7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Case Name: Kevin Czech v. Michael Melvin, Warden, Pontiac Correctional Center
Case No.: 17-1838
Officials: EASTERBROOK and ROVNER, Circuit Judges, and GRIESBACH, District Judge
Focus: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
An Illinois jury convicted Kevin Czech of first-degree murder and aggravated discharge of a firearm for his role in a drive-by shooting that resulted in the death of a fourteen-year-old bystander. Czech argued on direct appeal that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the felony murder instruction that was submitted to the jury in conjunction with a general verdict. The Illinois Appellate Court determined that the felony murder instruction violated Illinois law, but concluded the error was harmless. The Supreme Court of Illinois declined further review. After an unsuccessful motion for post-conviction relief on other grounds, Czech sought federal collateral relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The district court denied relief, reasoning that, although the conviction violated clearly established federal law, the error did not have a substantial and injurious effect on the jury’s verdict. We affirm.