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Hall v. Williams

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

August 24, 2016

LOUIS HALL, Petitioner,
MARK WILLIAMS, Respondent.



         After a bench trial held in 2013, an Illinois judge convicted Louis Hall of two counts of delivery of a controlled substance-heroin-and sentenced him to two concurrent ten year prison sentences. Hall has petitioned this Court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that Hall's claims are procedurally defaulted and that he has not provided a basis to excuse the defaults. The Court therefore denies Hall's petition.


         On August 23, 2012, Chicago police officer William Murphy set up surveillance of Hall after observing what he believed to be narcotics transactions in an alley on Chicago's West Side. Upon setting up surveillance in his patrol vehicle, Murphy observed four men convene spontaneously in an alley and form a line, with Hall standing at the front. Officer Murphy then saw Hall walk toward a nearby doorway, retrieve some items, and make hand-to-hand transactions with the men. In particular, he observed each man hand to Hall an unknown amount of money in exchange for a then-unidentified object. Believing he had witnessed narcotics transactions, Murphy radioed for backup. Two Chicago Police Department patrol cars arrived on the scene, and officers detained Hall and the four men. Upon a search, the officers discovered that each man possessed an object (or several objects) that appeared to be narcotics, each identically wrapped.[1] An officer on the scene testified that he overheard Hall confess to selling heroin for someone named Tony.

         On August 24, 2012, the state filed criminal complaints in the Circuit Court of Cook County, alleging four narcotics delivery charges-two for an amount of heroin less than one gram, and two for an amount of heroin more than one gram but less than fifteen grams. On September 25, the state filed an information in which it elected to charge only the two counts involving larger quantities. The information also alleged possession charges against two of the men in the alley-Eduardo Delbosque and Pedro Rivera-for possession of quantities of heroin just over one gram.

         Hall appeared at a preliminary hearing on September 20, 2012, during which a Chicago Police Department officer-Officer Gutkowski-testified to the events leading up to Hall's arrest. Gutkowski had been in communication with Murphy during his surveillance of Hall and was one of the officers who moved in to arrest the suspects. After hearing Gutkowski's testimony, the presiding judge found that there was probable cause on the two charges Hall faced. See Pet. at 42. The judge also found probable cause on the charges against Delbosque and Rivera but made a finding of no probable cause for the other two purchasers. Id. at 30-31. Because the counts for delivery of less than one gram were not charged at that point, the judge did not make findings on those charges.

         After a bench trial, the judge noted that the evidence was largely circumstantial, as, he said, it tends to be in "any given case involving narcotics" absent an undercover sting. Trial Tr., Pet. at 84. The judge then summarized the evidence as follows:

Murphy testified that he was driving around and saw the defendant Louis Hall making various transactions. He couldn't tell what they were. Basically, he saw various transactions, and he pulled over and conducted surveillance, before he pulls over, five or six purported transactions. He then pulls over to watch.
He then sees, according to the testimony that I heard, Louis Hall set up a line, like in the alley more or less, and four or five male Hispanics approached the line, not all at once. They end up in the line at one time together.
The defendant then leaves the line and goes to 3534 West Chicago at the rear door of the building, bends down, apparently picks up something . . . returns back to the line, and hands each of the four people, after they give him some money, hands them some items or object or objects, whatever.
As it turns out, the stipulations were that each of the four guys had what turned out to be heroin. Each of the four packages were the same. A silver tinfoil packet with blue tape, all packets exactly the same, blue tape, silver packet taped to it. They're all receiving something from Louis Hall. And they all wind up with silver packets with blue tape, which turns out to be heroin.
That would be rather unique, circumstantially, that those are narcotics they're getting from Louis Hall. They're giving him money. They get something in return. The cop can't actually see what it is at that point from that vantage point. Circumstantially, it's the same thing. Each of the four guys wind up with silver packets with blue tape. Each contained heroin.
The odds would be in the quadrillions, get something from a guy, the same packaging, and they're getting it in a line from a person named Louis Hall. It doesn't make any sense giving Louis Hall money for something other than narcotics under those circumstances . . . .
And then you add it together with the statement there was some impeachment about who was present, who said what supposedly, but impeachment in the case of people are approaching Louis Hall, giving him money, whatever amount they're giving him, who knows how much it was, for something in return. And the ...

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