United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
HAROLD C. GROEL, Petitioner,
CAROLYN GURSKI, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
R. HERNDON, District Judge
2009, a jury in Tazewell County, Illinois, convicted Harold
C. Groel of one count of criminal sexual assault in violation
of 720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(4). He was sentenced to fifteen years
imprisonment. Now before the Court is the issue of whether
the petition should be stayed and held in abeyance pending
exhaustion of state remedies.
used a form to prepare his petition. In the section entitled
“Grounds for Your Challenge in This Petition, ”
he raised only one ground for habeas relief:
The state court erred “in finding the defendant guilty,
without requiring further analysis or more definitive
definition of the positions [of] authority, supervision, and
trust and how it applies to the defendant.”
Doc. 1, p. 6. However, in the “Request for
Relief” section of the petition, Groel asserted that
the failure to have “some type of true
definition” of the three terms and to specify which
term allegedly applies to him resulted in “having the
defendant prove that he did not fall into any of the
positions and that to have all three positions relieves the
State of it's [sic] burden of proof denying him due
process of law.” Doc. 1, p. 10.
preliminary review, the Court construed petitioner's
claim as “he was denied a fair trial because an element
of the offense, his ‘position of trust, supervision, or
authority' over the victim, was not adequately
defined.” See, Doc. 8, p.1.
answer, Doc. 21, focused primarily on the sufficiency of the
evidence, and only secondarily on petitioner's argument
about the definition of position of trust, supervision or
authority. In his reply, Doc. 24, petitioner definitively
stated that he is not making a sufficiency of the
evidence claim. See, Doc. 21, p. 1, &2. Rather, his
ground for habeas relief is, as was stated in the order on
preliminary review, that his positon of trust, supervision,
or authority over the victim, was not adequately defined. The
Court will refer to this as the “definition
claim.” He also asserted in his reply a slightly
different ground, that the indictment was insufficient
because it did not specify which position (trust, authority
or supervision) defendant held relative to the victim. The
Court will refer to this as the “notice claim.”
Court directed respondent to file an amended response. The
amended response is located at Doc. 34. Therein, respondent
indicated for the first time that petitioner had filed a
collateral proceeding in June 2013, i.e., a petition for
relief from judgment pursuant to 735 ILCS
§5/2-1401. Respondent did not indicate whether
petitioner appealed from the order denying that petition.
Because the Court's own research suggested that
petitioner did, in fact, file a notice of appeal, the Court
directed respondent to advise the Court of the status of
petitioner's state court proceedings. Respondent
indicated that petitioner's appeal was still pending. The
Office of the State Appellate Defender had been appointed to
represent him, and his opening brief was due in May, 2016.
See, Doc. 45.
Court then asked the parties to file memoranda on the
question of whether the habeas petition should be stayed and
held in abeyance. Respondent opposes a stay, while petitioner
is in favor. See, Docs. 48 & 49.
Facts and Procedural History
summary of the facts is derived from the decision of the
Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, denying
petitioner's direct appeal. A copy of the decision is
located at Doc. 21, Ex. 2, pp. 1-11.
was initially charged with five counts of criminal sexual
assault against three minor female victims (T.A., S.N. and
A.P.), and one count of endangering the life or health of a
child (S.N.) by providing alcoholic beverages and drugs.
After S.N. failed to appear at trial as scheduled, the three
counts involving her were dismissed. Defendant was convicted
only on one count involving T.A. Ex. 2, pp. 2, 4.
S.N. and A.P. were foster children in the custody of
petitioner's mother-in-law, Judy Morris. Petitioner's
wife, Cathy Groel, sometimes “babysat” one or
more of her mother's foster children. Ex. 2, pp. 4-5.
T.A. testified that Judy Morris would leave her with Cathy
Groel at the home Cathy Groel shared with petitioner while
Judy Morris went to play bingo. T.A. testified that, when she
was fourteen years old, petitioner had vaginal intercourse
with her at his home. She said that petitioner had vaginal
intercourse with her on other occasions as well, and that he
had stopped having intercourse with her when another foster
child, S.N., moved into Judy Morris' home. Ex. 2, pp.
direct appeal, Groel raised the following issues:
1. He was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
2. The judge erred in allowing the state to introduce
other-conduct evidence to show his propensity to commit ...