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09/19/96 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. BILLIE J. EVANS

September 19, 1996

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
BILLIE J. EVANS, APPELLEE.--THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT, V. MICHAEL MEEKS, APPELLEE.



Chief Justice Bilandic delivered the opinion of the court:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bilandic

CHIEF JUSTICE BILANDIC delivered the opinion of the court:

These two, consolidated appeals concern how Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (145 Ill. 2d R. 604(d)) applies to negotiated guilty pleas.

FACTS

In People v. Meeks, the State originally charged defendant Michael Meeks with reckless homicide, robbery, and first degree murder. Meeks' defense counsel and an assistant State's Attorney negotiated a plea agreement. Under its terms, Meeks would plead guilty to the reckless homicide charge; in exchange, the State would (1) move to dismiss the other two charges, (2) dismiss several additional charges pending against Meeks in other cases, and (3) recommend a sentence of 10 years' imprisonment.

On March 11, 1994, the circuit court of Marion County conducted a proceeding attended by Meeks, his defense counsel, and an assistant State's Attorney. Defense counsel orally presented the terms of the negotiated plea agreement to the circuit court. The circuit court then carefully complied with Supreme Court Rule 402 (134 Ill. 2d R. 402) by, inter alia, admonishing and examining Meeks, determining that the plea was knowingly and voluntarily made, and determining that a factual basis existed for the plea. Meeks executed a written guilty plea and waiver form, which was presented to the court. At the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit court concurred in the negotiated plea agreement and sentenced Meeks to the recommended sentence of 10 years in prison.

On April 11, 1994, Meeks filed a written pro se motion to reduce his sentence. Subsequently, his defense counsel filed an amended motion requesting that the court reduce Meeks' sentence or, in the alternative, place him in a rehabilitation facility. The circuit court conducted a hearing on the amended motion. Defense counsel explained that the motion did not seek to disturb Meeks' guilty plea; rather, it sought only to reduce the length of Meeks' sentence so that he could begin substance abuse treatment. Because the sentence was the product of a negotiated plea agreement, the circuit court declined to reduce it.

Meeks appealed. The appellate court held that, under Rule 604(d), the circuit court was required to exercise discretion when considering Meeks' motion to reduce his sentence. Consequently, the appellate court reversed and remanded the cause to the circuit court. No. 5--94--0583 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal (155 Ill. 2d R. 315; 134 Ill. 2d R. 612(b)) and consolidated this case with People v. Evans.

In People v. Evans, the State initially charged defendant Billie J. Evans with residential burglary, armed violence, and aggravated unlawful restraint. Evans' defense counsel and an assistant State's Attorney negotiated a plea agreement. Under its terms, Evans would plead guilty to the armed violence and aggravated unlawful restraint charges; in exchange, the State would (1) move to dismiss the residential burglary charge, and (2) recommend concurrent sentences of 11 and 5 years' imprisonment for the armed violence and aggravated unlawful restraint charges, to be served concurrently with sentences previously imposed in another county.

On February 3, 1992, the circuit court of Williamson County conducted a hearing attended by Evans, his defense counsel, and an assistant State's Attorney. The assistant State's Attorney orally presented the terms of the negotiated plea agreement to the circuit court. The circuit court then carefully complied with Rule 402 by, inter alia, admonishing and examining Evans, determining that the plea was knowingly and voluntarily made, and determining that a factual basis existed for the plea. Evans presented his signed written guilty plea and waiver form to the court. At the conclusion of the hearing, the circuit court concurred in the negotiated plea agreement and sentenced Evans to the recommended prison terms.

A short time later, Evans' defense counsel filed a motion to withdraw Evans' guilty pleas, asserting that Evans did not understand the plea negotiation process. The circuit court denied the motion after a full hearing. Evans appealed. On grounds not relevant here, the appellate court affirmed the convictions, vacated the sentences, and remanded the cause for a new sentencing hearing. Following remand, the circuit court conducted a new sentencing hearing in compliance with the appellate court's order. The circuit court again sentenced Evans according to the terms of the negotiated plea agreement.

Evans' defense counsel next filed a written motion for reconsideration of Evans' sentences. The motion asserted that Evans' sentences are excessive and should be reduced, mainly because he is a young man with mental disabilities. Following a full hearing, the circuit court denied the motion and declined to reduce Evans' sentences. The circuit court determined, for the third time, that Evans should serve the prison sentences to which he had agreed in his plea agreement with the State.

Evans took a second appeal. The appellate court found that Evans' defense counsel failed to file a Rule 604(d) certificate. As a result, the appellate court reversed in part and remanded the cause to the circuit court for a new hearing. No. 5--94--0100 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal (155 Ill. 2d R. 315; 134 Ill. 2d R. 612(b)) and consolidated this case with Meeks' case.

ANALYSIS

The common issue in these consolidated appeals is how Supreme Court Rule 604(d) applies to negotiated guilty pleas, as opposed to open guilty pleas.

In each of these cases, the defendant and the State entered into a negotiated plea agreement in which the defendant pleaded guilty to certain charges in exchange for the State's agreement to dismiss other charges and recommend a specific sentence. The trial courts accepted the negotiated plea agreements and sentenced the defendants to the recommended prison terms. Following the trial courts' entry of judgment, each ...


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