illinois convicted Petitioner Adam Palinski ("Palinski") of arson and aggravated arson. On November 19, 2003, a separate jury convicted Palinski of solicitation of first degree murder. The circuit judge sentenced him to concurrent sentences of six years and ten months for arson and fifteen years for aggravated arson. Additionally, Palinski received a sentence of twenty four years for solicitation of first degree murder to run consecutively with the other sentences. He is currently serving his sentences in the Pontiac Correctional Center located in Pontiac, Illinois. He now brings a petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 alleging various violations of his rights. For the reasons stated, Palinski's petition is denied.


The Court adopts the underlying facts set forth by the Illinois Appellate Court in People v. Palinski, Nos. 2-04-0082, 2-04-0084, 2-04-0249 (consol.) (Ill. App. Ct. Oct. 21, 2005) (unpublished) because Palinski does not present clear and convincing evidence challenging those facts. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); see also Virsnieks v. Smith, 521 F.3d 707, 714 (7th Cir. 2008).

I. The Arson Case

In the early morning hours of March 18, 2002, a fire completely destroyed St. Michael's Church in Wheaton, Illinois. That same morning, a fire caused damage to the residence of one of Palinski's neighbors. The next day, Thomas Mottier ("Mottier"), one of Palinski's friends, asked Palinski if he had heard about the fire at the church. Palinski responded by bragging that he burned the church down. Mottier contacted the local police to report Palinski. On March 20, 2002, Mottier agreed to allow the police to record a telephone conversation between him and Palinski. The taped conversation began with the friends making general small talk until Mottier asked if Palinski had seen the stories about the church fire in the newspapers. Palinski responded by asking Mottier to save a copy of the newspaper as a "souvenir." After Mottier asked some questions about the fire, Palinski gave a detailed description of how he entered the church, drank wine from the sacristy's refrigerator, found a box of matches and lit the altar's tablecloth on fire. Then he described using the matches to light hanging tapestries on fire before he went back to the sacristy and threw lit matches into garbage cans that contained tissue papers and dead flower petals. He said that after a while, the fires in the garbage cans were raging and smoke filled the church. At that point, he ran out of the church and walked home.

Palinski then volunteered that he started the fire at his neighbor's house as well. He told Mottier that he went home after he started the fire at the church, took a can of gasoline from his garage, poured the gasoline on the neighbor's vinyl siding and back porch in five different spots and lit it on fire with his lighter. Then he ran back to his house, placed the gas can back in the garage and ate some food while he listened for the fire engines. Mottier asked him if he was serious about the story. Palinski responded by laughing, saying that he would not make up a story like that. He also explained that he was motivated to start the fire because he believed that the type of treatment he received in Catholic school "scars kids." He said he did not feel bad about burning the church down because it could be rebuilt after it received insurance money and money from the diocese.

Based on the information obtained in the monitored telephone call, the Wheaton Police Department arrested Palinski on March 21, 2002. Starting at 11:35 a.m., Detective William Cooley ("Cooley") interviewed Palinski. Cooley advised Palinski of his Miranda rights, and Palinski responded by asking if he needed an attorney. Cooley said that he could not provide him with legal advice. Palinski then indicated that he would speak with the police and he signed the police department's Miranda waiver form. Cooley and another officer conducted the interview. Cooley described Palinski's demeanor as "very cooperative, relaxed [and] communicative." Other than Palinski's initial inquiry about whether he should have a lawyer present, he did not mention anything further about speaking with a lawyer. After two and a half hours, they took a one hour break and the police provided Palinski with food, soft drinks and the opportunity to use the restroom. When the police asked Palinski if he would be willing to preserve his statement in writing or on videotape, he said that he would provide them with a videotaped confession. Twenty minutes later, after the officers had set up the video equipment, Cooley reread Palinski his Miranda rights and explained that the police were going to tape his statement. Palinski then provided his confession.

Palinski moved to suppress his confession on the grounds that he asked for a lawyer during the interview and that he asked for his wallet during the interview so he could retrieve a lawyer's business card. He did not testify at the suppression hearing. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, finding that he had not asked for a lawyer or asked for his wallet during the interview. The trial court then reopened the proceeding so that Palinski could testify. When he took the stand, he claimed that he requested a lawyer before the interview began when he asked Cooley if he needed a lawyer. Additionally, he claimed that he stopped the interview and refused to answer a question without his lawyer present. He conceded that he did not request a lawyer during the taped portion of the interview. Based on a finding that Palinski's testimony was not credible, the trial court once again denied the motion to suppress.

Before the trial, but approximately nine months after the confession, Dr. James Corcoran ("Dr. Corcoran") conducted an examination to determine Palinski's mental fitness. Through Dr. Corcoran, Palinski sought to introduce testimony that Narcissistic Personality Disorder made him prone to lying and creating fantastical stories about himself. The proffered testimony would support his claim that he gave a false confession to Mottier and the police. The trial court granted the prosecution's motion to bar Dr. Corcoran's testimony, finding that the testimony was irrelevant because Palinski had not been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder at the time that he confessed to starting the fires. Additionally, the trial court found that the prosecution could not conduct an effective cross-examination of Dr. Corcoran's testimony because he based his opinions entirely on what Palinski told him.

During the trial, the prosecution sought to admit entries from Palinski's journal into evidence to establish his motive for starting the fires. Palinski claimed that the passages were irrelevant to the charged offenses and that their prejudicial effect outweighed their probative value. After reviewing the entries, the trial court admitted entries written during the six months preceding the fires, but found that earlier entries were not relevant to Palinski's state of mind at the time of the fires. One contested entry he wrote four months before the fires stated:

I want to destroy something beautiful. I have this overwhelming urge to destroy something and just be bad. Call it misplaced teen angst or hormones or evil, or whatever--I am full of this fire, though. And it's burning out of control . . . . I'm pissed off and want to act out my rage.

Cooley testified at the trial regarding the interview that he conducted with Palinski at the Wheaton police station. He said that during the interview, Palinski admitted that he was walking home from a friend's house in the early morning hours of March 18, 2002 when he entered St. Michael's Church through an unlocked side door to escape from the cold. He then described that he entered the sacristy, began to drink from a bottle of wine that he found, and stood at the altar delivering a mock sermon. After that, he said that he played some songs on the church's piano, defaced a Bible and attempted to steal a chalice from the ...

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