Cases & Deals

Pro bono client obtains writ of habeas corpus in Seventh Circuit appeal

Clients Cook, Terez L.

Jones Day obtained a writ of habeas corpus for pro bono client, Terez Cook, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Seventh Circuit had appointed Jones Day to represent Mr. Cook on appeal. The opinion, which follows Jones Day’s arguments, acknowledged “the assistance of able recruited counsel” and recognized the untenable violation many years before of Mr. Cook’s Sixth Amendment right to assistance of counsel.

That Sixth Amendment violation occurred fourteen years earlier, when a Wisconsin court convicted Mr. Cook in connection with a home invasion in a trial infected by multiple errors by Mr. Cook's trial counsel. The state trial judge ordered a new trial, remarking that he believed it was the first time in his 20 years on the bench that he had granted a new trial because of ineffective assistance of counsel. But the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed, and the trial court sentenced Cook to 40 years in prison.

The Seventh Circuit held that the state court of appeals had "unreasonably applied" Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), in rejecting Mr. Cook's claim of prejudice. Specifically, the Seventh Circuit found "three significant errors," concluding that trial counsel had failed to investigate the whereabouts of another man who could have committed the crime; failed to question an accomplice about an offer of immunity; and failed to object to or otherwise seek to exclude hearsay testimony about the location and use of a cellphone tied to Mr. Cook. The court concluded that, "as an objective matter"—notwithstanding the deference due under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act—"these instances of deficient performance undermine[] confidence in the result of the trial."

Given the error, the Seventh Circuit granted Mr. Cook a writ of habeas corpus and directed the state to retry or release him.

Brian Foster, Warden v. Terez Cook, No. 18-2214, 948 F.3d 896 (7th Cir. 2020)