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Naranjo v. McCann

July 27, 2009

EDGAR NARANJO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TERRY MCCANN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Marvin E. Aspen United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION

MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge

Edgar Naranjo ("Petitioner" or "Naranjo"), a prisoner at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois, now petitions for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. As set forth below, we deny Naranjo's petition.

BACKGROUND

Following a bench trial, Naranjo was convicted of first degree murder and residential burglary. (Resp. Ex. A, Order of App. Ct. on Direct Appeal, People v. Naranjo, No. 1-04-1137, 1 (1st Dist. Nov. 30, 2005).) The judge sentenced him to a 40-year term on the murder conviction and a 10-year term on the burglary conviction, to be served consecutively. (Id. at 1.)

On appeal the conviction for residential burglary was vacated on the one-act, one-crime rule.*fn1

(Id. at 10.) The facts underlying Naranjo's conviction are as follows.*fn2

Naranjo and his 14-year-old co-felon, Juan Salazar ("Salazar"), broke into the home of Juan and Juana Balbontin on October 4, 2002. (Id. at 1.) Prior to this day, Naranjo had met Juan Balbontin at a flea market where Naranjo sold cologne. (Id. at 2.) Through the course of their dealings, Naranjo became aware of $2000-$3000 worth of cologne stored at the Balbontin's house. (Id.) Naranjo subsequently enlisted Salazar in a plan to steal the cologne. (Id.)

On the morning of October 4, 2002, Naranjo borrowed a car and obtained a pellet gun. (Id.) Before going to the Balbontin home, Naranjo called to make sure that Juan was at home. (Id.) When Naranjo and Salazar arrived at the home, Juana Balbontin answered the door. (Id.) Naranjo and Salazar forced their way in. (Id.) Juana screamed and yelled, "they have a gun." (Id. at 3.) The Balbontin's son, Rafael Balbontin, an off-duty Chicago Police officer, came up from the basement with his gun and announced "Chicago Police." (Id.) At this point, Naranjo and Salazar fled and continued running despite Rafael's orders to freeze. (Id.) Rafael chased them and saw one of the men "turn[] around really quick and 'crouch[] a little.'" (Id.) Rafael then began to shoot. (Id.) Salazar fell after being hit with multiple gunshots and Naranjo sustained a shot in the hand. (Id.) Naranjo picked up Salazar and carried him to the car. (Id.) He then drove off and later dumped Salazar's body in an industrial area. (Id.)

After his bench trial, Naranjo was found guilty of count 1 (first degree murder predicated on home invasion), count 7 (home invasion), count 9 (residential burglary) and count 11 (attempted armed robbery). (Id. at 4.) Counts 1 and 7 were merged, resulting in a 40-year sentence and counts 9 and 11 were merged, resulting in a 10-year sentence, to be served consecutively. (Id.)

On direct appeal, Naranjo argued that: 1) the State did not prove felony murder beyond a reasonable doubt; and 2) his conviction for felony murder and residential burglary violated the one-act, one-crime rule. (Resp. Ex. B, Pet. App. Br., 3.) The appellate court affirmed with respect to Naranjo's first issue but vacated the residential burglary conviction and sentence because the "offenses of felony murder based on home invasion and residential burglary are carved out of the same physical act and . . . should have been merged." (Resp. Ex. A at 10.)

Naranjo then filed a Petition for Leave to Appeal ("PLA") to the Supreme Court of Illinois, arguing that the proximate cause theory of liability in criminal convictions afforded the defendant less rights than a similarly-situated defendant in a civil matter. (Resp. Ex. E, Pet. Direct PLA, 2.) He asked the Supreme Court to "harmonize the standard of proof" required of foreseeability in both civil and criminal cases and clarify what elements the State was required to prove in criminal cases. (Resp. Ex. E. at 1.) The court denied the petition. (Resp. Ex. F, Ltr. of Denial, Sept. 27, 2006.)

After exhausting his state court remedies on direct appeal, Naranjo filed a petition in the Circuit Court of Cook County for Post-Conviction Relief pursuant to Illinois' Post-Conviction Hearing Act ("Act"), 725 ILCS 5/122.*fn3 (Resp. Ex. G, Post-Conviction Pet., People v. Naranjo, No. 02 CR 27730 (Cook Cty. Cir. Ct. Mar. 12, 2007).) Naranjo alleged six grounds for relief: 1) the indictment did not set forth the elements of the statute in violation of the Due Process clauses of the United States and Illinois Constitutions; 2) the State failed to prove defendant guilty of first degree murder as defined by the statute; 3) ineffective representation by trial counsel, who failed to contest the indictment; 4) ineffective representation by appellate counsel, who failed to raise effectiveness of trial counsel's failure to contest the indictment; 5) ineffective representation by appellate counsel, who failed to contest the invalidity of the indictment to Appellate Court and Supreme Court of Illinois; and 6) the order of the Appellate Court affirming Naranjo's conviction denied him the right to know the nature and cause of the accusation and violated due process. (Id. at 10-13.) The Circuit Court dismissed Naranjo's petition. (Resp. Ex. H, Order of Cir. Ct., People v. Naranjo, No. 02 CR 27730 (Cook Cty. Cir. Ct. Apr. 13, 2007).) The court reached the merits of Naranjo's claim as to the sufficiency of the indictment and found the indictment satisfactory because it informed him of the charges. (Id. at 4-5.) As to the claim that the trial court erred in finding Naranjo guilty of felony murder, the court found the issue procedurally barred by the doctrine of res judicata. (Id. at 5-7.) Additionally, the court concluded that Naranjo's claims of ineffectiveness of counsel were meritless. (Id. at 8.)

Naranjo appealed the decision of the circuit court arguing that: 1) the indictment did not properly charge a crime; 2) the State failed to prove Naranjo guilty of first-degree murder; and 3) the affirmance of the conviction by the appellate court violated Due Process. (Resp. Ex. I, Pet. App. Br. at 8.) The Appellate Court reached the merits of Naranjo's claim as to the indictment and found that the claim failed because the indictment enabled Naranjo to prepare a proper defense. (Resp. Ex. K, Order of App. Ct., People v. Naranjo, No. 1-07-1254, 6 (1st Dist. Mar. 31, 2008).) As to Naranjo's claim that there was insufficient evidence to convict, the court not only found that the evidence was sufficient, but also concluded that the defendant's challenge failed because "sufficiency of the evidence is not a proper ground for post-conviction relief." (Id. at 7 (citing People v. Todd, 178 Ill. 2d 297, 309, 687 N.E.2d 998, 1003 (1997).) Lastly, the court held that Naranjo's appeal of the affirmance of his conviction was procedurally barred. (Id. at 8 (citing People v. Enis, 194 Ill. 2d 361, 375, 743 N.E.2d 1, 10 (2000).) Because the Act requires a challenge to the original conviction, Naranjo's appeal of the Appellate Court's affirmance of his conviction was not a proper ground for relief. (Id.)

Following the Appellate Court's affirmation of the lower court's dismissal of his petition, Naranjo filed a PLA with the Supreme Court of Illinois. (Resp. Ex. L, Pet. PLA.) In his PLA, Naranjo raised two issues: 1) the indictment did not set forth all the elements of the offense; and 2) the elements of the offense were not proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court denied the petition. (Resp. Ex. M, Ltr. of Denial, Sept. 24, 2008.)

DISCUSSION

I. Procedural Prerequisites

Naranjo puts forward three grounds for relief in his petition. First, he alleges that count 1 of his indictment was insufficient because it did not set forth all the elements of first degree murder. Second, Naranjo contends that the affirmation of his conviction by the Illinois Appellate Court was outside the scope of the first degree murder statute. Third, Naranjo alleges that the ...


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