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Breedlove v. Kennedy

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

June 14, 2018

TERI KENNEDY, Warden, Respondent.



         Now before the Court is Petitioner Alan Breedlove's Petition (Doc. 1) for Writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons set forth below, Breedlove's Petition (Doc. 1) is DENIED and the Court declines to issue a Certificate of Appealability.


         (1) Alan Breedlove's Trial and Direct Appeal

         On the morning of April 26, 2000, Alan Breedlove traveled to the residence of his former wife, Valerie Rakestraw. While Breedlove and Rakestraw were inside the apartment, a fire broke out. First responders pulled Breedlove from the burning apartment through the south door. He was later treated for burns to his face, arms, and torso, and cuts to his inner forearms and neck. Valerie Rakestraw's severely burned corpse was recovered near the north door. A hunting knife was found next to her body, and she had been stabbed multiple times in the chest and back. People v. Breedlove, 2015 IL App (3d) 140571-U, 2015 WL 5139649 at *1.

         Breedlove was charged on June 2, 2000 with Rakestraw's murder in a five-count indictment in the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court in Tazewell County, Illinois. Three days later the court appointed a public defender, Dean Hamra, to represent Breedlove. Breedlove later sent a letter to the public defender's office complaining about Hamra and requesting another attorney. In response, the public defender's office assigned John Lonergan to assist Hamra in February of 2001. Breedlove's trial began on May 22, 2001. Id.

         At trial, the State presented evidence showing that Valerie had been married to her new husband, John Rakestraw, for 34 days before her death. Valerie had two sons, Jeff and Brent Breedlove. Alan had adopted Jeff and Brent in their youth. Even after two divorces and Valerie's new marriage to John, Alan and Valerie continued to talk and visit each other. Valerie and John lived next to her son Jeff, who worked for John for five years. John and Jeff drove to work together at 6:30 a.m. on April 26, 2000. Valerie usually left for work at 7 a.m., and was thus home by herself at 6:40 a.m. when John and Jeff passed Alan Breedlove driving in the opposite direction. John and Jeff learned of Valerie's death shortly after 7 a.m. Id. at *1-2.

         Christopher Sprague also testified at trial. Sprague testified that he approached the south door of Rakestraw's apartment shortly before 7 a.m. to serve papers on her relating to medical bills. He also had papers to serve on Breedlove. As he approached the apartment, he heard a man and a woman yelling. After Sprague knocked on the door, Breedlove opened the door about 12 inches and stood with the left side of his body outside. While Sprague was explaining that he was serving papers on Valerie, he heard a woman's voice yelling for help. Breedlove grabbed the papers and slammed the door shut. Sprague went to his vehicle and called 911 before noticing smoke coming from the northeast window of the apartment moments later. Id. at *2.

         John Rakestraw testified that days before her death, Breedlove told him that he visited Valerie every morning. Brent Breedlove testified that the knife found at the scene looked like one that he saw on a shelf in Alan Breedlove's basement sometime in April of 1999. Neither John or Valerie owned a hunting knife. Id.

         An autopsy was conducted on Rakestraw's body by forensic pathologist Dr. Travis Hindeman, who testified that she died from multiple stab wounds, consistent with the blade of the hunting knife, that were inflicted before the fire. Hindeman also reviewed photographs of Breedlove's cuts and testified as to his opinion that the cuts on Breedlove's forearms and neck were self-inflicted. Id.

         Breedlove did not testify at trial. The defense called Gary Rafool, a bankruptcy attorney, who testified that Breedlove and Rakestraw appeared to get along fine when he met with them the day before her death. Id. On May 24, 2001, the jury returned a verdict finding Breedlove guilty of first degree murder, and Breedlove was later sentenced to 50 years of imprisonment. On direct appeal, Breedlove argued that he was not admonished by the trial court of his obligation to preserve sentencing issues with a written motion-a requirement under the version of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 605(a) that took effect months after Breedlove's trial. See People v. Breedlove, 342 Ill.App.3d 924, 925, 795 N.E.2d 862, 863 (2003), as modified (Aug. 21, 2003), aff'd, 213 Ill.2d 509, 821 N.E.2d 1176 (2004).

         (2) Breedlove's Postconviction Petition

         In 2004, Breedlove filed a pro se postconviction petition alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective in numerous ways. Breedlove was appointed counsel, who certified that he had suggested amendments to the petition but Breedlove had rejected them. The petition was dismissed and Breedlove appealed. The Illinois appellate court remanded the case and instructed counsel to review the pro se petition and file necessary amendments. People v. Breedlove, No. 3- 08-0082 (2010) (unpublished order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23). Following the remand, Breedlove's postconviction counsel filed an amended petition that included allegations that Hamra was ineffective. Specifically, Breedlove alleged in his petition that during the time Hamra represented him, Hamra was engaged in various unethical and illegal activities culminating in his conviction and disbarment. Breedlove attached several exhibits in support of the petition, including: “(1) Hamra's investigation of several individuals whom the defendant thought were possibly involved in the murder; (2) a police report of an interview with the defendant's treating physician, Dr. Milner, who told the police that the lacerations on the defendant's arms and neck were self-inflicted; (3) a report from the Illinois fire marshal which stated that a fire occurred in the defendant's basement in September 1999 and caused ‘much burning to shelves'; and (4) a letter from Lonergan in which Lonergan said that he would have said or done something if Hamra prevented the defendant from testifying.” Breedlove, 2015 IL App (3d) 140571-U, 2015 WL 5139649 at *3.

         The trial court granted the State's motion to dismiss the amended petition. Breedlove appealed, and the Illinois appellate court remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing after finding that Breedlove made a substantial showing that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. People v. Breedlove, 2013 IL App (3d) 110765-U, 2013 WL 3788611 at *1. The trial court then held an evidentiary hearing on Breedlove's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Breedlove, 2015 IL App (3d) 140571-U, 2015 WL 5139649 at *3.

         Petitioner's father, Wayne Breedlove, testified at the hearing that on August 24, 2000 and January 31, 2001, Hamra called him demanding $25, 000 to pay for investigation and trial expenses. According to Wayne, Hamra would do little for Breedlove without the money because “he could not afford to waste his time for the amount of money that the county was paying him.” Id. at *3. On both occasions, Wayne told Hamra that he did not have the money. Bobby Henderson, who was a sergeant with the Tazewell County Sherriff's Department in 2000, testified that he interviewed Dr. Anthony Firilas about Breedlove's injuries. Firilas stated that “there was no way to tell if [Breedlove's neck injury] was self-inflicted or not.” Id. However, Firilas did not have knowledge of the injuries on Breedlove's arms. Breedlove's postconviction counsel submitted an affidavit from Firilas into evidence which corroborated Henderson's testimony. Id.

         Petitioner Breedlove also testified at the evidentiary hearing. He testified that he was represented by Hamra and Longergan, and his father told him about Hamra's demand for payment. Breedlove believed that Hamra would not be able to provide an adequate defense without the $25, 000. Breedlove then wrote a letter to John Bernardi, the head public defender, complaining about Hamra. Bernardi responded to Breedlove's letter by informing him that the Tazewell County Public Defender's Office did not have the funds to replace Hamra, but he would appoint Lonergan as co-counsel. Hamra never informed Breedlove that he was being investigated for engaging in unethical or illegal activities. Id.

         Breedlove further testified that each time he met with Hamra, he stated his intention to testify at trial. Hamra allegedly responded by informing Breedlove that “if [he] persisted and [kept] asking him, that he would get up, and leave, and [the defendant] could represent [himself].” Id. at *4. Breedlove again reminded Hamra on the morning of trial that he wanted to testify, and Hamra made Longergan sit between himself and Breedlove. Breedlove testified at the hearing that he wanted to testify at trial as to the following:

First, Breedlove intended to testify that he and Valerie maintained a good relationship after their divorce and he visited her almost every day for breakfast and occasional sex before work. The day before Valerie Rakestraw's murder, he and Valerie met with their bankruptcy attorney. That evening, Breedlove had some drinks at a bar before returning home to snort and smoke cocaine for the rest of the night. Breedlove used cocaine and opiates almost every day. Id.
Second, Breedlove intended to testify that on the day of the murder, he drove to Valerie's apartment and saw a green Ford Explorer parked nearby in an alley. He further observed that the trunk of Valerie's car and the back door to her apartment were open. When Breedlove entered the apartment and called for Valerie, she yelled at him to not come in. He saw Valerie arguing with a black male before three other black males shoved him into the kitchen. Breedlove identified one of the men as “Junebug, ” who socialized with Breedlove's previous employer, Eddie McCoy, and Terry Edwards. The men asked where the drugs Breedlove stole from McCoy's truck were located, to which Breedlove responded that he did not have them. A short male with a gun and knife then told Breedlove that “[y]ou'll come up with it or we'll make sure you never take any again.” When Breedlove heard a knock at the door he partially opened the door and saw Sprague. He grabbed the papers that Sprague was attempting to serve on Valerie, but he did not try to leave because the man with the knife and gun was ...

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