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People v. Wren

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 28, 1985.

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

v.

RONALD WREN, SR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. John J. Hoban, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE KARNS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied March 20, 1985.

Ronald Wren, Sr., appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of St. Clair County denying relief on his post-conviction petition.

In November 1982 defendant entered a negotiated plea of guilty to the offense of armed robbery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 18-2). His guilty plea was accepted, and in January 1983 he was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, despite the court's awareness that plea negotiations had taken place and the State would recommend an eight-year term. In April 1983, while imprisoned, defendant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 122-1 et seq.) In July 1983, through court-appointed counsel, defendant amended his petition. He alleged that the trial court did not properly admonish him of his rights upon entering his plea. He also alleged that he was denied effective assistance of counsel in that his retained counsel in the former proceedings "coerced [him] into pleading guilty" and "failed to file a Motion to Withdraw the Plea of Guilty and, further, failed to file a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, although he assured Petitioner he would do so."

In September 1983 the post-conviction hearing was held and commenced as follows:

"[Defense Counsel]: Your Honor, this is a post conviction petition alleging inassistance [sic] of counsel.

[The Court]: Who was counsel?

[Defense Counsel]: Jim Gomric.

[The Court]: Denied. When they start raising incompetence of our best trial counsel, that's the end of the line as far as I'm concerned. They've got nothing else to do down there except sit there and draw up papers? But, let's go ahead with it.

[Defense Counsel]: I'd like to put on some brief testimony.

[The Court]: Sure, put on anything you want. I'm not blaming you. I'm blaming the system. They have got it now so they never are convicted. Forty years later, they are still filing papers."

Defendant was the sole witness. He testified without objection that after he pleaded guilty, his trial counsel told him that he would appeal the judgment "that wasn't part of the bargain" and that counsel would later contact him. He testified that he had no knowledge about whether trial counsel performed further work on the case, though allegedly he was assured that counsel would do something. He testified that he had written trial counsel four letters and that his mother had also tried to contact counsel, all to no avail. Defendant further testified without objection that trial counsel told him that if he "went along" with eight years, "[`] I guarantee you get the eight years.['] So, I said, `Cool, I go along with eight years.' Then, get in front of the Judge, it's ten."

The trial court noted it was not bound by plea negotiations and concluded the hearing by denying relief to defendant.

Defendant's sole contention on appeal is that a new post-conviction hearing is required because the presiding judge was predisposed to rule against him. His argument essentially is that the trial court's remarks foreclosed the possibility of an unbiased determination of whether trial counsel's inaction, after the proceedings which resulted in his conviction, amounted to ineffective representation. Assuming, arguendo, the court's remarks were inappropriate and indicative of predisposition, we nonetheless must examine the record to determine if anything occurred in the plea proceedings which could warrant the trial court's granting defendant the relief sought. No purpose would be served in granting defendant a new ...


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