Cal v. Garnett, No. 20-1047 (7th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
On April 21, 1992, two gunmen fired multiple shots at Johnson and his friends. Both friends died. Johnson survived, identified one shooter by his street name “Duke,” and described the car he drove. Hours later, the police pulled over a vehicle matching Johnson’s description and arrested Kirkman and Cal, who matched Johnson's description. Kirkman had the name Duke tattooed on his arm. Johnson identified the men as the shooters from a photo array and at trial--the only evidence linking them to the crime. Defense witnesses testified that Cal stood observing the crime scene for 45 minutes and that a month after the shooting, Johnson stated that the defendants were not the shooters. Both defendants were sentenced to mandatory life without parole. The court later reduced Cal’s sentence to 60 years because he was 17 at the time of the crimes. Cal has been granted supervised release.
After Johnson recanted, stating under oath that neither Cal nor Kirkman were the shooters, Cal brought an actual innocence claim. The Illinois court denied relief. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied Cal habeas corpus relief as it had denied Kirkman’s petition. While the Illinois court’s decision was not “flawless,” it considered that the recantation was internally inconsistent and implausible, Johnson had no motivation to lie at trial, and he backpedaled from his trial testimony out of loyalty to his former gang. Even a strong case for relief does not mean that a state court’s contrary conclusion was unreasonable.