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People v. Lundeen

JULY 17, 1975.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. LLOYD A. VAN DEUSEN, Judge, presiding.


Pursuant to plea negotiations, the defendant pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and burglary. Other charges, including reckless homicide and theft over $150, were dismissed as a part of the agreement. Defendant was sentenced to 2-6 years for the involuntary manslaughter and 4-12 for burglary, to be served concurrently. Defendant did not directly appeal, but now appeals from the denial of his post-conviction petition. The defendant contends that he was denied constitutional due process of law because the trial court accepted his plea of guilty despite his claim of innocence and in the absence of an adequate factual basis for the plea.

• 1 Defendant concedes that he was fully admonished as to his rights in compliance with Supreme Court Rule 402 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 110A, par. 402). *fn1 And he also concedes that a defendant who continues to maintain his innocence may make a valid plea of guilty under certain circumstances. (Citing North Carolina v. Alford (1970), 400 U.S. 25, 27 L.Ed.2d 162, 91 S.Ct. 160; United States ex rel. Dunn v. Casscles (2d Cir. 1974), 494 F.2d 397; United States v. Davis (5th Cir. 1974), 493 F.2d 502.) He argues, however, that before a plea of guilty may be accepted after a defendant's continued insistence that he is innocent the plea must be accompanied by the presentment of a strong factual basis, which he claims is lacking in this record.

In North Carolina v. Alford, the majority opinion addresses the standards for a determination of the constitutional validity of a guilty plea:

"The standard was and remains whether the plea represents a voluntary and intelligent choice among the alternative courses of action open to the defendant. [Citations.]" (400 U.S. 25, 31.)

and states:

"* * * while most pleas of guilty consist of both a waiver of trial and an express admission of guilt, the latter element is not a constitutional requisite to the imposition of criminal penalty. An individual accused of crime may voluntarily, knowingly, and understandingly consent to the imposition of a prison sentence even if he is unwilling or unable to admit his participation in the acts constituting the crime." (400 U.S. 25, 37.)

The court concludes:

"When his plea is viewed in light of the evidence against him, which substantially negated his claim of innocence and which further provided a means by which the judge could test whether the plea was being intelligently entered, see McCarthy v. United States, supra, at 466-467 (1969), its validity cannot be seriously questioned. In view of the strong factual basis for the plea demonstrated by the State and Alford's clearly expressed desire to enter it despite his professed belief in his innocence, we hold that the trial judge did not commit constitutional error in accepting it." 400 U.S. 25, 38-39.

While both sides rely on North Carolina v. Alford in support of their contrary positions, we conclude that the reasoning of the opinion supports the validity of defendant's plea in this case.

Before accepting the plea the trial judge carefully admonished defendant as to all of his constitutional rights and made all of the particular inquiries specified in Supreme Court Rule 402. The factual or evidentiary basis for the plea to the burglary charge is supplied by the prosecutor's statement. He stated that a witness by the name of Robert S. Shephard, a friend of the defendant and a participant in the burglary with the defendant, was granted immunity and made a full statement of the involvement of himself and the defendant in the burglary. The prosecutor also described the details of Shephard's testimony as to the entry into the building in question, the removal of a safe and its transportation in a truck taken at the scene. In answer to the court's inquiry, the public defender stated that there was $146 in the safe, while the prosecutor said it was approximately $150. The defendant's counsel also stipulated that the testimony would be as stated by the prosecutor. The following colloquy then occurred:

"THE COURT: All right. Mr. Lundeen, what is your version of this occurrence?

THE DEFENDANT: I think Mr. Shephard's ...

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