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People v. Vanderwerff





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DWIGHT McKAY, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Gary B. Vanderwerff, was charged by complaint with two counts of battery. Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, the defendant was found guilty on both counts and sentenced to a term of 270 days in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Defendant appeals, contending: (1) that he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his Sixth Amendment right to counsel; (2) that the State committed prejudicial error by referring to defendant's previous record prior to trial; (3) that the trial court's bias, impatience and hostility toward the defendant and his witness denied him a fair trial; and (4) that the trial court improperly heard the case after it became evident that the defendant was unable to competently defend himself.

These complaints arose from a collision occurring at approximately 2 a.m. on September 2, 1975. A brief summary of the facts adduced at trial reveals that the defendant's vehicle collided with an automobile occupied by the two complainants. At trial, complainant Robin Hendron testified that she and a friend were driving in the vicinity of Forsythe and 154th Place in Calumet City, when they were struck from behind while stopped at a stop sign, by the defendant's vehicle. The vehicle driven by the defendant sped away, went around the block, and returned. The defendant exited his vehicle, appeared "drugged" and "seemed to go crazy" when complainant Hendron accused the defendant of hitting her vehicle. He began "yelling" and hit the complainant in the mouth and face with his fist.

Complainant Christie Paylo corroborated Hendron's testimony. In addition to those facts she stated that the defendant choked her after she alighted from the vehicle driven by Hendron.

Officer Swanson, arrived on the scene and found the defendant fighting with another man and several other people fighting in the street. He detected a moderate odor of alcohol on the defendant's breath, later gave the defendant tests to determine whether he was driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor and discovered that the defendant staggered and that his speech was slurred. Officer Swanson concluded that in his opinion the defendant was intoxicated and unfit to drive a motor vehicle. The defendant was charged with driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor; however, he was found not guilty of this offense.

The defendant conducted his own pro se defense. He did not cross-examine any of the State's witnesses and testified in his own behalf at the close of the State's case. The defendant testified that he had been talking to the complainants in a bar; after they left, his vehicle was struck by Hendron's vehicle as she tried to pass him on the right. The defendant denied ever physically striking either complainant.

The only witness for the defense, Mike Mada, testified that he was a passenger in the vehicle driven by the complainant Hendron. He stated that both complainants were "kind of drunk," and that the collision occurred when Hendron's vehicle attempted to pass the defendant's automobile but struck it instead. The State asked this witness whether he considered the defendant a good friend and inquired as to whether he would commit perjury for him.

Prior to trial the following colloquy ensued between the court and the defendant:

"THE CLERK: Gary Vanderwerff.

THE COURT: Ready for trial?


MR. ARTHUR: (Prosecutor) The defendant should have a lawyer. There are serious charges. For the purpose of this hearing, if you want to hear the defendant's background, I intend to ask for time.

THE COURT: Do you wish the public defender? Can you afford to hire a lawyer?

THE DEFENDANT: No, not at all.

THE COURT: Do you want the public defendant to represent you? The state says they're asking for jail time.

THE DEFENDANT: That would be insane. That would be terrible.

THE COURT: Well, then I suggest you either hire a lawyer or request the appointment of the public defender.

MR. ARTHUR: He is on four years felony probation right now, Judge. He is definitely going.

THE COURT: You have the same constitutional right not to have a lawyer as you do to have a lawyer, but that's a decision which you must make right now. So that you may be in a position to make a decision, I should advise you that the charges with which you have been charged, apart from the traffic, are class A misdemeanors. If you are found guilty on, for example, the charge of battery on Robin Hendron, the ...

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