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The People v. Plecko

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 29, 1970.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,

v.

JOHN PHILLIP PLECKO, APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN C. FITZGERALD, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE CREBS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, John Phillip Plecko, entered a plea of guilty in the circuit court of Cook County to the crime of manslaughter and was sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of 1 to 20 years. He filed a petition under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, par. 122-1 et seq.), the petition was dismissed, and he appeals from this dismissal order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 651. 43 Ill.2d R. 651.

It is first argued that the trial court should have conducted a hearing to determine defendant's competency to enter the guilty plea. Plecko was indicted for murder and the public defender was appointed to represent him. On December 28, 1964, he was arraigned and entered a plea of not guilty. There was apparently a question about his competence to stand trial, and Dr. Philip W. Margoles of the University of Chicago Department of Psychology examined him at the request of the public defender. The trial court also ordered an examination by the Behavior Clinic. The report of Dr. Margoles dated April 19, 1965, states that Plecko "manifests a fixed paranoid pattern, which at various times erupts into an acute psychotic paranoid state." The doctor concluded, however, that defendant "is competent to stand trial and to cooperate with his lawyer." Dr. William H. Haines, director of the Behavior Clinic, in his report dated May 10, 1965, diagnosed defendant as follows: "Suspected paranoid personality make-up. He knows the nature of the charge and is able to cooperate with his counsel." On May 25, 1969, defendant withdrew his plea of not guilty and entered a plea of guilty.

It is well established that the trial court must order a sanity hearing to determine a defendant's competency to stand trial when facts are brought to the attention of the court which raise a bona fide doubt of defendant's present sanity (People v. Bortnyak, 39 Ill.2d 545; People v. Burson, 11 Ill.2d 360), and this obligation is not necessarily avoided because a defendant has failed to raise the issue. (People v. Smith, 44 Ill.2d 82.) However, the psychiatric reports of Dr. Margoles and Dr. Haines justify the trial court's conclusion that there was no bona fide doubt of defendant's competence to stand trial. People v. Bortnyak, 39 Ill.2d 545; see also, Withers v. People, 23 Ill.2d 131.

Defendant also argues that he was not properly admonished as to the nature of the charge against him. In support of this argument he cites Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 23 L.Ed.2d 274, 89 S.Ct. 1709. In People v. Williams, 44 Ill.2d 334, we analyzed at length the ruling in Boykin and concluded that the constitutional principles there enunciated are inapplicable where the plea of guilty was entered prior to June 2, 1969.

Prior to Boykin, we would examine the record and read the court's explanation required by our Rule 26(3) in a practical and realistic manner. (See People v. Marshall, 23 Ill.2d 216.) For example, in People v. Outten, 22 Ill.2d 146, we said that "It is obvious that by pleading guilty the defendant is foregoing his right to a trial of any kind, and therefore we have held that the court is not required to refer explicitly to a right of trial by jury." 22 Ill.2d at 149.

With this pre-Boykin approach in mind, we examine what occurred when defendant appeared in court to change his plea:

"THE CLERK: John Phillip Plecko.

THE COURT: Yes, Mr. Fishman.

MR. FISHMAN: Your Honor, I have conferred with the defendant, Mr. John Plecko, and at this time Mr. Plecko wishes to withdraw his plea heretofore entered in the Indictment 64-3753 and enter a plea of guilty to the lesser included charge of voluntary manslaughter. Is that correct, Mr. Plecko?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, that's correct.

MR. FISHMAN: And you do that free and voluntary?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

THE COURT: Now, Mr. Plecko, you have heard your counsel make that statement, ...


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