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Gomez v. Kennedy

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

October 25, 2019

MARTIN E. GOMEZ, Petitioner,
TERI KENNEDY, Warden, Respondent.


          Honorable Marvin E. Aspen United States District Judge.

         Before us is Petitioner Martin E. Gomez's (“Gomez” or “Petitioner”) motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Pet. (Dkt. No. 1).) The State of Illinois filed a response on behalf of Warden Teri Kennedy (collectively “Respondent”). (Resp. to Pet. for Relief (“Resp.”) (Dkt. No. 6).) For the foregoing reasons, we deny petitioner's request for relief and deny a certificate of appealability.


         Respondent was indicted for solicitation of murder in 2014. (Resp. at 1); People v. Gomez, 2014 IL App (3d) 12023-U, ¶ 2. In that 2014 proceeding, Gomez moved to dismiss the indictment as based on false or misleading testimony to the grand jury. Gomez, 2014 IL App (3d) at ¶ 2. Gomez argued Respondent's indictment was based on false or misleading testimony of Detective Denise Powers that defendant solicited fellow inmate Miguel Hurtado to murder his girlfriend. Id. at ¶ 5. Detective Powers' testimony was partially based on a surreptitious recording that Hurtado collected during a conversation with Gomez. Id. at ¶ 6. Petitioner's claim centers on whether Powers misled the grand jury in interpreting Gomez's request that Hurtado “get rid of” his girlfriend as a request to kill Gomez's girlfriend. Id. at ¶¶ 5-6. The trial judge denied Petitioner's motion to dismiss the indictment, and the parties proceeded to a bench trial. Id. at ¶ 2.

         At trial, Gomez presented his interpretation of the recording. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. Gomez claimed he was coerced into making the recording and that he actually only wanted Hurtado to hide his girlfriend since she was being pressured to testify against him. Id. at ¶¶ 10-11. The trial court judge listened to the tape and credited Hurtado's account of the contents of the tape. Id. The Illinois Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's determinations on both the indictment and the sufficiency of the evidence to convict Gomez. Id. at ¶¶ 16-17, 20, and 22. Gomez appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, but his appeal was denied. People v. Gomez, 8 N.E.3d 1050, 1050 (Ill. 2014) (table op.). Gomez subsequently filed for collateral relief in state court through a postconviction relief petition that he dismissed voluntarily on April 13, 2019. (Resp. at 3.)

         Gomez petitioned this court for a writ of habeas corpus on April 26, 2019 under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, seeking relief under the Due Process Clause based entirely upon the State's introduction of false or misleading testimony before the grand jury. (Pet. at 5.) In other words, the sole question before this court is whether the trial court's denial of Gomez's motion to dismiss the original indictment was contrary to well-established law.


         We are empowered to grant a writ of habeas corpus only if Petitioner is imprisoned “in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68, 112 S.Ct. 475, 480 (1991). Federal habeas relief may be granted to a petitioner who can establish that the state court's adjudication of his claim was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), or where the state court's decision was “based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” Id. at § 2254(d)(2).

         Under § 2254(d)(1), the “contrary to” and “unreasonable application” clauses are given independent meaning. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 1519 (2000). A state court decision is “contrary to” established Supreme Court precedent if the state court “arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law” or if the state court “confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant Supreme Court precedent and arrives at [an opposite result].” Id.

         A state court decision is “an unreasonable application” of Supreme Court precedent if the state court “identifies the correct governing legal rule from [the Supreme] Court's cases but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular state prisoner's case” or if the state court “either unreasonably extends a legal principle from [Supreme Court] precedent to a new context where it should not apply or unreasonably refuses to extend that principle to a new context where it should apply.” Id. at 407. The reasonableness inquiry “is quite deferential, such that a state decision may stand so long as it is objectively reasonable, even if the reviewing court determines it to be substantively incorrect.” Barrow v. Uchtman, 398 F.3d 597, 602 (7th Cir. 2005). “Under § 2254(d)(2), a decision involves an unreasonable determination of the facts if it rests upon fact-finding that ignores the clear and convincing weight of the evidence.” Goudy v. Basinger, 604 F.3d 394, 399 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing Ward v. Sternes, 334 F.3d 696, 704 (7th Cir. 2003)). A state court's factual determinations are presumed correct, and the burden rests upon the petitioner to rebut that presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).[1]

         We construe Petitioner's pro se petition liberally. Parker v. Four Seasons Hotels, Ltd., 845 F.3d 807, 811 (7th Cir. 2017) (“A trial court is obligated to liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's pleadings.” (citing Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007); Kelley v. Zoeller, 800 F.3d 318, 325 (7th Cir. 2015); Nichols v. Mich. City Plant Planning Dept., 755 F.3d 594, 600 (7th Cir. 2014)).



         Petitioner claims the Illinois trial court denied him his right to due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution when it allowed misleading testimony before the grand jury to serve as the basis for the State's indictment. (Pet. at 5.) Respondent argues Detective Powers' testimony represented a reasonable interpretation of the information presented before the grand jury, particularly when placed into the full context of the evidence available to Powers. (Resp. at 4.) Gomez argues he should have been allowed to present a letter from his girlfriend to contradict this characterization of testimony and asks this court to expand the record to consider the contents of this letter. (Pet. Reply ...

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