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People v. Hughes

June 26, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice O'mara Frossard

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Leo E. Holt, Judge Presiding.

Following a jury trial, defendant, Steven Hughes, was found guilty of attempted first degree murder, armed robbery, armed violence and aggravated battery. The trial court merged the armed violence and aggravated battery counts into the attempted first degree murder conviction and imposed consecutive sentences of 30 years' imprisonment for the attempted murder conviction and 20 years' imprisonment for the armed robbery conviction. On appeal, defendant argues that: (1) he was denied his right to a speedy trial under the speedy trial provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Speedy Trial Act) (725 ILCS 5/103-5 et seq. (West 1996)); (2) the State failed to prove him guilty of attempted murder beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) he was denied his sixth amendment right to counsel when the trial court allowed his appointed counsel to withdraw following trial but prior to sentencing and refused to appoint new counsel; (4) his sentence should not be subject to the Illinois truth-in-sentencing law; and (5) he is entitled to credit for time served on both of his consecutive sentences.

I. Statement of Facts

On January 13, 1996, at approximately 12:30 a.m., Deborah Hubert was exiting a liquor store located at 55th and State in Chicago. Defendant asked her for money. Hubert said "no," entered her car, then developed some concern for defendant, and motioned to defendant to come to her car window. She asked defendant why he needed money, and defendant replied he needed money to get home. Hubert offered to give him a ride home and defendant accepted. As Hubert drove, defendant told Hubert about his problems and that he was depressed. Hubert invited defendant to her apartment. At the apartment, defendant indicated that he wanted to have sex. Hubert told defendant no, and they continued to talk. Defendant again expressed his desire to have sex. Hubert then asked defendant to leave, walked to her bed to obtain a hammer from under the bed, and went to the door to open it. At that point defendant grabbed Hubert.

Defendant punched Hubert and Hubert hit defendant with her hammer. Defendant then pulled out his hammer and hit Hubert in the face and on her legs with his hammer. Defendant struck Hubert with unknown objects, cutting her face and stabbing her in the chest three times. The struggle continued for 30 or 40 minutes. Hubert was bleeding, fell to the floor and defendant took off her pants, took his pants off, and got on top of Hubert. Defendant stated that he wanted to have sex. Hubert told defendant she could not do anything because she was having a heart attack. Defendant then got off Hubert and tied her hands behind her back with the telephone cord and tied a scarf around her mouth. Defendant left Hubert's apartment with her car keys, video cassette recorder, television set and a shopping cart. Hubert told her neighbor what happened and he called 911.

Hubert gave the police a description of the defendant and she was taken to Cook County Hospital. Dr. Piotrowski observed multiple lacerations on the right side of Hubert's face, bruising below both eyes, and blood on her face and clothes. Dr. Piotrowski also noted three small puncture wounds on her chest and believed that the wound to the left of Hubert's sternum punctured her lung and caused it to collapse. Dr. Piotrowski testified that the collapsed lung could have been life threatening if left untreated.

Around 3:20 a.m., Chicago police officer Robinson responded to a call from defendant's sister Cynthia. Upon arriving at her apartment, Robinson noticed a shopping cart with a video cassette recorder, a television set, and a hammer. Not finding defendant, Robinson left the apartment. At 5 a.m., Robinson received a call to return to Cynthia Hughes' apartment. He returned and arrested defendant.

On August 19, 1996, defendant renewed his motion for appointed counsel other than the public defender, filed a pro se motion to suppress evidence and the assistant public defender requested to withdraw from the case. The trial court granted defendant's motion for appointed counsel other than the public defender. The court did not consider defendant's pro se motion to suppress evidence. It found it to be an improper filing because defendant was not proceeding pro se. On September 6, 1996, the trial court appointed private counsel to represent defendant. On February 11, 1997, defense counsel filed his motion to suppress evidence, and the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress evidence was held. Defendant testified and the State called two witnesses. On March 26, 1997, the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress evidence.

On June 25, 1997, defendant filed a motion for discharge pursuant to the speedy trial act. At defendant's request, the case was continued to August 25, 1997, for transcripts to be reviewed. On August 25, 1997, the court conducted a hearing on defendant's speedy trial motion. Both the State and defendant agreed that 108 days were attributable to the State for calculating the 120-day period under the speedy trial act. The parties disagreed over whether a 15-day period, from January 27, 1997, through February 11, 1997, was attributable to the defendant. After reviewing transcripts, the trial court denied defendant's motion for discharge and found that defendant's protests did not negate defense counsel's agreement to a continuance and did not make this 15-day period of delay attributable to the State. The court also noted that, as of January 27, 1997, defendant's motion to suppress evidence was still pending and had not yet been commenced.

On September 4, 1997, defendant's jury trial began. During the trial, defendant threw a chair at defense counsel and charged at him before being subdued by court deputies. From that point on, defendant's legs were shackled outside the view of the jury. After hearing the testimony and evidence, the jury found defendant guilty of attempted first degree murder, armed robbery, armed violence, and aggravated battery.

On September 29, 1997, defense counsel filed a motion for a new trial. On October 31, 1997, defense counsel filed a motion to withdraw, and defense counsel attached to his motion several letters that defendant wrote following the jury's guilty verdict. Defendant wrote to defense counsel's employer, the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee (ARDC), and the media. Defendant also filed a civil rights suit in federal court against defense counsel. In these letters and in the civil suit, defendant alleged that defense counsel sexually assaulted him in the lock up and promised defendant competent representation only if he submitted to defense counsel's sexual advances. Defense counsel believed that his refusal to agree to defendant's demands, including his refusal to present perjured alibi testimony during the trial and failure to obtain a transcript of a pretrial status date, resulted in defendant's "campaign of filth." In connection with his motion to withdraw, defense counsel argued that because of defendant's course of conduct, defendant "has forfeited his right to counsel and has elected to go pro se."

Before sentencing and before hearing any posttrial motions, the trial court granted defense counsel's motion to withdraw. The court recognized that "[t]he [d]efendant's sixth amendment right to counsel is probably the most valuable of all his constitutional rights"; however, all constitutional rights may be waived, and the court concluded that defendant for posttrial proceedings had waived his sixth amendment right to counsel. The court stated:

"The history of this case, the conduct of Mr. Hughes from its inception makes it almost impossible for the Court to deny [defense counsel's] motion for leave to withdraw. I am tempted on the one hand to deny the motion for reason of judicial economy. But I have a higher obligation that it seems to me also [sic], I have an obligation to protect persons who appear before the court, either as Defendants, or witnesses, or counsel. No lawyer, no lawyer [sic] should be subjected to the abuse Mr. Hughes has inflicted on [defense counsel].

* * * [I]t is the judgment of the Court that appointing another lawyer, will simply hold the Court hostage and these proceedings would come to an end at this point because it signals to Mr. Hughes that a continuation of abuse on the lawyers, will simply result in that lawyer being given ...

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