People v. Allen, No. 113135.

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtChief Justice GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Citation32 N.E.3d 615
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. James E. ALLEN, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 113135.
Decision Date21 May 2015

32 N.E.3d 615

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee
v.
James E. ALLEN, Appellant.

No. 113135.

Supreme Court of Illinois.

May 21, 2015.


32 N.E.3d 618

Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Alan D. Goldberg, Deputy Defender, and Brian A. McNeil, Assistant Appellate Defender, of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, of Chicago, for appellant.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield, and Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Michele Grimaldi Stein and Brian K. Hodes, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

OPINION

Chief Justice GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Defendant James Allen was convicted of murder and armed robbery for the August 1, 1984, shooting death of Robert Ciralski, Sr. In 2009, defendant filed a pro se postconviction petition, alleging actual innocence and raising constitutional issues related to his claim of innocence, chiefly that the State suborned perjury and coerced confessions. He attached to his petition an unnotarized statement, styled as an affidavit. The statement indicated its writer was Robert Langford, and the author took responsibility for Ciralski's murder, stating that Allen had no involvement at all.

¶ 2 The circuit court of Cook County dismissed the petition, finding it frivolous and patently without merit. The court noted that the statement was unnotarized and listed additional reasons for dismissal. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal for lack of notarization. We granted defendant's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. July 1, 2013). For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgments of the appellate court and the circuit court.

32 N.E.3d 619

¶ 3 BACKGROUND

¶ 4 Around 10 p.m. on August 1, 1984, Robert Ciralski, Sr., closed his liquor and grocery store for the night. As he exited, he stopped to talk to a police officer he knew in the neighborhood. He then got in his car and drove home, where his wife and son, Robert, Jr., were waiting. As Ciralski parked the car and started to get out, he was attacked. His attacker shot him once in the shoulder and once in the forehead, killing him.

¶ 5 The disturbance drew Ciralski's wife and 14–year–old son to the window. His son yelled at two men he saw standing near Ciralski's car and, seeing the flash of a shiny object in one man's hand, fired one shot at them with a handgun. The two fled. Ciralski's family ran down to the car, where he was sprawled across the front seat. Ciralski's pants pocket was ripped open, and his belongings were scattered. Police and an ambulance arrived shortly thereafter. Efforts to revive Ciralski failed.

¶ 6 In late November 1985, Chicago Police Detective Michael Pochordo received a telephone call regarding Ciralski's murder. According to Pochordo, the anonymous caller told him that if he wanted to solve Ciralski's murder, he should look to the people who had committed the murder of Carl Gibson. Pochordo had investigated Gibson's murder, and defendant was one of several people convicted of murder for Gibson's death. Gibson's death was a contract killing; defendant was sentenced to natural life for driving the car in which his accomplices shot Gibson. A drug dealer named Charles Ashley had paid for Gibson's murder, on belief that Gibson was a police informant.

¶ 7 From investigating Gibson's murder, Pochordo was already familiar with defendant and an informant named Darryl Moore. Pochordo first spoke to Moore and elicited several details: that Moore had arranged the contract killing of Ciralski; that defendant had followed Ciralski the night of his murder; and that two other men, Franklin Freeman and Henry Griffin, had gotten out of defendant's car to carry out Ciralski's murder. Griffin was already on death row for the murder of Gibson. See People v. Griffin, 148 Ill.2d 45, 170 Ill.Dec. 250, 592 N.E.2d 930 (1992). Pochordo began looking for Freeman, who was located in Rockford. He arranged to speak to defendant at Stateville Correctional Center on December 9, 1985.

¶ 8 Pochordo told defendant he had certain information linking him to Ciralski's murder. Pochordo indicated an informant had told him that defendant participated in the contract murder of Ciralski on behalf of two drug dealers, Charles Ashley and Willie “Flukey” Stokes. Ashley and Stokes solicited Ciralski's murder because Ciralski had cut back on sales of quinine to drug dealers on the south side of Chicago. Quinine was used to dilute the heroin sold to users; this reduced its potency and gave the dealers more volume to sell. Ciralski had sold quinine from his store at 58th Street and Indiana Avenue. Defendant had carried out the murder with Henry Griffin and a third person. As Pochordo related this narrative, defendant indicated that Stokes had a contract out on defendant's life.

¶ 9 The evidence heard at trial conflicted on what happened next in that meeting. Pochordo testified that defendant told him his information was “basically correct,” but that defendant would have to think about his family's safety and his own safety before agreeing to cooperate with the investigation. Nonetheless, Pochordo testified defendant provided the name of two additional drug dealers who had solicited Ciralski's murder, Harry Scott and Prentiss King. Defendant, on the other hand, testified

32 N.E.3d 620

that he gave Pochordo no information on that date; he knew nothing about the crime and denied involvement.

¶ 10 Pochordo and defendant next met in late December, when Pochordo brought along assistant State's Attorney Rick Beuke. Defendant did not initially cooperate in providing information to Beuke. Defendant testified at trial that Beuke then left the room so that he and Pochordo could talk alone. Defendant testified that Pochordo told him that this was his opportunity to help himself and avoid a death sentence like Henry Griffin's, and all he had to do was tell the truth. Defendant testified that when he asked what the truth was, Pochordo told him it was the narrative Pochordo had told him in their initial conversation. Defendant then relayed the story to Beuke.

¶ 11 Plea negotiations ensued over meetings and calls in the following weeks. Defendant asked for immunity from prosecution; this request was denied in part because defendant had previously been convicted of the murder of a police officer. Defendant agreed to testify against the others involved in the plot and to plead guilty to Ciralski's murder; in return, the State would seek a life sentence to run concurrently with the life sentence he was already serving for the murder of Carl Gibson. Defendant also received various accommodations, including a prison transfer for his protection and a few thousand dollars in assistance for the mother of his child. At the time the case went before the grand jury, it appeared that defendant would perform under the plea agreement. Defendant, Darryl Moore, and Franklin Freeman all testified about the contract on Ciralski's life. Defendant's grand jury testimony matched the narrative described above: four drug dealers hired defendant, Freeman, and Griffin to kill Ciralski for cutting back on quinine sales. The murder was to look like an armed robbery carried out at Ciralski's home, so as to conceal that it was in fact a drug-related contract connected to his business.

¶ 12 However, the agreement for defendant to testify for the State fell apart, and defendant went to trial in late August, 1987. No physical evidence linked defendant to the crime. The only witness to the occurrence to testify was Ciralski's son, who came to the window after his father had already been shot. He was not able to identify either of the men standing next to his father's car.1 Defendant was convicted almost exclusively on the testimony of Detective Pochordo and ASA Beuke, along with his own grand jury testimony. At trial, defendant disavowed his grand jury testimony. Testifying in his own defense, defendant indicated he simply repeated the story Pochordo had told him, first to Beuke and then to the grand jury. He fabricated embellishments where there were gaps. In support of his claim of a plan to lie, he testified at trial that before his grand jury testimony, he prepared a notarized statement indicating his plan to lie to the grand jury. He also sent letters to Scott and King, telling them that if they did not pay him $25,000, he would tell the grand jury they were involved in killing Ciralski. He indicated he had no knowledge whatsoever that Ciralski was involved in selling in quinine; he was impeached on this point by statements he made to police during the Carl Gibson murder investigation. In sum, defendant's overall defense

32 N.E.3d 621

was that he knew nothing about the Ciralski murder; he saw a chance for personal advantage in lying about the Ciralski murder, by getting considerations from the State's Attorney; and he wanted to expose Pochordo as a liar to help support his then-pending appeal in Gibson's murder.

¶ 13 The jury convicted defendant of first degree murder, armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit murder. Defendant was sentenced to natural life, to run consecutively to the natural life sentence he was...

To continue reading

Request your trial
86 practice notes
  • People v. Buffer, Docket No. 122327
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • April 18, 2019
    ...of the postconviction proceedings to the second stage. See, e.g. , People v. Allen , 2015 IL 113135, ¶¶ 45-46, 392 Ill.Dec. 307, 32 N.E.3d 615 ; Tate , 2012 IL 112214, ¶ 26, 366 Ill.Dec. 741, 980 N.E.2d 1100.¶ 46 However, the record before us does not require factual development. All of the......
  • People v. Guerrero, No. 2–16–0920
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • June 26, 2018
    ...without merit." 725 ILCS 5/122–2.1(a)(2) (West 2012); see also 109 N.E.3d 271 People v. Allen , 2015 IL 113135, ¶ 24, 392 Ill.Dec. 307, 32 N.E.3d 615 (explaining that a first-stage dismissal is inappropriate if a petition alleges sufficient facts to state the "gist of a constitutional claim......
  • People v. Knapp, No. 2-16-0162
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • June 13, 2019
    ...accordingly, the threshold for a petition to survive the first stage review is low. People v. Allen , 2015 IL 113135, 392 Ill.Dec. 307, 32 N.E.3d 615 (2015) (citing Hodges , 234 Ill. 2d at 9, 332 Ill.Dec. 318, 912 N.E.2d 1204 (2009) ). To survive dismissal at the first stage the petition ne......
  • People v. Mabrey, No. 1–14–1359.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • November 17, 2016
    ...that its allegations are capable of objective or independent corroboration. People v. Allen, 2015 IL 113135, ¶¶ 24–25, 392 Ill.Dec. 307, 32 N.E.3d 615. "In the review of a first- or second-stage postconviction petition, ‘all well-pleaded facts in the petition and affidavits are to be taken ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
90 cases
  • People v. Buffer, Docket No. 122327
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • April 18, 2019
    ...of the postconviction proceedings to the second stage. See, e.g. , People v. Allen , 2015 IL 113135, ¶¶ 45-46, 392 Ill.Dec. 307, 32 N.E.3d 615 ; Tate , 2012 IL 112214, ¶ 26, 366 Ill.Dec. 741, 980 N.E.2d 1100.¶ 46 However, the record before us does not require factual development. All of the......
  • People v. Guerrero, No. 2–16–0920
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • June 26, 2018
    ...without merit." 725 ILCS 5/122–2.1(a)(2) (West 2012); see also 109 N.E.3d 271 People v. Allen , 2015 IL 113135, ¶ 24, 392 Ill.Dec. 307, 32 N.E.3d 615 (explaining that a first-stage dismissal is inappropriate if a petition alleges sufficient facts to state the "gist of a constitutional claim......
  • People v. Knapp, No. 2-16-0162
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • June 13, 2019
    ...accordingly, the threshold for a petition to survive the first stage review is low. People v. Allen , 2015 IL 113135, 392 Ill.Dec. 307, 32 N.E.3d 615 (2015) (citing Hodges , 234 Ill. 2d at 9, 332 Ill.Dec. 318, 912 N.E.2d 1204 (2009) ). To survive dismissal at the first stage the petition ne......
  • People v. Mabrey, No. 1–14–1359.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • November 17, 2016
    ...that its allegations are capable of objective or independent corroboration. People v. Allen, 2015 IL 113135, ¶¶ 24–25, 392 Ill.Dec. 307, 32 N.E.3d 615. "In the review of a first- or second-stage postconviction petition, ‘all well-pleaded facts in the petition and affidavits are to be taken ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT