484 F.2d 740 (7th Cir. 1973), 72-1327, United States ex rel. Allum v. Twomey

Docket Nº:72-1327.
Citation:484 F.2d 740
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America ex rel. James ALLUM, Petitioner-Appellant, v. John J. TWOMEY, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:August 20, 1973
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 740

484 F.2d 740 (7th Cir. 1973)

UNITED STATES of America ex rel. James ALLUM, Petitioner-Appellant,

v.

John J. TWOMEY, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 72-1327.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

Aug. 20, 1973

Argued April 17, 1973.

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James R. Streicker, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner-appellant.

William J. Scott, Atty. Gen., James B. Zagel, Asst. Atty. Gen., Chicago, Ill., for respondent-appellee.

Before HASTINGS, Senior Circuit Judge, and CUMMINGS and STEVENS, Circuit Judges.

STEVENS, Circuit Judge.

The questions raised by this appeal are whether petitioner waived his constitutional objection to the admissibility of certain evidence as a matter of Illinois procedure, and if so, whether that waiver also forecloses a federal collateral attack on his conviction.

In October, 1965, petitioner was convicted of the murder of his common-law wife. The evidence of guilt is summarized in the opinion of the Appellate Court of Illinois affirming the conviction. People v. Allum, 78 Ill.App.2d 462, 223 N.E.2d 187 (1st Dist. 1967). At his trial, and also on appeal, petitioner was represented by retained counsel. The competence of his counsel is evident from our examination of the trial transcript and is not challenged by petitioner.

Robert J. Welsh, one of the police officers who took defendant into custody immediately after the incident, testified on behalf of the prosecution. Although officer Welsh's testimony is not mentioned in the Appellate Court's summary of the evidence of guilt, it provides the basis for petitioner's collateral attack on his conviction because officer Welsh described an oral statement which petitioner made after he was taken into custody.

Petitioner's oral statement, as described in Welsh's testimony, contained no incriminating admission, but in one respect was inconsistent with the testimony which petitioner later gave in his own defense. 1 In other respects, however, the in-custody statement tended to support petitioner's defense. 2 At no point during the testimony about petitioner's

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in-custody statement did petitioner's counsel make any objection. On the contrary, he cross-examined the officer to bring out certain facts helpful to the defense.

On November 19, 1971, petitioner initiated his first collateral attack on the conviction by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the court below. He alleged that officer Welsh's testimony about his in-custody statement was improperly received under the rule of Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S.Ct. 1758, 12 L.Ed.2d 977. 3

The district court, after appointing counsel, dismissed an amended petition for failure to exhaust state remedies. On appeal petitioner argues that there is no available state remedy and therefore the exhaustion requirement is inapplicable. 4 Appellee responds, alternatively, (1) it is not entirely clear that no state remedy exists and the only way to find out is for petitioner to give the Illinois courts an opportunity to consider his claim, or (2) if no Illinois remedy exists, it is because petitioner has deliberately by-passed an adequate remedy and therefore federal relief is also barred. Petitioner's rejoinder to the second response is that he did not knowingly waive any constitutional right and should not be foreclosed by his counsel's oversight. See Fay v. Noia, 372 U.S. 391, 438-440, 83 S.Ct. 822, 9 L.Ed.2d 837.

I.

We agree with petitioner's analysis of the Illinois post-conviction procedures. It is perfectly clear that neither the statutory writ of error coram nobis, 5 nor state habeas corpus 6 is available. The remedy which is arguably available is relief under the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act, Ill.Rev. Stat. Ch. 38, § 122-1 et seq. However, in construing that statute the Illinois Supreme Court has held that if an error which could have been raised on appeal

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is not raised, it is deemed waived for post-conviction purposes. There are exceptions to the waiver rule if the defendant was deprived of his right to appeal, or his appellate counsel was incompetent, or if "fundamental fairness" would be offended by enforcing a waiver. See People v. Frank, 48 Ill.2d 500, 272 N.E.2d 25, 27 (1971). Petitioner's analysis of the Illinois cases indicates that none of the exceptions to the waiver rule is applicable here. 7

Respondent argues that the "fundamental fairness" exception is sufficiently imprecise to make it inappropriate for a federal court to assume jurisdiction without first giving the Illinois courts an opportunity to construe their own waiver rule. We reject this argument for two reasons. First, we agree with petitioner that this exception has only been applied in fairly clear-cut situations, none of which fits this case. Second, even if a broader and more subjective test of fundamental fairness is applicable, our own appraisal of the record leads us rather confidently to the conclusion that there is nothing fundamentally unfair in the application of the waiver rule to the issue petitioner seeks to raise.

This is quite clearly a case in which the exhaustion defense, if upheld, would merely burden the state judiciary and the petitioner with a series of futile proceedings which would eventuate in the refiling of a federal petition like the one now before us. Since we would then be faced with respondent's second argument -that the federal claim was waived by the failure to object to the admissibility of the statement at trial-the interests of justice will be served by deciding that issue now.

II.

The explanation for the unavailability of any state remedy is the failure by petitioner's counsel to object to the admissibility of the evidence he now challenges. In these circumstances, respondent argues, the omission should be treated as a "deliberate by-pass" which bars a federal collateral attack as well as state post-conviction relief.

If an alleged error was not even called to the attention of the state trial judge, it is normally inappropriate for a federal court to review the issue unless, of course, extraordinary circumstances, such as a subsequent change in the law, are asserted. Usually, therefore, a waiver of a valid...

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