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People v. Peterson

December 27, 1999


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 95 C 32602 Honorable John A. Wasilewski, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rakowski

Defendant and the State enter into plea discussions, an agreement is reached, and defendant pleads guilty. During sentencing on the plea, defendant states he has been wrongly accused of the crimes. Does the trial court abuse its discretion when it revokes its acceptance of defendant's guilty plea based on his proclamation of innocence? Because acceptance of a guilty plea is within the sound discretion of the trial court and defendants possess no absolute right to have any guilty plea accepted, a trial court does not necessarily abuse its discretion in refusing to accept a guilty plea even where there is a factual basis for the plea. We additionally reject defendant's contentions that the trial court erred in failing to suppress the lineup identification and that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a substitution of judge. Accordingly, we affirm.


Defendant, Jimmie Peterson, was charged with vehicular hijacking, robbery, and unlawful restraint. Because defendant does not contest the sufficiency of the evidence, only a brief recitation of the facts surrounding the incident of October 19, 1995, will be given. Additional facts are incorporated into our analysis where necessary.

Bernadette Allen testified that as she walked to her car in the Metra parking lot at 119th and Vincennes in Blue Island, an individual, whom she later identified as defendant, approached her and asked for money. She refused and after defendant persisted for a few minutes, he grabbed her, forced her to get her car keys, forced her to unlock her car door, and shoved her into her car. As Allen was opening the car door, defendant grabbed her purse.

Defendant eventually pushed Allen out of the passenger side door and drove off with her car and purse. Allen provided the Blue Island police with a description of the assailant, stating he was a black male, approximately 35 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall with numerous pink curlers in his hair.

Although Allen stated it was very dark at the time of the incident, the lighting in the area was very good. She testified defendant was from 3 to 17 feet from her as he persisted in asking for money and even closer when they were in the car. She was able to get a very good view of him and she focused upon his face and hands. According to Allen, she was in the car with defendant for approximately five minutes before being pushed out.

Defendant's motion to suppress the lineup identification was denied. Prior to trial, defendant participated in a guilty plea conference at which time he agreed to plead guilty to vehicular hijacking and robbery in exchange for a sentence of eight years. However, at the time of sentencing, based on defendant's statements that he was wrongfully accused of the crimes, the trial court withdrew its acceptance of his guilty plea and ordered defendant to proceed to trial. The case was tried to a jury at which time defendant presented no evidence. Defendant was convicted of vehicular highjacking and robbery. Defendant's motion for a new trial was denied. Based upon all the evidence, the trial court sentenced defendant as a Class X offender to 18 years' imprisonment to be served concurrent. Defendant's motion for reduction of sentence was denied.


I. Withdrawal of Acceptance of Guilty Plea

When defendant appeared in court in August of 1997, he sought a Rule 402 conference to pursue the option of a guilty plea. 177 Ill. 2d R. 402. After the conference, it was agreed that if defendant pled guilty to vehicular hijacking and robbery he would be sentenced to eight years and the unlawful restraint count would be nol-prossed. The court proceeded to admonish defendant pursuant to Rule 402. It read both charges after which defendant stated he understood them. Defendant was advised of the attendant sentences, including a potential 6 - to 30-year sentence based on Class X status. He stated he understood these admonishments and desired to plead guilty. Defendant was then advised of all the rights he was waiving, which he stated he understood. Defendant denied any threats, force, or promises and stated he was pleading guilty of his own free will.

The parties stipulated to the factual basis for the guilty plea after the State summarized the evidence it would present. The court concluded that defendant was understandingly, knowingly, and voluntarily making the plea. Further, there was a sufficient factual basis for it.

After accepting defendant's guilty plea, the trial judge allowed defendant to speak. The following ensued:

"THE DEFENDANT: Yeah, well, Your Honor, Honorable Judge Wasilewski, in this present time of the case, I would like to say that I was wrongly accused of this crime.

THE COURT: Well, that's up to you. I'm willing to give you a trial.

THE DEFENDANT: What I was wrongfully accused of this crime, the seriousness of my physical condition, which when I was on the street before I got arrested for this case, that I was trying for eleven days I was homeless, to get my medical together. And that the[] way I am now, I was not fit to make a crime of such force. But I'm pleading guilty on this case because I rather get myself situated, and if I do not survive this time, I would like to say to the Court that I was wrongfully accused. If I survive doing this time, I might pass away or anything. My mother -.

THE COURT: Well, you know, Mr. Peterson, I don't have to accept your plea of guilty.

THE DEFENDANT: I understand.

THE COURT: And I don't know how you expect me to accept it when you say something like that.

THE DEFENDANT: I understand, Your Honor. I understand. I'm a very sick man.

THE COURT: No, I won't accept the plea of guilty. Vacating the proceeding.

THE DEFENDANT: Your Honor Wasilewski, I accepted the pleading guilty. I signed the papers and everything.

THE COURT: You told me you're not doing this voluntarily. I'm vacating.

THE DEFENDANT: I didn't say I was not doing it voluntarily, Your Honor. I am doing it ...

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