WRIT OF ERROR to the Circuit Court of Hancock County; the Hon.
RILEY E. STEVENS, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE KLINGBIEL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
An indictment returned October 17, 1949, to the circuit court of Hancock County charged defendant, Lester Washington, jointly with one Willie T. Jackson, with the crime of murder. Represented both by a court-appointed counsel and by an attorney of his own selection, defendant first made an unsuccessful motion to quash the indictment, then, on November 28, entered a plea of not guilty. Two days later, he again appeared in court with his counsel and moved to withdraw his plea of not guilty and to enter one of guilty. The latter motion was allowed, the plea of guilty accepted, and defendant was thereafter sentenced to life imprisonment in the penitentiary. In prosecuting writ of error to this court, it is defendant's sole contention that the trial court accepted and entered his plea of guilty without first fully explaining to him the consequences of such a plea, and without explaining to him his rights, including the right to jury trial.
Throughout the history of the administration of criminal justice in this jurisdiction, it has been a strict requirement of our law that in each conviction of a crime upon a plea of guilty, the record must show that before the entry of the plea the court fully explained its consequences to the defendant and that the explanation was understandingly received. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1953, chap. 38, par. 732; People v. Vitale, 3 Ill.2d 99; People v. Ross, 409 Ill. 599; People v. Fulimon, 308 Ill. 235.) Though it was formerly held that the exact language of the trial court need not be set forth in the record, so long as the record showed the explanation had been made, (See: People v. Butler, 405 Ill. 407; People v. Rusk, 348 Ill. 218,) this procedure has been altered by Rule 27A of this court, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1953, chap. 110, par. 259.27A,) which, with effect from September 1, 1948, was adopted to implement the requirements of the Criminal Code. By such rule, it is now provided, in part, as follows: "The inquiries of the court, and the answers of the defendant to determine whether the accused understands his rights to be represented by counsel, and comprehends the nature of the crime with which he is charged, and the punishment thereof fixed by law, shall be recited in, and become a part of the common law record in the case; * * *."
The procedure established by the rule was followed in the present case, and although the formal record, as expanded by the clerk, recites that defendant persisted in a plea of guilty after full explanation and admonishment by the court as to its consequences, the report of proceedings filed pursuant to Rule 27A discloses that the "explanation" and "admonishment" was limited to the following:
"DEFENDANT'S COUNSEL: It is the wish of the Defendant, Lester Washington, to withdraw his plea of not guilty as heretofore entered and to make a plea of guilty to Counts One and Nine of the indictment.
THE COURT: Will you stand up here? You understand, Mr. Washington, that your counsel, now, on your behalf, is withdrawing your plea of not guilty and entering a plea of guilty to two counts of this indictment, Count One and Count Nine, is that correct?
THE DEFENDANT, LESTER WASHINGTON: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: You understand that, do you?
DEFENDANT'S COUNSEL: Is that your wish?
THE COURT: You are entering that plea yourself; you want to enter a plea of guilty to that; you have had an attorney, you understand your constitutional rights have been protected, you have had an attorney, you have advised with both Mr. Lamet and Mr. Bell, they have talked with you and conferred with you?
THE COURT: After conferring with them it is your wish to enter a plea of guilty to the first and ninth ...