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People v. Witherspoon

FEBRUARY 19, 1974.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. HAROLD O. FARMER, Judge, presiding.


On April 19, 1972, three indictments were returned against the defendant. Indictment No. 72-673 charged the defendant with two counts of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of armed robbery. No. 72-674 charged the defendant with four counts of armed robbery, and No. 72-675 contained one count of armed robbery. After originally pleading not guilty, the defendant pleaded guilty to all nine counts and, pursuant to a plea agreement, was sentenced to eight to fifteen years in the penitentiary for each count with nine sentences to run concurrently.

The defendant first contends that the trial court did not comply with Supreme Court Rule 402(a)(1) which requires the trial court to determine that the defendant understands the nature of the charges. The defendant was given a copy of the three indictments at his arraignment on April 26, 1972. He was represented by counsel at that time. At the guilty plea proceedings the court informed the defendant of the name of the offense alleged in each count but did nothing to explain the nature of those offenses, nor did it read or explain the indictments to defendant.

On July 5, 1972, the case involving Indictment No. 72-673 was set for trial before a jury. Prior to the selection of the jury, defendant's attorney filed a motion to suppress a confession given by the defendant. An extensive hearing was held on this motion and after that hearing the trial judge overruled the motion. In the statement defendant described how he and another male person abducted two girls who were getting into their car located at a parking lot in East St. Louis, Illinois. They ordered the girls into the back seat of the girls' car at gunpoint. They robbed the girls at that time and then drove them to a motel in Alorton, where they rented two separate rooms. They each took a girl to a separate room. Defendant said he then tied the girl he took to the room with him with bed sheets. His companion did the same with the other girl. Certain reprehensible acts took place, the facts of which are not necessary to this opinion. The trial court then overruled the motion to suppress. The defendant's attorney then negotiated an agreement with the state's attorney where the defendant would plead guilty to all of the charges and receive a minimum of eight and a maximum of 15 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary, with all sentences to be served concurrently. The defendant rejected this proposal and a jury was selected to try the case. The next morning the following transpired:

"THE COURT: You may proceed, gentlemen.

MR. CONSTANCE: Your Honor, we are here this morning to resume trial in 72-673, and the State's Attorney has produced Miss ______ and Mrs. ______ to me, who I have spoken with in the State's Attorney's office this morning. I have relayed this information to my client, and the State's Attorney indicated that the offer that was made yesterday of not less than eight or more than fifteen years was still available before the two young ladies took the witness stand. I have consulted with my client and his mother, who is here again today, and he has indicated that he would like to withdraw his plea of not guilty and plead guilty. This is a negotiated plea in 72-673, 674, and 675; 674 and 675 are armed robberies; this is an aggravated kidnapping.

THE COURT: Numbers 673, 4 and 5.

MR. CONSTANCE: The last two are armed robberies and the first is aggravated kidnapping, the present case. The Court should also be advised that the armed robbery is before the cut-off date; this is two to five; the others are five to life; first is two to life —

THE COURT: We will take 673 first: Ronald Witherspoon, is it true that you desire to withdraw your plea of not guilty to the counts of the indictment in Case 72-673 and plead guilty to each of these counts?


THE COURT: Count I being the charge of Aggravated Kidnapping; 2 being the charge of Aggravated Kidnapping; 3 being the charge of armed robbery, and 4 being the charge of armed robbery. How old are you?

THE DEFENDANT: Twenty-two."

The trial judge then proceeded to admonish the defendant as required by Supreme Court Rule 402 except that he did not address the defendant personally and inform him of the nature of the charge as required by Supreme Court Rule 402(a)(1). However, the following ...

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