SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS
521 N.E.2d 891, 121 Ill. 2d 516, 118 Ill. Dec. 414 1988.IL.410
Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fifth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County, the Hon. James M. Bumgarner, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE WARD delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE CLARK, Dissenting.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WARD
The defendant, Enricho Navarroli, was charged on September 21, 1982, in the circuit court of Peoria County in an indictment of two counts with unlawful possession of cocaine with intent to deliver (a Class X offense) and with unlawful possession of cocaine (a Class 1 offense). There were plea negotiations between the defendant and the State's Attorney, and on August 27, 1984, the defendant moved to compel the State to carry out a claimed plea agreement. He stated that under the terms of the plea agreement, he acted as an informant in various drug investigations in exchange for the State's promise to reduce the charges against him and to agree to his being given probation plus a fine. The defendant alleged that after he assisted law enforcement officials the State's Attorney refused to reduce the charges against him. The State denied both the existence of an agreement and the claimed terms.
At a hearing on the motion, the trial court found that there had been the plea agreement the defendant claimed and it ordered "specific performance" of the agreement. The appellate court reversed (146 Ill. App. 3d 466), and we granted the defendant leave to appeal.
The evidence presented at the hearing on the defendant's motion as to whether there had been a plea agreement was sharply divided. At the Conclusion of the hearing, the circuit court stated that the evidence was so conflicting that a fact finder could decide in favor of or against the motion without finding contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. The court concluded, however, that an agreement was made and that the defendant fully performed his portion of it. Discussing the terms of the agreement, the circuit court stated:
"Whether or not the prosecution made a specific promise the defendant said it did, the reasonable inference is that the defendant believed so, and that such belief was not unreasonable under these circumstances. To preserve the sanctity of Justice, the defendant must prevail. The defendant is entitled to receive probation and a fine. The reduction of the charge, the length and terms of the probation whether or not accompanied by incarceration and the amount of the fine are left to the parties and to the sentencing Judge, should the defendant, in fact, plead guilty."
The appellate court, in reversing, held that even if the plea agreement did exist, the defendant was not entitled to specific performance of the agreement, because he was not deprived of his liberty or any other constitutionally protected interest in reliance on the agreement. The appellate court also Judged that the circuit court improperly employed a subjective, rather than objective, test to determine the terms of the agreement. Because of this error, the appellate court did not consider whether the circuit court's Conclusion that a plea agreement existed was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.
On appeal, the defendant argues that the circuit court's Conclusion that a plea agreement existed was supported by the preponderance of evidence. He also argues that the appellate court erroneously concluded that the circuit court employed a subjective, rather than an objective, standard in resolving the conflicting testimony. The defendant claims that the circuit court's references to defendant's reasonable belief in the agreement and its terms did not make the court's Conclusions ones reached on a subjective standard.
The defendant contends too that the appellate court erred in concluding that he was not entitled to specific performance of the proposed plea agreement because he was not deprived of any constitutionally protected interest. He asserts that he surrendered constitutional rights guaranteed by the first, fourth, fifth and sixth amendments in reliance upon the State's agreement to reduce the charge and recommend probation in exchange for his cooperation.
Finally, the defendant submits that the appellate court misused Rule 352, which authorizes a court to dispose of an appeal without oral argument if no substantial question is presented. The defendant says a substantial question was raised in his appeal which required more than a year for the court to decide and which resulted in a split opinion.
The State argues that even if there was a plea agreement, the defendant was not deprived of any constitutional right by virtue of the State's refusal to comply with the agreement. The defendant is at liberty to proceed to trial. The appellate court, the State says, correctly held that the defendant was not entitled to specific performance of the claimed plea bargain, and the State finally argues that the trial court incorrectly applied a subjective test determining whether there was a plea agreement.
A plea agreement results when the prosecutor and the defendant exchange promises to perform or refrain from performing specified actions. (People v. Davis (1981), 94 Ill. App. 3d 809.) The existence of a plea agreement and its terms and conditions are questions of fact which the trier of fact must determine after assessing the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony. (People v. Starks (1986), 146 Ill. App. 3d 843.) If disputed, the terms of the agreement are to be Judged under objective standards (People v. Boyt (1984), 129 Ill. App. 3d 1, aff'd (1985), 109 Ill. 2d 403; People v. Davis (1981), 94 Ill. App. 3d 809; United States v. Quan (9th Cir. 1986), 789 F.2d 711), and the court's determination whether there was a plea agreement should not be reversed unless contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. It will not be necessary for us to consider whether, as the State contends, the circuit court's finding that there was a plea agreement, as the defendant claimed, was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, nor need we decide whether, in making that finding, the court erroneously employed a subjective, rather than an objective, test. Even assuming, arguendo, that the circuit court correctly found that an agreement existed with terms as the defendant alleges, we must conclude that the prosecutor's denial of an agreement and refusal to carry out the claimed bargain did not deprive the defendant of due process, and that therefore, the defendant was not entitled to have the assumed agreement enforced.
The enforceability of plea agreements was recognized in Santobello v. New York (1971), 404 U.S. 257, 30 L. Ed. 2d 427, 92 S. Ct. 495, where the Supreme Court held that a defendant who enters a guilty plea in reliance upon the promise of the prosecutor is entitled to a remedy when the prosecutor breaches that promise. The Court cautioned that, "[w]hen a plea rests in any significant degree on a promise or agreement of the prosecutor, so that it can be said to be part of the inducement or consideration, such promise must be fulfilled." 404 U.S. at 262, 30 L. Ed. 2d at 433, 92 S. Ct. at 499.
In Santobello, however, the prosecutor breached the plea agreement after the defendant entered a plea of guilty. In Mabry v. Johnson (1984), 467 U.S. 504, 81 L. Ed. 2d 437, 104 S. Ct. 2543, the Supreme Court determined that the same constitutional concerns are not implicated when the prosecutor takes a course of action inconsistent with an alleged plea agreement before the defendant enters a guilty plea. In Mabry, the prosecutor proposed a plea bargain but then withdrew the offer after the defendant's acceptance and proposed a second, less favorable, plea agreement. The Supreme Court rejected the defendant's claim that his acceptance of the first plea bargain created a constitutional right to have that bargain specifically enforced. Relying on due process principles, the Mabry Court defined the scope of the constitutional protection afforded a defendant who enters a plea agreement, stating:
"plea bargain standing alone is without constitutional significance; in itself it is a mere executory agreement which, until embodied in the judgment of a court, does not deprive an accused of liberty or any other constitutionally protected interest. It is the ensuing guilty plea that implicates the Constitution. Only after respondent pleaded guilty was he convicted, and it is that conviction which gave rise to the deprivation of ...