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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit posts one today

Dalton, Lawrence v. Battaglia, Deirdre (ND Ill.) [18 pp.]

Before EASTERBROOK, KANNE, and WOOD, Circuit Judges.
WOOD, Circuit Judge. Eight years after he pleaded guilty to charges of murder and rape, Lawrence Dalton filed a post-conviction petition in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. Dalton argued that his due process rights were violated because he was unaware of his eligibility for an extended sentence under Illinois law when he submitted his plea and thus his plea was not knowing and voluntary. Later, Dalton also claimed that his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel had been violated when his trial attorney failed to request a competency hearing after he attempted suicide two days before pleading guilty. After the state courts finally rejected his claims, he filed a timely petition for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

It is now twenty-three years after Dalton’s plea hearing and conviction. Undoubtedly in part because of the passage of time, Dalton’s habeas corpus petition comes to this court accompanied by a state court record missing more than it includes. At some point during the state court proceedings, the transcript of Dalton’s plea hearing disappeared. Then, in the midst of his appeal from the denial of his post-conviction petition, the state destroyed the remaining records of his proceedings before the circuit court. The state now asks that we construe the gaps in the record against Dalton and deny his request for § 2254 relief on his due process claim on this basis, notwithstanding his submission of two affidavits stating that he was not made aware of his eligibility for an extended sentence at the time of his plea. In the circumstances of this case, however, such an approach is inappropriate. Instead, we remand for an evidentiary hearing on the question whether Dalton knew that he was eligible for such a sentence when he pleaded guilty. Dalton also asks that we expand his certificate of appealability to include his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, but we conclude that he is not entitled to this additional measure.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 23, 2005 01:39 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions