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People v. Kraus

OPINION FILED MARCH 27, 1984.

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

v.

MARTIN KRAUS, A/K/A GARY RUSSELL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lee County; the Hon. James E. Bales, JUSTICE HOPF DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied April 27, 1984.

Defendant, Martin Kraus, appeals from the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which was entered on the charge of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(2)) in the circuit court of Lee County. On appeal, he claims (1) that his guilty plea was the product of a misapprehension of the applicability of the death penalty in this case and that such misapprehension requires the vacatur of his guilty plea; and (2) that defendant's expressed desire to receive the death penalty raised a bona fide doubt of his fitness entitling him to a hearing on the question.

The issues raised on appeal are based upon the following events which occurred during defendant's arraignment on April 19, 1982. At the beginning of the hearing, defendant was advised that the charge of murder carried possible penalties of death, natural life, 20 to 40 years' imprisonment or the possibility of an 80-year maximum extended term, and the possibility of a mandatory supervised released term of three years. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, pars. 1005-5-3(c)(1), 1005-8-1(a)(1), 1005-8-1(d), 1005-8-2(a)(1).) Defense counsel thereupon advised the court that defendant would plead not guilty, but defendant immediately responded, to the surprise of his attorney, that he would plead guilty to the charge. The following colloquy occurred:

"MR. FRITTS [defense counsel]: It's fine with me, Your Honor. I talked to him this morning. He gave me no indication of his plea for guilty. I do not have discovery from the State so I cannot give him a recommendation, but if he wishes to plead guilty —

THE COURT: That's your privilege. You have the right to do what you want to do. I would assume what your attorney's advising you is that you should wait until you have discovery, but on the other hand it's your decision to make. If you want to plead guilty, you can plead guilty. If you want to plead not guilty, you can plead not guilty. It's whatever you want to do.

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

THE COURT: And you want to plead guilty?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, I do, sir."

The court thereupon admonished defendant pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 402 (87 Ill.2d R. 402). Defendant indicated he understood each of his rights. Defendant further indicated that his plea was voluntary.

The factual basis for the plea established that on March 25, 1982, Karen Plata was sitting in her car in the parking lot of Sauk Valley College waiting for her husband, Ysidro, to return from classes. At 7:30 p.m., defendant came out of one of the buildings, approached her car, opened the door and, displaying a knife, told her to move over. Defendant gave Mrs. Plata a slight push at which time she slid across the seat and attempted to exit the car. Ysidro Plata came out from the college to the car and, upon seeing defendant, pulled him from the car. A brief struggle ensued. The defendant lunged at Plata with a knife and Plata fell to the ground. The defendant ran away. Mr. Plata was declared dead at 7:30 the next morning; the cause of death was determined to be a wound to the left chest caused by a sharp instrument. Karen Plata also identified the defendant as the assailant in both a photographic and a physical lineup.

While noting that there were a few discrepancies in the facts, defendant nevertheless substantially agreed with the factual basis, stating, "I'm still staying with malice and aforethought. I premeditated to kill her husband." The court then asked defendant whether he had any further questions and the following discussion occurred:

"THE DEFENDANT: I have one, yes, if I may address the Court. If the State can prove premeditation in this case, what's the likelihood of the death sentence being passed?

THE COURT: Well, there's a number of factors that the State would have to prove before there ...


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