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People v. Roman

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

November 22, 2016

DANIEL ROMAN, Defendant-Appellant.

          Rehearing denied December 16, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 08-CR-3180; the Hon. James B. Linn, Judge, presiding


          Michael J. Pelletier, Patricia Mysza, and Pamela Rubeo, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Peter Fischer, and Whitney Bond, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

          HYMAN PRESIDING JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Pierce and Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 After his conviction for first degree murder and robbery was affirmed, Roman filed a pro se postconviction petition. He alleged that the State violated his due process rights under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to disclose evidence showing the State allegedly assisted two witnesses obtain citizenship and disability benefits in exchange for their testimony. The trial court dismissed the petition finding no Brady violation. We determine Roman failed to present the gist of a constitutional claim as he has not shown that the State suppressed evidence material to the finding of his guilt or to the punishment imposed on him.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 The underlying facts are recounted in the opinion disposing of Roman's appeal from conviction. People v. Roman, 2013 IL App (1st) 102853. Here, we state only those facts necessary to address the issues raised in this appeal.

         ¶ 4 Roman, his brother Martin, Adolfo Zuniga, and Carlos Lopez, along with Roman's cousins Ismael and Omar Morales, were charged with murder and robbery. The victim, a forklift operator at a tortilla factory, was fatally beaten. Roman elected a bench trial and was tried simultaneously with codefendant Ismael Morales, whose case was heard by a jury. Luis Fernando Garcia and his girlfriend, Sylvia Ortiz, who lived in an apartment near the tortilla factory, witnessed the incident from their apartment window. Initially reluctant to talk to the police, Garcia and Ortiz went to the police station a few days later, explained what they saw, and identified Roman and his codefendants in photo arrays and in a lineup. At trial, Garcia and Ortiz testified that they saw the men pull the victim off the forklift and kick and punch him, take his wallet, and drop a concrete rock on his head. The State presented several other witnesses, including the responding police officers, detectives who investigated the murder, a forensic scientist, and the medical examiner.

         ¶ 5 The trial court found Roman guilty of first degree murder and robbery and sentenced him to 35 years and 7 years respectively, to be served concurrently. After this court affirmed on direct review, Roman filed a pro se postconviction petition alleging, in part, that the State violated his due process rights by committing a Brady violation. Specifically, Roman alleged that the State failed to disclose a promise to help Garcia with immigration and disability benefits issues in exchange for his and Ortiz's cooperation. Roman attached to the petition a letter from Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) Andrew Varga to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) dated July 10, 2010. In the letter, ASA Varga wrote, "I am writing to you in connection with Mr. Garcia's citizenship application." ASA Varga explained that he became acquainted with Garcia during the prosecution of five men for first degree murder because Garcia was an eyewitness to the murder. Varga wrote:

"Mr. Garcia's cooperation with the Chicago Police Department and Cook County State's Attorney's Office personnel investigating the case was instrumental in the arrest and eventual charging of the offenders. Subsequently, Mr. Garcia has testified in the jury trials of the juvenile offender, two of the adult offenders and in a bench trial of a third adult offender. All four were convicted of First Degree Murder. It is anticipated that Mr. Garcia will be called to testify at the trial of the remaining twoadult offenders. It is our expectation that those offenders will go to trial by early 2011."

         ¶ 6 In response to an impound order filed by Roman's appellate attorney, the letter was impounded on April 27, 2011, and was part ...

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