Long v. Butler, No. 13-3327 (7th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
In 2001, Sherman was shot and died from multiple gunshot wounds. When an officer arrived, Sherman lay on the ground with 50-60 people gathered around. Long was tried for first degree murder. No physical evidence tied Long to the crime. The state presented four witnesses. Two witnesses named Long as the shooter during the investigation, but recanted at trial. In closing argument, the prosecutor made improper statements, resulting in reversal of Long’s conviction and a new trial. At Long’s second trial, the state again presented the four eyewitnesses. One maintained her identification of Long. The two witnesses who recanted during the first trial continued to deny having seen Long shoot Sherman, despite their prior videotaped statements. The fourth witness, Irby, gave inconsistent testimony. During closing arguments, the prosecutor made comments that no evidence or theory was presented that another individual committed the crime, referred to the movie “Gone with the Wind,” and referenced the contents of a letter written by Irby that had not been admitted into evidence. The jury found Long guilty. His state court appeals and post-conviction petitions were unsuccessful. The district court dismissed Long’s federal habeas petition, finding the prosecutorial misconduct claims procedurally defaulted and that Long had not shown a reasonable likelihood that Irby’s testimony or the closing argument prejudiced the outcome; that Long’s ineffective assistance claim was without sufficient merit to overturn the state court; and that his post-conviction counsel ineffective assistance claim was procedurally barred. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the state’s failure to correct Irby’s denial of her recantation prejudiced Long.