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People v. Harris





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. Harold L. Jensen, Judge, presiding.


Defendant appeals from a denial by the circuit court of Champaign County of his post-conviction petition following an evidentiary hearing on it. The sole issue raised is that of ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal and at the post-conviction proceeding.

Some background information is required for an understanding of the issue raised. Defendant was originally found guilty by a jury of unlawful use of weapons by a convicted felon in violation of sections 24-1(a)(10) and 24-1(b) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, pars. 24-1(a)(10), 24-1(b)). On direct appeal this court affirmed. People v. Harris (1982), 104 Ill. App.3d 1213 (Rule 23 order).

In that appeal defendant was represented by attorney Donald Johnson of the Office of the State Appellate Defender. He raised four issues; a fifth issue, conflict of interest in trial counsel, was presented to this court through a pro se brief filed by the defendant. Attorney Johnson thought the issue to be non-meritorious and declined to raise it. For this reason defendant filed a pro se motion to discharge him, which motion was denied by this court. The hub of the matter, then and now, is a document which indicates that defendant waived any potential conflict existing in his trial counsel.

As indicated in the prior Rule 23 Order and not contested by the parties, the Public Defender of Champaign County was appointed to represent the defendant on the original charge. At the same time that office was representing defendant's son in an unrelated juvenile case. A hearing was held by Judge Nicol in Champaign County on the matter of conflict in these representations, but for reasons not immediately apparent no court reporter was present, nor have any tapes been found. Thereafter, at the behest of attorney Johnson, Judge Nicol prepared and certified a two-page document entitled "Bystander's Record" which relates his recollections of the proceeding. It is uncontested that this report was not prepared in the manner provided in Supreme Court Rule 323(c) (87 Ill.2d R. 323(c)).

In it Judge Nicol recites the appearances of the State by an assistant State's Attorney and of the defendant in his own proper person and by counsel, an assistant public defender. The nature of the potential conflict was then recited by the assistant public defender, indicating only that the office of the Public Defender, not the particular assistant defender himself, had been appointed to represent defendant's son. Defendant stated that he understood the nature of the potential conflict and that the court had the power to appoint an attorney not connected with the Public Defender's office to represent him. He then further stated, according to the report, that he preferred to have the assistant continue to represent him. Judge Nicol then found that the defendant had waived a potential conflict.

Defendant was apparently dissatisfied with Judge Nicol's report and filed in this court a document entitled "Affidavit in Contest." In it he swears that the assistant public defender never told him of the potential conflict and its nature; he also states that the court never informed him that he might have another attorney. He lodged then a general objection to the entire report.

Attorney Johnson, after reviewing the report and the affidavit, declined to raise the conflict issue, and as indicated above, it was presented to this court via defendant's pro se brief. We held it to be without merit.

Defendant filed a post-conviction petition on August 31, 1982, alleging a variety of errors, including denial of effective assistance of counsel both at trial and on appeal. New counsel was appointed and argued that since there was no verbatim transcript of the proceedings before Judge Nicol, no effective waiver had been shown. He further argued ineffective assistance of appellate counsel since attorney Johnson refused to pursue this issue. The trial court denied the prayer of the petition, holding that the conflict issue had already been determined by this court and whether to raise it at all lay within the judgment of the appellate counsel.

• 1-3 Defendant's argument appears to be one of procedure only. His post-conviction petition, drafted pro se and not amended, alleges ineffective assistance of counsel only in the most general terms. The record made at the hearing thereon indicates that the public defender, Brian Silverman, represented him at trial and also represented his son in an ongoing juvenile proceeding. However, this is not a per se conflict. The Supreme Courts> of both the United States and of this State have held that joint representation of criminal defendants does not give rise to a per se violation of the guaranty of effective assistance of counsel. (Holloway v. Arkansas (1978), 435 U.S. 475, 55 L.Ed.2d 426, 98 S.Ct. 1173; People v. Vriner (1978), 74 Ill.2d 329, 385 N.E.2d 671.) Since a juvenile proceeding is not criminal in nature (In re Beasley (1977), 66 Ill.2d 385, 362 N.E.2d 1024), any potential conflict becomes even more attenuated, almost to the point of nonexistence.

Defendant's argument centers only on the mechanics of waiver. He assumes a conflict whose existence is dubious and then claims that the record of waiver was so deficient, not having been prepared in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 323(c), that it was incompetent for appellate counsel not to press the point and seek to have it stricken. He also maintains that it was likewise incompetent for trial counsel at the post-conviction hearing not to do the same.

At the outset it should be noted that defendant has not denied making a waiver. The following appears on defendant's direct examination at the post-conviction hearing:

"Q. Getting back to November 5th, 1980, did Judge Nicol tell you about your conflict? ...

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