United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
EDMOND E. CHANG, District Judge.
Petitioner Robert Hudson has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254,  challenging his 2005 convictions for armed robbery and unlawful restraint. Hudson raises one claim in support of the petition: that the Illinois Appellate Court unreasonably concluded that he was not denied the right to the effective assistance of counsel during plea negotiations. Even in light of the deferential review given to state-court decisions, Hudson is right: his lawyer was ineffective in failing to advise Hudson that, if convicted of the charged offenses, Hudson was subject to a mandatory life sentence. And Hudson has proven that he would have accepted the State's plea deal, instead of proceeding to trial, if he had known about the mandatory life sentence. For the reasons that follow, Hudson's petition [R. 1] is granted.
When considering habeas petitions, federal courts must presume that the factual findings made by the last state court to decide the case on the merits are correct unless the petitioner rebuts those findings by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Coleman v. Hardy, 690 F.3d 811, 815 (7th Cir. 2012). Where Hudson has not provided clear and convincing evidence to rebut the presumption of correctness, the following factual background is taken from the state court's findings.
A. Summary of the Crime
On December 24, 2004, Hudson and an accomplice entered the I-55 Greater Chicago Truck Plaza. People v. Hudson, No. 3-07-0596, slip op. at 1-2 (Ill.App.Ct. June 23, 2009), available at R. 16-1, State's Exh. A. Brandishing a gun, Hudson insisted that an employee of the Truck Plaza open a safe from which Hudson pocketed money. Id. Before leaving the Truck Plaza, Hudson forced three employees into a bathroom and restrained them with duct tape. Id. at 2. Hudson and his accomplice were caught by the police shortly after the robbery. Id.
B. Pre-Trial Procedure
In Illinois state court, Hudson was indicted for armed robbery, a Class X felony, and three counts of unlawful restraint, Class 4 felonies. Id. at 1. The trial judge appointed Alexander Beck to represent Hudson. Id. at 2-3.
At a hearing on December 27, 2004, the trial judge (incorrectly) informed Hudson that Hudson could be sentenced to between six to thirty years in prison for armed robbery and that ultimately Hudson could be eligible for an extended-term sentence of between six and sixty years if he was convicted, depending on the circumstances of the crime and his prior criminal history. Id. at 2. But sixty years was not the maximum; in fact, Hudson's actual sentencing exposure was mandatory life imprisonment.
The very next day, Hudson was interviewed by Stacy DeWald, an investigator with the Will County Public Defender's Office, as part of his intake as a client of that office. Id.; see also Tr. at 586-88, 623. The record does not reflect the specific questions DeWald asked Hudson or his exact answers, but DeWald did fill out a "Public Defenders Investigative Sheet." R. 16-2, State's Exh. B. at C000192 (index of exhibits displaying the form's title). This intake form stated that Hudson did not complete high school, was addicted to heroin, and was medicated for heroin withdrawal at the time of the intake interview. R. 4, Pet'r's Br. at 5 (citing the form, without dispute by the State). The intake form also notes that Hudson informed DeWald that Hudson had previously been convicted for unlawful possession, murder, and theft (with a question mark following the theft notation). Id. Next to the word "alias, " DeWald wrote "ø." Id.; see also Hudson, No. 3-07-0596, slip op. at 2.
Approximately one month later, Beck received a copy of Hudson's fingerprint-generated LEADS criminal-history record. Pet'r's Br. at 5; Pet. Leave Appeal, Pet'r's App. at A-1, People v. Hudson, No. 108875 (Ill.), available at R. 16-9, State's Exh. F. The LEADS printout lists the convictions linked to Hudson's fingerprints, and notes on the first page that Hudson had been convicted six times-three more than noted on DeWald's intake form. Id. at A-1. The first page of the LEADS printout also notes that some of this criminal activity was recorded under the "ALIAS NAME" of "Hudson, Mark" and the "ALIAS DOB" of November 11, 1957 (Hudson's actual birthdate is December 11, 1957). Id.; see also Hudson, No. 3-07-0596, slip op. at 2. This information was repeated on pages two, three, and twelve of the LEADS report. See Pet. Leave Appeal, Pet'r's App. at A-2, A-3, A-12, Hudson, No. 108875. Both of Hudson's theft convictions were recorded under his November 11, 1957 alias date of birth, and one of these convictions was also recorded under his alias name. Id. at A-7, A-8.
Hudson requested an Illinois Rule 402 plea-discussion conference at his pre-trial hearing. Hudson, No. 3-07-0596, slip op. at 2. On March 23, 2005 (on the same date as his pre-trial hearing), the conference was conducted, with the trial court, prosecution, and Beck evaluating Hudson's criminal history and discussing the range of his sentencing exposure. Id. Afterwards, Beck instructed Hudson (incorrectly) that, if he was convicted of the charged offenses, Hudson would be subject to an extended-term sentence of six to sixty years as a result of his criminal history record, with a most likely sentence of forty-four years. Id. Hudson was also informed (incorrectly) by Beck that his sentencing range would be three to fourteen years if he were convicted of simple robbery rather than armed robbery. Pet'r's Br. at 6 (citing R. 16-2, State's Exh. B at C000189). In reality, as discussed below, Hudson actually was facing a mandatory life sentence.
As Hudson proceeded towards trial, the prosecution offered him diminishing sentences contingent on his pleading, from a twenty-year sentence, to an eighteen-year sentence on a Class 1 felony, to, finally, a seventeen-year sentence on a Class X felony. Hudson, No. 3-07-0596, slip op. at 2. Hudson ultimately rejected each of these offers. Id. Before trial began, the judge admonished Hudson (incorrectly) again that an armed-robbery conviction would subject Hudson to a prison term of six to sixty years. Id. at 3. Hudson nevertheless elected to go to trial. Id. While the jury was deliberating, the ...