Johnson v. Jaimet, No. 15-2577 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Keefer’s badly beaten body was found by police in Keefer’s Rock Falls backyard on November 27, 2006. A jury convicted Johnson of Keefer’s murder. Johnson admits he beat Keefer the night before, in the same backyard, but insists that he did not kill him. Keefer’s actual murderers, Johnson says, were two men with baseball bats who attacked Keefer later that night, in the same spot. Johnson’s theory apparently came from Manon, who told police that his cellmate at Whiteside County Jail, Masini, told him that Masini had hired two men to kill Keefer with bats and that they did so. Masini denied making the statement when police questioned him. The trial court barred Johnson from introducing Masini’s hearsay statement, reasoning that it was too unreliable to allow into evidence. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed. After exhausting other options, Johnson sought federal habeas corpus relief, arguing that exclusion of the hearsay evidence was an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent (Chambers v. Mississippi, 1973). The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of Johnson’s petition; the state court’s decision did not run afoul of Chambers. The court noted the absence of corroborating evidence and obvious untrustworthiness of a murder confession to a stranger‐turned‐cellmate.