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Woolley v. Gaetz

July 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Michael M. Mihm


This is a matter now before the Court on Martin Woolley's ("Woolley") Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reason's set forth below, Woolley's Petition [#2] is DENIED.


At approximately 10 p.m. on February 20, 1995, Rane Baldwin ("Baldwin") and Diana Turley ("Turley") were found shot to death at Phylly's Cue and Brew tavern ("the tavern") in Kewanee, Illinois. Woolley and his wife, Marcia Woolley, had spent much of their day at the tavern, drinking, playing pool, and talking to other patrons. Eventually, everyone but the Woolleys, Baldwin, and Turley had left the tavern. Woolley initially claimed that he and his wife left the tavern at 9:25 p.m. but, upon questioning, admitted to killing the two women. In his confession, Woolley said that he took a gun out of his pants and shot Baldwin in the head two or three times before shooting Turley. Woolley also stated that he proceeded to take the tavern's cash, and that while he was looting the register, he heard Baldwin stir and shot her again in the head.

At trial, Woolley retracted his confession and asserted that his wife had killed Baldwin and Turley. On June 16, 1995, Woolley was convicted of murder in the Circuit Court for Henry County. He was originally sentenced to death but appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld his convictions of armed robbery, murder, and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon, but reversed and remanded his death sentence for a new hearing. A second jury also imposed the death penalty, and Woolley again appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded his sentence for the second time. While Woolley was waiting for his third sentencing hearing, then-Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment. The Illinois Supreme Court interpreted Governor Ryan's action as applying to Woolley's death sentence.

Much of Woolley's trial revolved around where the gunman was located. Woolley testified that he was in the men's restroom when he heard gunshots and emerged to see his wife, propped up on a barstool, shoot Baldwin a third time as the bartender lay on the ground. Michael Ogryzek ("Ogryzek"), a crime scene investigator for the state, testified that his investigation led him to believe that the shooter had been in the area of the men's restroom for the first three shots and that the final shot to Baldwin had been delivered from behind the bar. Ogryzek also testified that it would have been impossible for Marcia Woolley to fire the final shot from the other side of the bar, where all parties agreed she was located.

On July 16, 1996, Woolley filed a pro se post-conviction petition. He filed another post-conviction petition in 2000, but the court stayed proceedings until after the Illinois Supreme Court had concluded all direct appeals. On July 12, 2006, Woolley amended his petition to include a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Although the State filed a motion to dismiss the petition, the trial court denied the motion. Eugene Stockton ("Stockton"), a Henry County Public Defender, represented Woolley at his initial trial and sentencing. A State Appellate Defender represented Woolley for his 1996 petition and from 2000 until May 2005, when Woolley employed private counsel.

Stockton testified at the post-conviction evidentiary hearing about his involvement in the 1995 trial, including how he handled Ogryzek's testimony. Stockton testified that he had examined Ogryzek's report prior to the expert's testimony and had been assured by Ogryzek that his testimony would not go beyond the report's parameters. On the day of Woolley's trial, however, Stockton received a supplement to Ogryzek's report. This supplement contained conclusions about the gunman's location. Stockton did not pursue funds to hire an expert to rebut Ogryzek's additional testimony or even consider hiring one. Stockton also did not request a continuance or move to bar Ogryzek's untimely addition. Instead, Stockton concentrated his legal efforts on bringing Ogryzek's credibility into question.

In addition to Stockton, Alva W. Busch ("Busch"), a private investigator hired by Woolley, testified at the post-conviction hearing. Busch had previously worked for the state police as a crime scene investigator. He testified that he had concluded, based on his experience, that the bullet that had killed Turley had come from the area of Marcia Woolley's barstool, not the bathroom. He also testified that Baldwin had been shot from the same barstool, and that Marcia Woolley would have been able to shoot Baldwin as the bartender lay on the ground from her position in front of the bar.

The trial court ruled that Stockton's assistance was deficient, but concluded that Stockton's ineffective assistance did not prejudice the jury. The trial court concluded that because Woolley had admitted to taking money from the tavern, trying to dispose of evidence, and to being at the tavern at the time of the murder with the murder weapon, that the jury's only decision was whether Woolley's account was credible. The trial judge also found that there was no reasonable probability that Busch's testimony would change a jury's conclusion because Woolley's testimony was internally inconsistent and the theory he presented at trial contradicted the testimony of other witnesses.

The Illinois Appellate Court upheld the trial court's ruling, finding that the trial court was within its power when it determined that the case revolved around Woolley's credibility, not the gunman's position, and consequently, that the lack of expert testimony supporting Woolley's position did not prejudice the jury. Additionally, the Appellate Court ruled that the trial judge had the power to determine whether the defense witness was credible. Finally, the Appellate Court concluded that even if it had reviewed the trial court's decision de novo, it would have arrived at the same conclusion.

Woolley has now filed the present petition, in which he argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. This order follows.


I. Procedural ...

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