United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY United States District Judge.
Sanchez, who was convicted of murder in Illinois state court,
has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2254. Sanchez alleges his trial and appellate
counsel were ineffective and that his due process rights were
2009, Robert Gooch and Elissa Hinton were dating. The couple
shared an apartment in Joliet, Illinois. On May 21, 2009,
they both went to sleep around 11 p.m. but awoke to the sound
of the apartment buzzer. Gooch got out of bed and walked to
the door. From bed, Hinton heard the murmur of voices and
recognized the voice of Pedro Sanchez. Sanchez and Hinton
knew each other, as Hinton had sexual relations with him
several times while she was dating Gooch. Sanchez wanted to
begin dating Hinton, but she had rebuffed his past advances.
As Sanchez and Gooch spoke, Hinton testified she heard
"mumbling" "about a girl." Ex. M at 19
(Hinton testimony). She then heard a gunshot. She got out of
bed and found Gooch on the floor, bleeding from a gunshot
wound to the head. She did not see the shooter. Gooch died
from his wounds.
in the day, Sanchez had met with several friends: Jesus
Zambrano, Michael Ortiz, and Christian Lopez. They met at the
home of LaToya Ortiz. (To avoid confusion, the Court uses
LaToya Ortiz's full name, but uses "Ortiz" to
refer to Michael Ortiz.) They spent the evening drinking
alcohol and smoking marijuana. Lopez testified that he had
"a lot" to drink. Ex. M at 109 (Lopez testimony).
testified that, while partying at LaToya Ortiz's house,
he overheard Sanchez talking on the telephone "[l]ike
there was an argument" between "him and I guess his
ex-girlfriend[.]" Ex. M at 217 (Ortiz testimony). Ortiz
testified he overheard Sanchez asking the other party on the
phone why she had left. Ex. M at 218. The defense called
Hinton, the victim's partner, to testify. She denied
speaking with Sanchez on the day of the shooting.
Ortiz testified that they left her home between midnight and
1 a.m. Zambrano, Sanchez, Lopez, and Ortiz all left in the
same car: Zambrano drove, Sanchez was in the front passenger
seat, and Lopez and Ortiz were in the back seats. They first
drove to a McDonald's and ordered food at the
drive-through window. The prosecution later introduced video
surveillance of the vehicle proceeding through the
testified that they left the McDonald's but did not drive
towards his house. Rather, they went to another apartment-the
apartment at which Hinton and Gooch lived. Sanchez got out of
the car first and walked to the door of the apartment.
Zambrano got out next, walked to the front of the car, and
removed a gun from under the hood of the car. Zambrano told
Lopez to get out as well. Meanwhile, Ortiz had fallen asleep
in the back. A video recording taken at the apartment
captures the car pulling up, the three men exiting the car,
and Zambrano removing an item from under the hood of the car.
testified that, as he, Sanchez, and Zambrano walked to the
apartment, "[t]hey tried to hand me the handgun and I
just said no." Ex. M at 114. Someone buzzed them in. As
they walked upstairs, either Sanchez or Zambrano told Lopez
to wait on the second floor while they walked up to the third
floor. Hinton and Gooch lived on the third floor. Lopez
waited on the second floor for five to ten minutes and then
heard a gunshot.
hearing the gunshot, Lopez saw Zambrano running down the
stairs, so he began to run as well. The two of them ran back
to the car together, and Sanchez followed behind. Lopez
testified that, as they drove away, Sanchez repeatedly told
Zambrano "I love you, Jesus. I love you." Ex. M at
116. Lopez stayed with the group until the morning and then
walked home. Later that day, he voluntarily went to the
Joliet Police Department and described the events of the
Sanchez's trial, the prosecution introduced both Lopez
and Ortiz's testimony. Ortiz received use immunity in
exchange for his testimony. During trial, the prosecution
pursued an accountability theory of liability, which meant
that both Sanchez and Zambrano could be held liable for the
murder without evidence showing which one specifically shot
the victim. Sanchez was convicted by a jury, and a judge
sentenced him to 61 years in prison.
direct appeal, Sanchez argued a single issue: he had received
ineffective assistance of counsel, because his attorney had
failed to seek an accomplice-witness instruction. An
accomplice-witness instruction warns jurors to view the
testimony of an accomplice with "suspicion."
Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions-Criminal, No. 3.17 (4th
ed. 2000). The Illinois Appellate Court, applying
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), held
that the attorney's failure to obtain the instruction (1)
was not objectively deficient and (2) did not prejudice
Sanchez. People v. Sanchez, 2013 IL App (3d)
120046-U ¶¶ 17-18. Sanchez filed a petition for
leave to appeal (PLA), Ex. E, which the Illinois Supreme
Court denied. Ex. F at 1 (Order denying PLA).
filed a pro se post-conviction petition, which the
trial court dismissed. Respondent has not provided this Court
with either the petition or the trial court's order.
Rather, it has provided only the briefs on appeal from the
trial court's dismissal of the post-conviction petition.
The appeal brief, however, describes the claims made in the
post-conviction petition. See Ex. I at 7
(post-conviction brief). First, Sanchez contended that the
trial court had erred in failing to appoint counsel to
represent him regarding his claim that trial counsel had been
ineffective. Second, he contended that trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to question Ortiz about dismissal of
a firearms charge against him before he testified at trial.
Third, Sanchez contended that the prosecutor had violated his
right to a fair trial by making an improper closing argument.
Sanchez also contended that appellate counsel was ineffective
for failing to assert these points on direct appeal. The
trial court dismissed the petition without explanation. On
appeal, Sanchez, who at this point was again represented by
counsel, made four arguments: (1) appellate counsel rendered
ineffective assistance in failing to challenge the
prosecution's closing argument; (2) trial counsel was
ineffective in failing to cross-examine Ortiz about the
dismissed charge, and (3) appellate counsel was ineffective
in failing to raise trial counsel's ineffective