Wright v. Walls, 01-3066.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Citation288 F.3d 937
Docket NumberNo. 01-3157.,No. 01-3066.,01-3066.,01-3157.
PartiesPatrick WRIGHT, Petitioner-Appellee/Cross-Appellant, v. Jonathan WALLS, Respondent-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
Decision Date24 April 2002
288 F.3d 937
Patrick WRIGHT, Petitioner-Appellee/Cross-Appellant,
Jonathan WALLS, Respondent-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
No. 01-3066.
No. 01-3157.
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Argued February 26, 2002.
Decided April 24, 2002.

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Alan M. Freedman (argued), Midwest Center for Justice, Chicago, IL, Gary

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Prichard, Glen Ellyn, IL, for Patrick H. Wright.

Colleen M. Griffin (argued), Office of Attorney General, Chicago, IL, for Jonathan R. Walls.

Before FLAUM, Chief Judge, and EASTERBROOK and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

FLAUM, Chief Judge.

A jury convicted Patrick Wright of murder, attempted murder, attempted rape, armed robbery, home invasion and residential burglary. The trial court sentenced him to death. Following the exhaustion of all state remedies, Wright petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus alleging numerous constitutional errors at both the trial and sentencing phases. The district court vacated Wright's death sentence because the sentencing judge impermissibly failed to consider mitigating evidence related to Wright's traumatic childhood. The district court also affirmed Wright's conviction, holding that Wright did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.1 Both Wright and the State of Illinois appeal. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm.

I. Background

On June 6, 1983, Wright entered Carol Specht's apartment, put a knife to her throat and attempted to rape her. After binding and gagging Carol, Wright proceeded through the rest of the Spechts' home when he discovered Carol's daughter, Connie. Wright forced Connie into her mother's bedroom where he sexually abused her. Wright later slashed Connie's throat multiple times and stabbed Carol in the back. Connie survived, but Carol died.2 Wright was charged with murder, attempted murder, attempted rape, armed robbery, home invasion and residential burglary.

At trial, Wright's counsel did not contest the fact that Wright committed the crimes charged. Instead, trial counsel argued that Wright suffered from a mental disease involving a fetish for women's shoes. The sole evidence offered at trial supporting this theory was Wright's testimony that he had a women's shoe fetish, that he suffered from the fetish since the age of seven, that his adoptive mother beat him because of his mental impairment, and that he had been institutionalized in various mental hospitals since the age of 13. Wright also testified, contrary to his taped confession, that he had entered the Spechts' apartment seeking women's shoes for sexual gratification. Dr. William Fowler testified for the State in rebuttal. He stated that Wright did not suffer from a mental disease at the time of the offense, but rather suffered from a non-pathological psychosexual disorder. The trial court provided the jury with general verdict forms, including verdicts of not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, guilty but mentally ill ("GBMI"), and guilty for each of the offenses. The jury found Wright guilty of all the crimes charged.

Wright waived a sentencing jury. At the sentencing hearing, Wright offered the testimony of Dr. Arthur Traugott, who opined that although Wright was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts, Wright's shoe fetish controlled his lifestyle and was the cause of prior incarceration and institutionalization. The sentencing

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judge ultimately imposed the death penalty. Before doing so, however, the sentencing judge commented extensively on the factors that he would — and would not — consider in determining an appropriate sentence. Initially, the court focused on Wright's traumatic childhood, stating:

I don't think any reasonable person who has heard all of the evidence in this case can feel anything but sympathy for the pathetic creature, Patrick Wright, who has been paraded through the courtroom in the trial of this case. He is a man who has wandered the forty wretched years of his life from institution to institution, from prison to prison; the evidence indicating that his fetish for women's shoes being perhaps the one and only purpose for his life.

After acknowledging Wright's "pathetic" history, the sentencing judge made three statements giving rise to the current appeal. First, the sentencing judge noted that "sympathy for the defendant [was] not an appropriate consideration" in determining Wright's sentence. Second, the judge listed all of the factors that he would exclude from the death penalty calculus:

To repeat in part, any matters dealing with sympathy, outrage, who the victim was, all the matters that I just mentioned have no bearing on whether the defendant shall receive the death penalty. And again, I note for the record that I have cited them so the record is clear that I have rejected them, and I have disregarded them in making my decision.

Third, in weighing the mitigating and aggravating circumstances according to Illinois law, the sentencing judge stated that he was unable to "determine the existence of any mitigating factors within or without the statute with the exception of [extreme mental emotional disturbance at the time of the crime.]"

Wright appealed his conviction and sentence directly to the Illinois Supreme Court. In his appeal, Wright raised eight separate issues, only one of which is relevant to this appeal. Wright argued that in imposing the death sentence, the sentencing court failed to consider all of the mitigating evidence presented by Wright, including evidence related to his troubled youth. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed Wright's death sentence. The Court first acknowledged that lower courts must consider "any mitigating facts in the record of the trial as well as any which the defendant offers at the sentencing hearing." People v. Wright, 111 Ill.2d 128, 95 Ill.Dec. 787, 490 N.E.2d 640, 656 (Ill.1985) ("Wright I") (citing People v. Lewis, 88 Ill.2d 129, 144, 58 Ill.Dec. 895, 430 N.E.2d 1346 (1981)). However, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the sentencer took account of all of the mitigating evidence because (1) the State specifically requested the court to consider all of the evidence presented during trial, and (2) the sentencing judge's comments that he found one mitigating factor — extreme emotional disturbance at the time of the crime — indicated that he considered "the defendant's troubled youth and its contribution, if any, to the mental disturbance existing at the time the crime was committed." Id. at 656.

Following the exhaustion of all appeals and applications for post-conviction relief in state court,3 Wright petitioned for a writ

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of habeas corpus based upon numerous arguments. The current appeal deals with two of them. Wright first claimed that the sentencer's comments during sentencing conveyed a misapprehension of the law that precluded him from considering evidence of Wright's traumatic childhood in mitigation. Wright also asserted that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to argue, investigate and introduce during the liability phase evidence of Wright's mental health problems. Although counsel had investigated Wright's mental health history, Wright relied on approximately 50 pages of additional medical records obtained after trial that indicated limited intelligence, psychiatric drug use, and severe physical abuse by both his natural and adoptive parents.

The district court granted the writ with respect to Wright's death sentence, holding that the trial judge's failure to consider as mitigation Wright's traumatic childhood and mental health problems violated Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 102 S.Ct. 869, 71 L.Ed.2d 1 (1982). The district court reasoned:

[T]he judge specifically stated that he could discern no mitigating factors except for [Wright's] extreme emotional disturbance at the time he committed the offense. But [Wright] presented evidence of a horrible childhood; surely that qualifies as mitigation. If the judge considered this evidence, as he was required to do, why would he say that no mitigating factors existed besides [Wright's] emotional disturbance at the time of the crime? Simply put, he would not. He might find the mitigation of little weight, but he would not say that it did not exist. To derive any other meaning from his plain words requires tortuous reasoning.

Wright v. Cowan, 149 F.Supp.2d 523, 537-38 (C.D.Ill.2001).

The district court denied relief for Wright's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Initially, the district court ruled that Wright had procedurally defaulted certain aspects of the claim for failing to raise it before the Illinois State courts. Specifically, the court noted that in his first petition for post-conviction relief, Wright did not argue that counsel was ineffective for focusing on Wright's alleged insanity, as opposed to pursuing a GBMI verdict. Because the Illinois Supreme Court held that Wright had waived the issue, and because that was an adequate and independent state ground, the district court limited its ineffectiveness inquiry to the issue of omitted evidence and did not address the wisdom of trial counsel's strategy to pursue exclusively an insanity defense. With these parameters in place, the district court held that although trial counsel was not perfect, Wright could not satisfy the rigorous standards of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). Wright, 149 F.Supp.2d at 532-34. Both parties appeal.

II. Discussion

We note that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") does not apply in the present case because Wright filed his petition for a writ of habeas corpus prior to the AEDPA's effective date. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481 (1997); Everett v. Barnett, 162 F.3d 498, 500 (7th Cir.1998). Accordingly, we apply pre-AEDPA standards to this appeal: we presume correct the state court's determination of historical factual issues, see Porter

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