Williams v. Chrans

Decision Date05 July 1990
Docket NumberNo. 87 C 02084.,87 C 02084.
Citation742 F. Supp. 472
PartiesHernando WILLIAMS, Petitioner, v. James CHRANS and Neil F. Hartigan, Respondents.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois




Jerold S. Solovy, Jenner & Block, Chicago, Ill., petitioner.

Jack Donatelli, Asst. Atty. Gen., Criminal Appeals Div., Kevin Sweeney, Asst. States Atty., Criminal Appeals Div., Chicago, Ill., for respondents.


ASPEN, District Judge:

On April 13, 1978, petitioner Hernando Williams pled guilty to armed robbery, aggravated kidnapping, rape and murder. A jury later sentenced Williams to death. Williams now seeks habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the voluntariness of his guilty plea, various aspects of his capital sentencing hearing and the constitutionality of the Illinois death penalty statute. For the reasons that follow, the petition is denied.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History

On April 1, 1978, Williams was arrested for the murder, aggravated kidnapping, rape and armed robbery of Linda Goldstone. During police interrogation, Williams initially denied having committed the crimes, but after the police told Williams that his story did not check out, he gave a detailed confession. In People v. Williams, 97 Ill.2d 252, 262-64, 73 Ill.Dec. 360, 364-65, 454 N.E.2d 220, 224-25 (1983), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 981, 104 S.Ct. 2364, 80 L.Ed.2d 836 (1984), the Illinois Supreme Court summarized the events as stated by Williams and corroborated at the capital sentencing hearing by evidence and testimony:

The victim, Mrs. Linda Goldstone, on March 30, 1978, was employed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago as an instructor in the Lamaze method of childbirth. On that evening, as she was alighting from her car in the victinity sic of the hospital, she was approached by the defendant and robbed at gunpoint. He made her undress from the waist down. He then forced her into his car and, it appears, took her to a shop owned by his father. There he bound her hands and feet.
He then forced her into the trunk of his car. With Mrs. Goldstone in the trunk, the defendant picked up his sister at work and drove her home. He then drove the victim to a motel, forced her inside and raped her.
On the next day, with Mrs. Goldstone bound and locked in the trunk of the car, the defendant appeared at a suburban court where charges of aggravated kidnaping, rape and armed robbery were pending against him. The case was continued, and the defendant then drove to visit a friend, Nettie Jones, at her apartment. While he was there, people at the area heard cries for help coming from the trunk of his auto. Someone notified the police of the incident. The defendant drove away from a crowd that had gathered and proceeded to a tavern, where he visited other friends.
Early that evening, the defendant checked into another motel. He forced Mrs. Goldstone into the motel and again raped her. Later, he forced her back into the trunk and picked up his niece at a friend's house and drove the niece home. As he had done the day before, he drove his sister home from work and spent the evening visiting various taverns with friends.
In the meantime, police were searching for the defendant's car. The victim's husband, Dr. James Goldstone, a physician, after learning that his wife had not appeared for class that evening, notified the police of her absence. The victim's car was found by Northwestern University security officers. Early the following morning, Dr. Goldstone received a phone call from his wife in which she told him that she would be home soon. He heard a voice in the background say, "Shut up bitch, tell him you'll be home in about an hour." The victim asked Dr. Goldstone if he had called the police, and he told her to tell the man whose voice he had heard that he had not informed the police.
Officers investigating the incident at Jones' apartment obtained the license number of the car and learned that the defendant had visited Jones. The police searched the area for the auto without success and periodically watched the defendant's home, but the car was not located.
On April 1, at 6 a.m., the defendant released the victim from the trunk of the auto. He gave her $1.25 and instructed her to take a bus home and not to call the police. He then drove off. The victim, ignoring his instructions, ran to the porch of a nearby house for help. The person who came to the door refused to allow her to enter, but he did call the police. The defendant, who had only driven around the block to see whether his instructions would be obeyed, returned and ordered the victim off the porch. He then took her to an abandoned garage and killed her, shooting her in the chest and head. There was medical evidence that the victim had been beaten once or more during her captivity.
The defendant was arrested at his home that afternoon while he was washing the trunk of his car.

At his arraignment in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Williams pled not guilty. As pretrial discovery proceeded, Williams filed a number of motions, including a motion to suppress the confession. Judge James E. Strunck denied the majority of Williams' key motions. On October 9, 1979, Williams changed his plea to guilty to one count each of murder, aggravated kidnapping, rape and armed robbery. The prosecution then formally requested a capital sentencing hearing, and Williams submitted his jury request.

The sentencing hearing began on November 19, 1979. In the eligibility phase,1 the jury found that the state had proven beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of four statutory aggravating factors — that Williams murdered Linda Goldstone in the course of three other felonies and that he murdered an eyewitness to his crimes. At the conclusion of the aggravation/mitigation phase, in which Williams testified on his own behalf, the jury unanimously found that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death sentence. On March 14, 1980, the court accordingly sentenced Williams to death.

As provided by ¶ 9-1(i) of the death penalty statute, Williams appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme Court. The court rejected each of Williams' claims and affirmed the guilty plea and sentence. Id. Williams next filed a post-conviction petition in the Circuit Court of Cook County under Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, ¶ 122-1, et seq. (1983). The trial court denied the petition without a hearing and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. People v. Williams, 109 Ill.2d 391, 94 Ill.Dec. 429 488 N.E.2d 255 (1985), cert. denied, 478 U.S. 1022, 106 S.Ct. 3340, 92 L.Ed.2d 744 (1986). Having exhausted all available state remedies in satisfaction of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b), Williams filed this habeas petition raising all of the federal claims that he argued in the state courts as well as some new claims. Illinois has stayed execution pending the final disposition of this petition.

II. Constitutionality of Williams' Guilty Plea

The Cook County Public Defender's Office assigned four attorneys to represent Williams. They initially agreed that Williams should continue to plead not guilty and proceed to trial.2 The defense team hired a psychologist and psychiatrist to assist in jury selection and to assess both Williams' competency to stand trial and the merits of an insanity defense. After the trial court denied key defense motions, including the motion to suppress the confession, defense counsel determined that there was little chance of acquittal and that Williams would be best served by a guilty plea and a strong defense at the capital sentencing hearing. They accordingly persuaded Williams to enter a guilty plea. In his affidavit, Williams describes the day before trial:

One of my attorneys came to visit me. He continued to press me to enter a guilty plea. I did not want to do that. He repeatedly told me that I was hurting my family by holding out, that the only way to spare them was to plead and that I would die if I did not plead. Finally, against my will, I agreed to enter a guilty plea.

One of the attorneys describes their method of persuasion:

As a response to our client's position, the four of us as well as the psychologist attempted to pursuade sic the defendant that a plea of not guilty would be a mistake. These conversations were not discussions of trial strategy, nor were they reminiscent of the numerous occasions in which I pursuaded sic a client to plead guilty to accept the plea bargain being offered by the State. In this case the psychological pressure and the sophisticated tactics used with Hernando Williams to convince him to adopt our approach were unlike any other conversations I ever had with any other client. Also, it goes without saying, that in this case there were no plea bargaining offers from the State.
All of the psychiatric and psychological information which had been gathered and developed by the doctors was used by me and my associates to compel Mr. Williams to accept our point of view. This constituted a unique form of coercion. We took advantage of our client, maximizing the use of the information we had gathered for a purpose other than which it was intended. Our strategy was developed to accommodate us and not our client. There is no question that during this period (which lasted over a year) we did not act in accordance with our client's wishes. Rather, we used every means available to force him to change his plea.
Mr. Williams ultimately gave in to this extreme pressure shortly before the trial was to begin.

Williams claimed in the state courts that he entered the plea unintelligently because he was unaware that the death penalty was an option after a guilty plea. The Illinois Supreme Court denied the claim, finding that the trial court told him numerous times that he could be subject to the death penalty, and there was no evidence that he was informed...

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