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04/12/96 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. NORVAL W. WELLS

April 12, 1996

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NORVAL W. WELLS, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 92-CF-1090. Honorable Charles V. Romani, Jr., Judge, presiding.

The Honorable Justice Kuehn delivered the opinion of the court: Chapman and Maag, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kuehn

The Honorable Justice KUEHN delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Norval Wells, awaits trial in Madison County. It is a long-awaited trial. Defendant has been a prisoner in the Madison County jail for almost four years.

The wait must continue. There will be no trial in the foreseeable future -- at least not until the State obtains review of a new order suppressing evidence critical to its case. Trial has been postponed indefinitely to accommodate the State's right to pursue a second interlocutory appeal.

Defendant was extradited from Colorado in 1992 to face a murder charge. On February 8, 1996, defendant raised a plea for freedom under Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(3) (145 Ill. 2d R. 604(a)(3)). After a hearing, the trial court refused defendant's release. The trial court found that the nature of the charge and defendant's refusal to submit to Illinois jurisdiction compelled continued detention. Now defendant asks us to set him free. This is not an appeal from the trial court decision. It is rather a de novo request asserting the right to release under Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(3).

We are asked to determine whether the defendant should be confined in the Madison County jail during the pendency of the State's second interlocutory appeal. The question is raised by pleadings that cite to and rely upon proceedings conducted on defendant's initial request for release in the trial court. We find nothing in the record that compels further indeterminate pretrial imprisonment during the pendency of this appeal. We do not, however, order defendant's immediate release.

Since the State appears to have misapprehended its burden under Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(3), we do not preclude and, in fact, invite further proceedings in the trial court to supplement the record. We want to afford the State full opportunity to advance its position that reasons compel further confinement. Any further proceedings under Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(3) should, however, address the principles enunciated herein.

Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(3) provides:

"Release of Defendant Pending Appeal. A defendant shall not be held in jail or to bail during the pendency of an appeal by the State *** unless there are compelling reasons for his continued detention or being held to bail." 145 Ill. 2d R. 604(a)(3).

At the hearing held on defendant's request for release under this rule, counsel tried to assert that a conviction was a remote possibility. The State objected and argued that the likelihood of a conviction was irrelevant to a determination under Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(3). The trial court commented:

"Rule 604 has nothing to do with what the evidence is or how strong it is. The Court will not take that into consideration."

Consequently, the record is devoid of any proffer to demonstrate the weight of the evidence underlying the charge or the likelihood of defendant's conviction when the State's case is ultimately presented for trial.

Initially, the fact that defendant fought extradition to the State of Illinois is not reason to detain him while the State appeals. The exercise of a legal right, at any stage in the legal process, does not incur such penalty. The defendant's refusal to submit to the power of the State of Illinois flowed from rights enjoyed as a resident and citizen of the State of Colorado. His refusal to waive the issue of ...


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