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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ind. Decisions - Two Indiana decisions from 7th Circuit today, plus Illinois sex offender case

In Brown v. Finnan (SD Ind., McKinney), a 17-page opinion, Judge Cudahy writes:

Having been convicted of murdering Charles Young, Jr. and Robert Hunter in 2000, Terry C. Brown was ultimately sentenced to serve two consecutive terms of 55 years. Brown subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel at both the trial and appellate levels. His petition focused on an incourt announcement by one victim’s mother to the effect that “the situation [was] racist” and her further proclamation on the courthouse steps that the courthouse should be treated similarly to the World Trade Center and bombed. Brown’s attorney declined to request a hearing to determine the impact of these statements on the jury. Nor did his appellate counsel raise the issue on appeal. Brown now contends that his counsels’ failure to address this issue violated the Sixth Amendment. He argues further that the Indiana courts’ denial of his petition for post-conviction relief is contrary to well established principles of federal law, as established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). He therefore asserts that this Court should grant his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

We decline to do so. To prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim under Strickland, a petitioner must demonstrate that his counsel’s assistance was objectively unreasonable and resulted in a substantial risk of prejudice. Brown can meet neither requirement. The prejudicial impact of the statements here on the defendant’s right to a fair trial is attenuated. Since both Brown and his victim, Young, were African-American, it is far from clear how a juror would perceive the assertion of racism in a manner necessarily injurious to Brown. While obviously serious, a distraught parent’s threat of bombing the courthouse does not obviously bear on the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Moreover, there is no evidence that this out-of-court statement was heard by any juror. Finally, though no less important, there may be good reason not to draw explicit attention to such statements. Apt counsel might conclude that her client’s cause would best be promoted by not focusing on issues of tenuous significance to her client’s guilt or innocence. For these reasons, Brown’s counsels’ performance was not objectively unreasonable. Nor did his attorneys’ conduct result in a substantial risk of prejudice. For these reasons, and the reasons that follow, we deny Brown’s petition.

In Tully v. Rush County Prosecutor (SD Ind., McKinney), an 8-page opinion, Judge Bauer writes:
Michael Tully sued Paul Barada and Catherine Custer under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting that they violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by summoning him into court and initiating juvenile proceedings against him without probable cause. The district court dismissed Tully’s case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. We affirm.
The Illinois case is Rosin v. Monken, an 8-page opinion where Judge Cudahy writes:
After he was required to register as a sex offender in Illinois, Mitchell Rosin brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the defendants failed to give full faith and credit to the March 27, 2003 judgment of a New York court. In that order, the court accepted a plea agreement that did not require Rosin to register as a sex offender in New York. He contends that Illinois is constitutionally required to give effect to the New York judgment and thus cannot, on the basis of that order, force him to register as a sex offender within its jurisdiction. The district court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the registration requirement in the New York order was merely stricken, which left the order silent on the subject. Since the plea agreement did not purport to prevent any state other than New York from registering Rosin as a sex offender, and because any such provision would have been ineffective even if it had been included, we affirm. * * *

The district court correctly dismissed Rosin’s lawsuit because the New York order was silent as to registration in any other state. Absent such language, there is no relevant provision to which Illinois must give full faith and credit. Even if there had been such a provision, however, New York lacks power to dictate the means by which Illinois can protect its public. The judgment of the district court is therefore affirmed.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 17, 2010 11:49 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions