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Carrion v. Butler

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 31, 2016

Francisco Carrion, Petitioner-Appellant,
Kim Butler, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued February 11, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 3:13-cv-00778-CJP - David R. Herndon, Judge.

          Before Ripple, Kanne, and Williams, Circuit Judges.

          Ripple, Circuit Judge.

         Francisco Carrion was convicted of residential burglary and of first-degree murder following a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. The state courts affirmed his conviction on direct appeal and on state postconviction review. Mr. Carrion then filed a habeas petition in federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in which he raised multiple claims for relief. The district court denied his petition, concluding that although the petition probably was timely filed, most of the claims were procedurally defaulted and the remaining claims were meritless; the court further declined to grant a certificate of appealability ("COA"). Mr. Carrion then appealed to this court, and we granted a COA instructing the parties to address three questions: whether there was sufficient evidence to support his convictions, whether Mr. Carrion's confession was voluntary, and whether appellate counsel had been ineffective in failing to challenge the voluntariness of his confession.

         After briefing and oral argument, we conclude that, whether we apply the deferential review of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), or de novo review, Mr. Carrion is not entitled to relief on any of these claims. There is no question that the State of Illinois met its burden of proving each of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. We further perceive no due process violation in the reception into evidence of Mr. Carrion's statement, even though it was translated by an investigating officer. Any ambiguities in the statement were examined thoroughly at trial and the state trial court was entitled to admit and rely upon the statement. Accordingly, for the reasons set out more fully in this opinion, we affirm the district court's denial of Mr. Carrion's habeas petition.




         In the early morning hours of July 14, 2001, Francisco Carrion entered the first-floor apartment of sixty-nine-year-old Maryanne Zymali in Palatine, Illinois. Zymali confronted Mr. Carrion, and he stabbed her multiple times causing her death. At the time of the incident, Mr. Carrion, who lived in an apartment on the floor above Zymali's, was a nineteen-year-old immigrant from Mexico who spoke almost no English. Approximately two weeks after the murder, Mr. Carrion was interviewed in Spanish by Detective Arturo Delgadillo. He denied any involvement with Zymali's death, but he agreed to provide fingerprint samples.

         On January 7, 2002, Mr. Carrion was arrested by Detective Delgadillo after his fingerprint was found on a knife recovered from Zymali's apartment. The police took him to the police station, advised him of his Miranda rights in Spanish, and then interviewed him twice. Detective Delgadillo conducted the first interview in Spanish; an assistant state's attorney conducted the second interview on camera with Detective Delgadillo acting as translator. On January 31, 2002, the State charged Mr. Carrion with residential burglary under 720 ILCS 5/19-3(a), and three counts of first-degree murder (intentional murder, knowing murder, and felony murder predicated on residential burglary) under 720 ILCS 5/9-1 (a). Mr. Carrion waived his right to a jury, and the case proceeded to a bench trial in June 2004.

         At trial, the State's forensic scientist testified that Mr. Carrion's fingerprint and palm print were found on a knife recovered from the apartment. The parties then stipulated to the nature of Zymali's injuries, which included stab wounds to her chin and forearm, a stab wound to her chest that "resulted in massive internal hemorrhaging, " and "multiple bruises and abrasions" on her thigh, forehead, chin, chest, abdomen, and right arm.[1] The parties further stipulated that the stab wounds caused Zymali's death.

         The State then called Detective Delgadillo to testify. According to the officer, Mr. Carrion stated during the first of the two interviews that, in the early morning of July 14, 2001, after a night of drinking at a nearby bar, he was walking home and noticed a light in Zymali's ground-floor apartment. Mr. Carrion said that he "became curious as to what was inside, " and he entered through the open sliding glass door and unlocked screen door.[2] Detective Delgadillo further testified that Mr. Carrion said that he entered the apartment because he was "looking to steal something."[3] While Mr. Carrion "was in the kitchen looking around, " he was confronted by Zymali, who "started to attack him, scratching him, kicking him, fight[ing] him and that pretty much a fight ensued, a struggle ensued."[4] The officer further testified that Mr. Carrion told him that Zymali then pulled a knife out of a kitchen drawer, that Mr. Carrion took the knife from her, and that after additional struggle, "he pushed her with both hands, " which resulted in his "stabb[ing] her in the stomach area with the knife."[5] According to the officer, Mr. Carrion stated that he then pulled the knife out of Zymali's chest and threw it across the room. When Zymali fell to her knees bleeding, Mr. Carrion became scared and ran out of the apartment, "went around the building/' "climbed onto his balcony and entered his apartment."[6]

         Detective Delgadillo next testified about the second interrogation in which he acted as translator between Mr. Carrion and the assistant state's attorney. He said that on the night of the arrest, Mr. Carrion was taken to meet with an assistant state's attorney and agreed to give a videotaped statement. During this interview, which took place around midnight and lasted half an hour, the prosecutor posed questions in English, and Detective Delgadillo translated the questions to Spanish and then translated Mr. Carrion's responses from Spanish to English. The court admitted into evidence both the video and a transcription of the interview that had been prepared by someone other than Detective Delgadillo.[7] At the conclusion of the officer's testimony, the video interview was played in open court, and the State rested its case.

         The defense called three witnesses: Mr. Carrion's friend Brenda Viveros, a certified interpreter named Ruth Ramos, and Mr. Carrion himself. Viveros testified that she was with Mr. Carrion on the night in question and that Mr. Carrion was drunk, that "[h]e was talking funny and just having trouble walking, " and that "[h]e asked [her] to take him home because he was not feeling good."[8] On cross-examination, Viveros acknowledged that she did not ask the bartender to stop serving Mr. Carrion, nor did she call a cab or arrange a ride for him, but she stated that she did tell another friend of theirs to make sure that Mr. Carrion stopped drinking. Viveros testified that she did not see Mr. Carrion leave the bar, but that she did go looking for him after the bar closed and found him sleeping in his bed in his apartment. Viveros did not see any injuries on Mr. Carrion at that time.

         Ramos testified that she reviewed the videotape of Mr. Carrion's interview with the assistant state's attorney several times and prepared her own transcription of the conversation. She went on to testify as follows:

[Mr. Carrion's counsel]:
Q Do you remember a question put to Francisco Carrion by Detective Delgadillo:
"Q: And what happened when you got close to your home"?
Do you remember that question being asked?
A Yes.
Q All right. Did you hear Francisco Carrion answer that question in Spanish?
A Yes.
Q Did you take that answer in Spanish and transcribe it into English?
A Yes.
Q What was his answer in English?
A His answer was, [reading from her prepared transcription] "I ... well ... I look down and I saw a ... the apartment and I saw the light on. It seemed like an easy thing to do, I don't know. I became curious ... I didn't even know what I was going to do ... "
Q Did he finish that answer?
A As far as I remember, when viewing the video, I think his answer was cut off. ...
Q But he did say, "I don't know. I became curious. I didn't even know what I was going to do it." Is that correct?
A Yes.
Q Do you remember a question put by Delgadillo to Carrion ... "When you first came in the apartment, what were you looking for"?
A Yes, I remember the question.
Q Did you hear Francisco Carrion answer that question in Spanish?
A Yes.
Q What was that answer?
A Answer, [reading from her prepared transcription] "I didn't even know what I wanted, I just got in to see what thing ... just to look around ... I didn't even know what I was going to take, it's like ..." And then an interruption.[9]

         After testifying about specific translated questions and answers, Ramos was asked whether, based on her experience and training as an interpreter, she believed that "Officer Del-gadillo's rendering of Francisco Carrion's answers in Spanish to English was truthful, complete, and accurate."[10] Ramos answered:

A Well, I believe there were some omissions. When the questions ... were posed in Spanish, and there were some omissions when the answers were posed in Spanish to be translated into English. I also believe that there were ... some errors, grammatical errors in sentence structure in the Spanish language, the way the questions were posed to Mr. Carrion.
Q Could you consider or would you consider Detective Delgadillo's rendering of Carrion's answers from Spanish to English to be verbatim?
A Yes.[11] Ramos further testified on cross-examination:
Q [W]hen you were able to hear the officer ask, "[Were] you looking for something to take?" You heard the defendant's answer, Carrion's answer, "Well ... possibly yes. If I had found something ...

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