Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County. Nos. 91CF165, 93CF119. Honorable Rita B. Garman, Judge Presiding.
As Corrected August 29, 1996.
The Honorable Justice Steigmann delivered the opinion of the court: Justices: Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, J., Honorable Frederick S. Green, 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 December 1993, a jury found defendant, George Leslie Ray Powell, guilty of three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(b) (West 1992)) involving three separate acts of sexual penetration by defendant, who was then 31 years old, with K.C., who was under 13 years of age when the acts were committed. The trial court later imposed consecutive sentences of 30 years on each count. Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) his trial counsel repeatedly ignored defendant's request for a bench trial instead of a jury trial; and (2) defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel.
Because defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, we need not describe it at length. The State's case consisted primarily of the testimony of K.C. (10 years old at the time of trial), who explained how defendant, when he was dating K.C.'s mother, would occasionally spend the night at the residence K.C. shared with her mother and two younger brothers. K.C. testified that on many such occasions, defendant would visit her bedroom at night and perform various acts of sexual penetration upon her. When K.C. moved away from her mother to live with her father and stepmother, she told her stepmother about defendant's conduct. The physician who subsequently examined K.C. opined that she had been sexually assaulted, but he was unable to determine when because her injuries appeared healed.
Two witnesses testified on behalf of defendant (essentially stating that K.C. seemed comfortable around men and never liked defendant), but defendant himself did not testify.
A. Defendant's Claim That He Wanted a Bench Trial Instead of a Jury Trial
The State initially charged defendant with these crimes in April 1993, and the trial court then appointed the public defender to represent him. On October 1, 1993, the court set the matter for jury trial on December 6, 1993. On November 9, 1993, attorney Walter Clifton entered his appearance on behalf of defendant, and at Clifton's request, the case was continued. On December 20, 1993, the jury trial began, and it ended the following day with guilty verdicts.
In January 1994, Clifton filed a motion for new trial, and the trial court set a hearing on that motion and sentencing for February 25, 1994. On that date, defendant filed a pro se post-trial motion in which he alleged that Clifton was incompetent because, in part, Clifton advised defendant against a bench trial and not to testify on his own behalf. Defendant requested appointment of counsel to assist him with these claims. The court granted that request and reappointed the public defender.
At the hearing on his post-trial motion, defendant testified regarding his wish for a jury trial, as follows:
"Q. [Defendant], did you discuss with counsel, Mr. Clifton, the alternative methods of trial, of trial ...