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People v. Lucas

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 24, 1977.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

JERRY LUCAS, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Knox County; the Hon. U.S. COLLINS, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is a consolidated appeal from two judgments of the Circuit Court of Knox County, each of which involved and were against the defendant, Jerry Lucas, Jr.

In case No. 76-449 the defendant appeals from a judgment revoking his probation and from the sentence imposed following the revocation which was that he serve a term of imprisonment of not less than 3 nor more than 9 years.

In case No. 77-59 the defendant appeals from a judgment which denied his petition for post conviction relief on the grounds that his admission to the probation violation was coerced.

A detailed recitation of the facts concerning case No. 76-449 is as follows. On December 11, 1975, the defendant was charged by information with having committed the offense of forgery. On March 22, 1976, the defendant pled guilty to this charge and after the filing of a presentence report and hearing thereon, the trial court sentenced him to a five-year term of probation. A specific condition of the defendant's probation was that he enroll in and complete a drug rehabilitation program at the Gateway House Foundation.

On June 29, 1976, the State filed a petition which prayed for the revocation of the defendant's probation. The petition alleged several violations of probation, the most pertinent being that the defendant had walked away from the Gateway House program after participating in it for approximately two weeks. The Gateway program requires that a participant remain in it for a period of 18 to 24 months.

On July 26, 1976, the defendant appeared before Judge U.S. Collins for a hearing on the State's petition to revoke his probation. We note that it was Judge Collins who had sentenced him to the term of probation which the State was seeking to revoke. We further note from the record that the defendant had appeared in court before a different judge on July 15, 1976, and specifically requested Judge Collins to hear the revocation proceedings and in fact claimed it to be his right to appear before Judge Collins. The trial court granted this request. The public defender representing the defendant indicated that the defendant wished to waive his right to an evidentiary hearing and would proceed on an offer of proof by the State. After the trial court had admonished the defendant as to his rights and ascertained that he knowingly waived his right to present evidence, the State was permitted to proceed on an offer of proof.

The State offered to prove that on May 11, 1976, Diane Schwartz of the Gateway House mailed a letter which informed the court and the State's Attorney that the defendant had left the drug rehabilitation program on May 7, 1976, without the advice and consent of the Gateway House staff. When asked if this statement was true the defendant replied in the negative and asserted that he had gone to the staff at the Gateway House and informed them that their program was not what they had represented it to be and asked if he could leave, after which the staff provided him with bus fare, his personal belongings, and escorted him to the door so that he could return to Galesburg. The defendant further asserted that the Gateway House authorities represented to him that they would contact his probation officer and then he would be contacted.

A further recital of facts as gleaned from the record will be set forth as they become pertinent to the issue present in this appeal.

The issue presented to this court for determination is the defendant's contention that the trial court committed error in accepting his admission of a probation violation when he refused to admit culpability.

The defendant in support of his contention cites the case of North Carolina v. Alford (1970), 400 U.S. 25, 27 L.Ed.2d 162, 91 S.Ct. 160. In Alford our United States Supreme Court held that there is no constitutional error in accepting a guilty plea containing a protestation of innocence when the defendant intelligently concludes that his interests require entry of a guilty plea and the record before the judge contains strong evidence of guilt.

In spite of this specific holding the defendant nevertheless contends that the courts> cannot simply presume that pleas coupled with claims of innocence represent a voluntary and intelligent choice. The defendant supports this contention on the basis of language found in a footnote in the case of Alford and which is as follows:

"Because of the importance of protecting the innocent and of insuring that guilty pleas are a product of free and intelligent choice, various state and federal court decisions properly caution that pleas coupled with claims of innocence should not be accepted unless there is a factual basis for the plea * * *; and until the judge taking the plea has inquired into and sought to resolve the conflict between the waiver of trial and the claim of innocence." North Carolina v. Alford (1970), 400 U.S. 25, 38 n. 10, 27 L.Ed.2d 162, 171 n. 10, 91 S.Ct. 160.

• 1 The defendant strongly stresses the language in the cited footnote to the effect that the trial judge taking the plea should inquire into and seek to resolve the conflict between the waiver of trial and the claim of innocence. We quarrel not with this argument of the defendant since we recognize it to be the law; however, in the instant case the record supports a finding that the trial judge was faced with no difficulty in reconciling the ...


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