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Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Gerald Winfield v. Stephanie Dorethy, Warden,

Case No.: 19-1441; 19-1547

Officials: BRENNAN, SCUDDER, and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Gerald Winfield confessed to police that he shot Jarlon Garrett. Based on that confession, a judge on the Circuit Court of Cook County convicted Winfield of attempted murder. Winfield was also accused of killing Dominick Stovall in the same shooting, but the trial judge acquitted him of that charge because no credible witness had placed Winfield at the scene of the crime and his confession did not mention Stovall. The judge rejected Winfield’s argument that his confession had been coerced, as well as his half-hearted alibi defense, and sentenced him to thirty years’ imprisonment. In his direct appeal, Winfield’s new counsel raised one unsuccessful argument—that the judge had abused his discretion at sentencing.

These appeals require us to consider the performance of Winfield’s trial and appellate counsel. The Illinois state courts, on post-conviction review, concluded that trial counsel’s presentation of Winfield’s alibi was not so deficient that it violated the Constitution, but they did not address the performance of appellate counsel to any meaningful degree. The district court, therefore, applied the stringent and deferential standard of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), to Winfield’s claim that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel and denied that part of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. On the matter of appellate counsel, the district court concluded that AEDPA did not apply because the claim had not been “adjudicated on the merits in State court,” id., but had instead been overlooked. It considered the claim without any deference to the state courts’ denial of relief. Through that lens, and although it believed it to be a close case, the court found appellate counsel had rendered ineffective assistance by omitting an argument that there was insufficient evidence to convict because Winfield’s confession was uncorroborated.

Both parties have appealed. The state argues that the district court erred in granting relief on the appellate counsel claim; Winfield contends that the court erred in denying relief on the trial counsel claim. We affirm the judgment in part and reverse it in part, as we conclude that Winfield is not entitled to habeas corpus relief under either theory.

Affirmed in part. Reversed in part.

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Derek A Hawkins is trademark corporate counsel for Harley-Davidson. Hawkins oversees the prosecution and maintenance of the Harley-Davidson’s international trademark portfolio in emerging markets.

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