Ramirez v. Tegels, No. 19-3120 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
During Ramirez’s 2001 Wisconsin state court trial, the prevailing interpretation of the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause was that a defendant had no confrontation right to cross-examine an unavailable declarant if the declarant’s statements were adequately reliable, which could be established where the statements fell within a firmly rooted hearsay exception. Applying hearsay exceptions, the court admitted several out-of-court statements accusing Ramirez of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter. The jury convicted Ramirez of multiple counts relating to the sexual assaults.
In 2004, while Ramirez’s conviction was pending on direct review, the Supreme Court held that a defendant is entitled to cross-examine a declarant if the declarant’s statements were “testimonial”—e.g., were statements that the declarant “would reasonably expect to be used prosecutorially.” Ramirez urged his lawyer, Hackbarth, to raise a confrontation claim under Crawford. Hackbarth instead raised other claims, each of which Wisconsin state courts rejected. Ramirez filed a federal habeas corpus petition, arguing that Hackbarth’s representation was ineffective based on her omission of the confrontation claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court in granting relief. An attorney exercising reasonable professional judgment would have recognized that the confrontation claim was clearly stronger than the claims Hackbarth raised. Raising a confrontation claim while Ramirez’s conviction was pending on direct review would have given him a reasonable chance of prevailing.