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Pacheco v. Gossett

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 23, 2015

GREGORY GOSSETT, Warden, Illinois River Correctional Center, Respondent.


ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN, District Judge.

Petitioner Elauterio Pacheco filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, alleging that, (1) in denying his motion to suppress statements he made to police the state trial court improperly considered his denial that he made such statements in violation of his due process rights (Ground One), and (2) that his trial counsel was ineffective in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights by failing to present evidence of a threat of imminent death or bodily harm to him or his family as part of his compulsion defense (Ground Two). Having reviewed the supplemental briefing, the court denies the habeas petition and declines to issue a certificate of appealability.


In 2011, a jury convicted petitioner of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance after he delivered over 900 grams of cocaine to an undercover police officer. Petitioner was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Before trial, petitioner sought to suppress a confession he had given to the police admitting to his involvement in the crime. Petitioner argued that the confession was involuntary, and therefore a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights, because, as a native Spanish speaker, he did not understand his Miranda rights. The trial court held a hearing on petitioner's motion at which one of the officers who interviewed petitioner following his arrest testified that during the post-arrest interview, petitioner expressed that he knew some English, but felt more comfortable speaking in Spanish. The officer explained that he was fluent in Spanish and conducted the remainder of the interview in that language. The officer testified that petitioner was read his Miranda rights in Spanish from a preprinted form also in Spanish from which petitioner read along, running his finger down the page as the form was read. According to the officer, petitioner did not ask any questions nor did he state that he did not understand. After the form was read, petitioner signed it, indicating that he understood his rights. The officer testified that after signing the form, petitioner admitted that he had picked up two kilograms of cocaine, intending to sell it.

Petitioner's version of the events were substantially different than the officer's. Petitioner testified that he was scared following his arrest because the police had drawn their guns and handcuffed him while in the police car. Petitioner was also frightened because one of the interviewing officers was wearing a ski mask. Petitioner testified that although the officers spoke to him in Spanish and he could understand them, the officers did not read the Miranda rights form to him, but instead handed it to him without any explanation of its contents. According to petitioner, he signed the preprinted form without reading it because he felt that he did not have a choice and does not read well. Petitioner maintained that he did not admit to any criminal conduct during the interview.

Following the hearing, the trial court denied petitioner's motion. The court found the officer's testimony that he read the Miranda warning to petitioner and that petitioner ran his finger down the form as he read credible. The court also credited the officer's testimony that petitioner did not indicate that he did not understand his rights and seemed "coherent, lucid, and not confused." The trial court noted that according to the officer's testimony, petitioner declined to answer certain questions about where and from whom he had gotten the drugs. Accordingly, the court found that petitioner "knew enough to exercise his right not to answer" those questions.

The court observed that during the suppression hearing, petitioner had, "no difficulty understanding the questions that were asked of him; and when he did not understand, he came right out and said" that he did not understand. Because petitioner maintained that he did not understand his rights, while still refusing to answer questions he "feared, " the court questioned petitioner's credibility. The court also questioned petitioner's credibility because he denied having any conversation at all with the officers, including answering questions that would have helped him.

On direct appeal, petitioner argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because it considered the substance of his statement and found that his testimony denying making a custodial statement negatively impacted his credibility. People v. Pacheco, No. 2-11-1022, 2012 WL 6968063, at *6 (Ill.App.2d Dist. Sept. 13, 2012). He also argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for presenting a compulsion defense when "no such defense was available, " because his testimony "came no where close to meeting the elements of the compulsion defense, which requires that the defendant acted under a threat or menace of the imminent infliction of death or great bodily harm." Pet. Br. on Direct Appeal, People v. Pacheco, No. 2-11-1022 (emphasis included). The state appellate court affirmed petitioner's conviction, holding that the trial court was reasonable in concluding that petitioner's confession was constitutional and rejecting petitioner's claim that his trial counsel was ineffective. Pacheco, 2012 WL 6968063. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for leave to appeal ("PLA") to the Illinois Supreme Court, which was denied on January 30, 2013. People v. Pacheco, No. 115118. The PLA sought review only of the trial court's denial of petitioner's motion to suppress. Pet. PLA, People v. Pacheco, No. 115118. On January 13, 2014, petitioner filed the instant § 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus.


A. Legal Standard

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") provides the standard of review applied to federal habeas corpus petitions filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 by persons in state custody. Under the AEDPA, a petitioner is not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus for a non-defaulted claim unless the challenged state court decision was: (1) "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States;" or (2) "based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). A state court's decision is "contrary to" clearly established Supreme Court law, "if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Court on a question of law" or "if the state court confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and arrives at a result opposite to" the Court. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000).

"[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75-76 (2003) (internal quotations omitted). The court can issue a writ only if it determines that the state court's application of federal law was "objectively unreasonable." Williams, 562 U.S. at 409. It is a difficult standard to meet, because unreasonable means something lying "well outside ...

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