January 12, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 C 00791 - John
J. Tharp, Jr., Judge.
Bauer, Sykes, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
Adorno, an Illinois prisoner, was convicted of attempted
murder using a firearm. On direct appeal he challenged
certain remarks by the trial judge about the state's
burden of proof. More particularly, he argued that the
judge's comments-delivered impromptu during voir
dire-invited the jury to convict on less than the
reasonable-doubt burden of proof required by the
Constitution's guarantee of due process of law. He also
claimed that the judge's remarks violated state law. The
Illinois Court of Appeals addressed only the state-law
argument and rejected the claim; the court made no reference
to federal law. Adorno then sought federal habeas relief
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Applying de novo review, the
district judge found a due-process violation and granted the
reverse the judgment. Because the state court did not
specifically address Adorno's federal claim, our first
task is to decide whether the Richter presumption
applies. See Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86
(2011). When a state prisoner presents a federal claim to a
state court and the court denies relief without explanation,
Richter requires a federal habeas court to presume
that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits.
Id. at 99. The presumption triggers deferential
review under § 2254(d); the federal court must give the
state-court judgment the benefit of any arguments or theories
that could have supported the state court's
judgment. Id. at 102.
Richter presumption is rebuttable, but we do not
need to decide whether it has been rebutted here. Even under
de novo review, Adorno's claim fails. There is no
reasonable likelihood that the jury convicted him on less
than the reasonable-doubt standard.
attending a house party in the Hermosa neighborhood in
Chicago, Adorno was accused of stealing an iPod and a laptop
from one of the hosts. After the laptop was retrieved from
the back seat of the car Adorno arrived in, he and his
friends were asked to leave. A fistfight ensued between
Adorno and Jeffery Nagamine, the host's brother.
to several witnesses, Adorno threatened to kill Nagamine and
retrieved a gun from his friend's car to make good on the
threat. As the other guests retreated back into the house,
Adorno fired several shots into the crowd. The partygoers
were lucky; no one was killed and only one person was hit,
sustaining a gunshot wound to the arm.
was arrested and initially told police that he knew nothing
about the house party. He claimed to have spent the entire
evening with his mother. Later Adorno admitted his
involvement in the shooting but claimed that he fired his gun
at the crowd in self-defense. The State's Attorney
charged him with attempted murder in the first degree while
armed with a firearm.
case proceeded to jury trial. During voir dire, the judge
preliminarily informed the venire about the presumption of
innocence and the burden of proof in criminal cases. He told
the prospective jurors that Adorno was presumed innocent and
that the presumption could be overcome only if the state
proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge
explained that Adorno was not required to present any
evidence on his own behalf but could instead rely entirely on
the presumption of innocence. The judge then discussed the
standard of proof in greater detail:
Illinois does not define reasonable doubt, but any of you who
may have sat on a civil jury there's a preponderance of
the evidence, reasonable doubt is the highest burden of proof
in our country and in our [s]tate. Those of you who may have
sat on civil cases, preponderance of the evidence, if you
look at this like a scale, all you have to do is tilt it. So
the definition of preponderance of the evidence is, it's
more likely than not that the event occurred.
Again, Illinois doesn't define reasonable doubt.
That's up for you to decide in words, but in analogy to
the scale thing, you would have to tip it like this, so that
would be some insight into ...