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02/23/96 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. MASON WILLIAMS

February 23, 1996

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MASON WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Livingston County. No. 93CF286. Honorable Charles H. Frank, Judge Presiding.

Petition for Rehearing Denied March 20, 1996. Released for Publication March 20, 1996. As Corrected August 9, 1996.

Justices: Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J., Honorable Rita B. Garman, J., Honorable James A. Knecht, J., Concurring

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steigmann

The Honorable Justice STEIGMANN delivered the opinion of the court:

In May 1994, a jury convicted defendant, Mason Williams, of two counts of aggravated battery on a correctional officer (720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(6) (West 1992)), and the trial court later sentenced him to 10 years in prison on each conviction, with the sentences to run concurrently. Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) the trial court (a) failed to adequately admonish him regarding waiver of his right to counsel and self-representation, (b) abused its discretion by denying his request for the appointment of standby counsel, and (c) erroneously admitted certain testimony; and (2) the prosecutor's improper closing argument deprived him of a fair trial. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In October 1993, an indictment charged defendant with two counts of aggravated battery on a correctional officer. In November 1993, defendant, an inmate at Pontiac Correctional Center, appeared in the trial court for the first time on that indictment, and the court asked defendant if he knew "what [his] situation [was] as far as counsel?" Defendant responded, "do I want counsel[?] I would be objecting. I would waive my right to counsel at this particular time. And I would aver to represent myself pro se pursuant to the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution." The court then admonished him regarding what would be required of him if he proceeded pro se, as well as the potential consequences of his doing so. The court found that defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel and granted his request to proceed pro se. In January 1994, during a pretrial hearing, defendant reaffirmed his desire to represent himself.

At the May 1994 trial, several correctional officers testified that defendant struck an officer on the back of the head, requiring five stitches. After the State rested, defendant recalled three officers as defense witnesses. The jury returned verdicts finding defendant guilty of aggravated battery.

II. WAIVER OF RIGHT TO COUNSEL

Defendant first argues that he did not intelligently and knowingly waive his right to counsel because the trial court failed to adequately admonish him regarding the perils of proceeding pro se. Citing People v. Ward (1991), 208 Ill. App. 3d 1073, 567 N.E.2d 642, 153 Ill. Dec. 684, defendant specifically contends that the court erred by failing to inform him that it would not appoint standby counsel. We disagree.

In People v. Baker (1982), 92 Ill. 2d 85, 91, 440 N.E.2d 856, 859, 65 Ill. Dec. 1, the supreme court addressed the issue of a defendant's right to appear pro se and wrote the following:

" defendant may competently waive counsel if such an election is voluntary and constitutes 'a knowing and intelligent relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege.' Edwards v. Arizona (1981), 451 U.S. 477, 482, 68 L. Ed. 2d 378, 385, 101 S. Ct. 1880, 1883; Johnson v. Zerbst (1938), 304 U.S. 458, 464, 82 L. Ed. 1461, 1466, 58 S. Ct. 1019, 1023; People v. Johnson (1979), 75 Ill. 2d 180, 187[, 387 N.E.2d 688, 691, 25 Ill. Dec. 812]."

In People v. Lego (1995), 168 Ill. 2d 561, 564, 660 N.E.2d 971, 972, 214 Ill. Dec. 264, the supreme court expanded upon its decision in Baker, as follows:

"Although a court may consider a defendant's decision to represent himself unwise, if his decision is freely, knowingly, and intelligently made, it must be accepted out of '"that respect for the individual which is the lifeblood of the law."' [Citation.] *** [A defendant] should be made aware of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation, so that the record will establish that '"he knows what he is doing and his choice is made with eyes open."' [Citation.] *** The determination of whether there has been an intelligent waiver of the right to counsel must depend, in each case, upon the particular facts and circumstances of that case, including the background, experience, and conduct of the accused."

In Ward, this court addressed the issue of a defendant's right to represent himself and wrote the following:

"To ensure that a defendant's request for self-representation is an intelligent and knowing waiver of his right to counsel, *** it would be desirable for a trial court to inform defendant of the following matters:

(1) presenting a defense is not a simple matter of telling one's story, but requires adherence to various technical rules governing the conduct of a trial;

(2) a lawyer has substantial experience and training in trial procedure and the prosecution will be represented by an experienced attorney;

(3) a person unfamiliar with legal procedures (a) may allow the prosecutor an advantage by failing to make objections to inadmissible evidence, (b) may not make effective usage of such rights as the voir dire of jurors, and (c) may make tactical decisions that produce unintended consequences;

(4) the defendant proceeding pro se will not be allowed to complain on appeal about the ...


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