McDowell v. Hardy, No. 12-2967 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
In 1996, Martha Castro saw a man dressed in black leaning over her husband on the ground outside their home. Martha’s nephew, Varela, ran outside. Varela struck the man, who fired a gun before running into the alley. Castro died from a gunshot wound. Castros’ neighbor, Medina, looked outside when he heard gunfire and saw what happened. Nearby, Santana turned into the alley, where the man in black approached her, gun drawn, and took her car and purse. Police looked for a black male in his early twenties, about five foot seven. Seven months later, Medina identified a picture in a police book as “looking like” the man in black, but asked for a more recent photo. An officer returned with an array of five black-and-white photographs. Medina picked McDowell, as the man he saw standing over Castro. Within days, Santana and Varela identified McDowell’s picture. The three viewed a lineup and identified McDowell. There was no physical evidence connecting McDowell to the crime; McDowell’s close friend testified as an alibi. Convicted and sentenced to 103 years, McDowell exhausted direct appeals and state post-trial remedies, and sought a federal writ of habeas corpus arguing that the processes used to identify him were flawed. The Seventh Circuit denied the petition, finding that he procedurally defaulted the claims by failing to adequately present them before each level of the Illinois courts.