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People v. Williams

OPINION FILED MAY 1, 1981.

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

v.

SCOTT WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. JOHN S. TESCHNER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE REINHARD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied June 26, 1981.

On August 16, 1978, defendant was charged with unlawful delivery of a controlled substance in violation of section 401 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1401). Attorneys John Cutrone and Santo Volpe filed an appearance as counsel for defendant that same day. On October 17, 1978, Cutrone and Volpe were given leave to withdraw their appearance.

On November 15, 1978, an information was filed against defendant. The matter was set for arraignment on December 4, 1978, but was continued to December 18, 1978, on defendant's motion to permit his attorney to appear. On December 18, 1978, Attorney Albert Klest filed an appearance as counsel for defendant and a plea of not guilty was entered. On January 29, 1979, Mr. Klest was given leave to withdraw his appearance. The law firm of Barnett, Ettinger, et al., filed an appearance on March 5, 1979. Numerous continuances followed.

On September 25, 1979, a negotiated plea was entered whereby defendant pleaded guilty, was fined $2,000 and was sentenced to the penitentiary for four years. On October 23, 1979, defendant, acting pro se, filed a motion to vacate his guilty plea, alleging that it was not voluntary. On November 16, 1979, the trial court granted defendant's motion and gave Barnett, Ettinger, et al., leave to withdraw their appearance. The matter was set down for trial on December 3, 1979. On that date, defendant requested a continuance for purposes of retaining new counsel and the court responded:

"As soon as I conclude the case that I am now hearing, we will proceed to trial on your case, with or without an attorney."

On December 17, 1979, defendant again appeared in court alone and the matter was continued to January 2, 1980, for status and January 7, 1980, for trial. Defendant was told by the trial judge to be in court with an attorney on January 2. On January 2, 1980, defendant advised the court that his attorney, James Marcus, could not be present because he was involved in a trial out of State. The January 7, 1980, trial date was, nevertheless, confirmed.

On January 7, 1980, defendant again appeared alone and explained to the court that his attorney was still on trial in Oklahoma. The court noted that Mr. Marcus had not filed an appearance as yet and was, therefore, not of record. Although the State indicated that it had four witnesses in court to testify, the trial court continued the matter to January 16, 1980, for trial. Indicating to the defendant that this would be the final continuance, the court stated:

"It is my duty to admonish you that your failure to appear in a timely manner for trial, that we will proceed to trial without your presence, or without the presence of your attorney.

On the 16th at 9:00 a.m. the jurors will be summoned into this courtroom and a voir dire will begin at 9:00 a.m., sharp, whether or not you are present or whether or not your attorney is present."

On January 16, 1980, defendant again appeared alone and advised the court that the attorney he planned to retain would not take the case because of a lack of time for preparation and that he was unable to retain new counsel because of the short time period involved. The court then read into the record a summary of the continuances in this matter and informed the defendant that he was going to trial that day with or without an attorney. After advising the court that he wanted a jury trial, the trial began with defendant proceeding pro se. After jury selection was completed, defendant moved for a continuance, stating:

"[T]he jury was picked without counsel and my ability to sift through a jury is zero up to this point because I have never been in any problems with any kind of courts> before."

The State objected to defendant's request for continuance and the motion was denied by the court.

The State presented the testimony of several special agents with the Northeastern Metropolitan Enforcement Group which indicated that defendant had sold to them a white, powdery substance later determined to be cocaine. Other witnesses testified as to the chain of custody of the evidence and its chemical composition. The envelope containing the white substance was then admitted into evidence without objection. An in-chambers conference followed, during which the court ...


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