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Patterson v. United States

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

July 27, 2015

AARON PATTERSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

REBECCA R. PALLMEYER, District Judge.

Aaron Patterson was convicted of murder and spent many years on death row before he was pardoned by then-Governor George Ryan. A year after Patterson's release from the state penitentiary, Patterson was caught in a federal sting operation and charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin and marijuana, possession with intent to distribute heroin and marijuana, and illegal possession of a firearm. His case proceeded to trial, but the proceedings were repeatedly disrupted by outbursts on the part of Patterson and his then-attorney, Ms. Demitrus Evans. During the course of jury selection, Ms. Evans, visibly distressed by the court's pretrial rulings, abruptly left the courtroom, abandoning her client and the court. In the wake of the disturbance created by Ms. Evans's departure, an attorney who had previously represented Patterson, Tommy Brewer, offered to step in as lead counsel. The court appointed Mr. Brewer and a Federal Defender Panel attorney, Paul Camarena, to represent Patterson. After a short continuance, a jury was selected and the trial proceedings resumed. The jury convicted Patterson on all counts and he was sentenced to 360 months' imprisonment.

The trial proceedings are described in more detail in the court's rulings on motions filed during and after the trial, several of them now published in WESTLAW. See, e.g., United States v. Patterson, No. 04-CR-705-1, 2005 WL 1865979 (N.D. Ill. June 9, 2005) (granting in part and denying in part the government's motion to introduce certain "other acts" evidence); United States v. Patterson, No. 04-CR-705-1, 2005 WL 1785327 (N.D. Ill. July 22, 2005) (overruling Patterson's objection to appointment of attorney Brewer); United States v. Patterson, No. 04 CR 705-1, 2007 WL 1438658 (N. D. Ill. May 15, 2007) (denying motion for reconsideration of the denial of a new trial). In the end, the Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction in an unpublished order. United States v. Patterson, No. 07-2974, 397 F.Appx. 209 (7th Cir. Oct. 5, 2010).

Patterson now brings this motion for relief from his conviction and sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2255. He argues that Brewer's representation was ineffective because (1) Brewer failed to raise an entrapment defense, (2) Brewer allegedly suffered from a conflict of interest based on his previous employment as an Assistant State's Attorney, (3) Brewer was purportedly unprepared for trial and inexperienced, and (4) Brewer failed to move for a mistrial on the basis of juror bias. As explained below, none of these claims entitle Patterson to relief. His petition [1] is denied, and the court declines to grant a Certificate of Appealability.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY[1]

Patterson confessed to murder after being tortured at the hands of Chicago Police Detective Jon Burge and spent more than a decade on death row. He was ultimately pardoned by then-Governor George Ryan and freed from prison in 2003. United States v. Patterson, 397 F.Appx. 209, 211 (7th Cir. 2010). Once released, Patterson became a vocal activist, pledging to expose corruption and police misconduct. He filed a civil suit against Burge and others he believed were involved in the conspiracy, including then-Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine. See generally Patterson v. Burge, 328 F.Supp.2d 878 (N.D. Ill. 2004). In 2004, however, with the help of a confidential informant, Mario Maldonado, a federal investigation recorded Patterson participating in several drug and gun transactions. Patterson believes the investigation and criminal charges were retaliation by various public officials for his activism and lawsuit. Patterson, 397 F.Appx. at 211.

Patterson and his co-defendant Mark Mannie were charged in a thirteen-count indictment with conspiracy to distribute heroin and marijuana, possession with intent to distribute heroin and marijuana, and illegal possession of a firearm. Patterson's defense theory was that he had been improperly targeted based on his advocacy against police misconduct. He claimed that he participated in the deals only because he was conducting a "reverse sting" that could expose further police misconduct. The court ruled before trial, however, that Patterson had insufficient evidence to support either a public authority or entrapment defense. ( See May 20, 2005 Mem. Op. & Order [124], 8; May 23, 2005 Mem. Op. & Order [129]. 3-4.)

Beginning during the pretrial proceedings, Patterson had a tumultuous relationship with his attorneys. Demitrus Evans represented Patterson from his initial court appearance. Tommy Brewer also appeared on behalf of Patterson at all the preliminary proceedings, but did not formally file an appearance until December 30, 2004. Patterson, 2007 WL 1438658, at *1. Then just three weeks later, on January 27, 2005, he moved to withdraw, citing a breakdown in communications. The court granted Mr. Brewer's motion on January 27, 2005. Id.; (Jan. 27, 2005 Order [54].) The court originally scheduled the trial for February 2005, but Ms. Evans sought a continuance, which the court granted, rescheduling the trial for May 31, 2005. Id.; (Feb. 11, 2005 Order [67].) In April, Ms. Evans moved for the appointment of additional counsel; the court granted that motion as well, and appointed Federal Panel attorney Paul Camarena. (April 25, 2005 Order [99].) But defense counsel was not prepared to proceed by May 31, and the court again continued the trial to July 5, with jury selection set to begin on June 30, 2005. Patterson, 2007 WL 1438658 at *1-*2; (May 27, 2005 Order [134]).

On June 30, with jury selection about to begin, defense counsel moved for a third continuance, citing Patterson's need for mental health treatment and their own lack of preparation. Patterson, 397 F.Appx. at 211. The court denied the motion. It had already determined that Patterson was competent to stand trial (June 29, 2005 Mem. Op. & Order [262], 1), and reasoned that counsel's lack of preparation stemmed from delays caused by Patterson himself. Patterson, 397 F.Appx. at 211; (July 1, 2005 Order [204].) Patterson refused to come to court the first day of jury selection, but the court had him brought by force so that it could confirm first-hand his intention to waive his appearance. Id. Dismayed by the court's refusal to further delay the trial, Patterson interrupted the proceedings to demand that his lawyers withdraw and insist he represented himself. Id. at 211-12. He loudly announced the home addresses of his lawyers and declared that he would dispatch protestors to their homes unless they withdrew from the case. Id. at 212.

The court refused to permit Patterson to represent himself pro se, noting concerns that Patterson would continue to disrupt the proceedings and introduce inadmissible evidence. (July 1, 2005 Order.) The court clarified that it might reconsider self-representation if Patterson showed he could control his behavior. Patterson, however, escalated the disruption, threatening to have his supporters "chain themselves to [counsel's] stairs, stand in front of his house, have a bullhorn, maybe bring a spotlight, you know and just kind of like rattle [counsel] to please get off my case and allow me to represent myself." Patterson, 397 F.Appx. at 212. The court ordered Patterson removed from the courtroom. (June 30, 2005 Order [216].)

Patterson returned the second day of voir dire, July 1, but his lawyers complained that he was physically obstructing them from using counsel's table or their papers. Outside the presence of the potential jurors, the court discussed the issue with Patterson and his attorneys, but

Patterson erupted, imploring his lawyers to get the fuck off my case, ' and telling the court you ain't gonna legal lynch me.' Patterson resisted entreaties by the marshals to leave the courtroom, throwing himself on the ground. The marshals ultimately removed him by force, after which Evans, now exasperated, declared she was withdrawing from the case and stormed out of the courtroom.

Patterson, 397 F.Appx. at 212. Though the potential jurors were outside the courtroom, the court excused them because many reported overhearing the commotion. Evans returned several hours later, only after the court issued a bench warrant for her arrest. Patterson, No. 04-CR-705-1, 2007 WL 1438658, at *2. Despite this, the court continued jury selection.

On July 8, after three days of jury selection, Ms. Evans again abruptly left the courtroom, without permission, after the court overruled one of her objections. Patterson, 397 F.Appx. at 212. Tommy Brewer, who had previously represented Patterson in the pre-trial proceedings, had remained in the courtroom observing the trial. Mr. Brewer offered to step back into the case after Ms. Evan's departure, representing that with a few days for preparation, he would be ready to proceed. Id. The government ...


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