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People v. Johnson

August 10, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE, V. MILTON JOHNSON, APPELLANT.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rathje

Agenda 2-March 2000.

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Will County, defendant, Milton Johnson, was convicted of four counts of murder and four counts of felony murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, pars. 9-1(a)(1), (a)(3)). The trial court found that defendant was eligible for the death penalty and that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude a death sentence. Accordingly, the trial court sentenced defendant to death.

On direct review, we affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence. People v. Johnson, 119 Ill. 2d 119 (1987) (Johnson I). The United States Supreme Court denied defendant's petition for a writ of certiorari. Johnson v. Illinois, 486 U.S. 1047, 100 L. Ed. 2d 629, 108 S. Ct. 2027 (1988). Defendant filed a first-amended petition for post-conviction relief, which the State moved to dismiss without an evidentiary hearing. The court granted the State's motion to dismiss, and this appeal followed. Because the judgment challenged in defendant's petition imposed a sentence of death, the appeal was taken directly to this court. 134 Ill. 2d R. 651(a).

On appeal, defendant is represented by the Capital Litigation Division of the office of the State Appellate Defender. Defendant's brief was written by a panel attorney for the Capital Litigation Division, L.C. Redmond, Jr. Additionally, the names of two staff attorneys for the Capital Litigation Division-John C. Greenlees and Terri L. Marroquin-appear on defendant's brief.

The State moved to strike defendant's original brief because it did not comply with the supreme court rules. The State identified three problems with the brief. First, the statement of facts was inadequate and did not comply with Supreme Court Rule 341(e)(6) (177 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(6) (made applicable to criminal cases by Supreme Court Rule 612(i) (177 Ill. 2d R. 612(i)))). Second, defendant failed to comply with Supreme Court Rule 341(e)(7) (177 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(7) (made applicable to criminal cases by Supreme Court Rule 612(i) (177 Ill. 2d R. 612(i)))), by inadequately citing to the record. Major portions of the brief contained no citations to the record despite specific references to trial court proceedings or to specific documents. Third, the brief was filed with the wrong case number. This court granted the State's motion to strike and gave defendant leave to file a corrected brief.

On June 7, 1999, defendant filed a new brief and corrected some of the problems. The incorrect case number was crossed out, and the correct number was written above it. Additionally, the statement of facts was expanded. However, the statement of facts was merely a recitation of evidence from the original trial and did not include any information about the post-conviction proceedings, except to mention that the court dismissed defendant's petition without an evidentiary hearing. The statement of facts does not mention what the allegations of the post-conviction petition are or what evidence the post-conviction investigation uncovered. The problems with inadequate record citations in the first brief were not corrected in the subsequent brief.

At the beginning of defendant's statement of facts, he states that he will use the abbreviation "P.C." when he cites the common law post-conviction record and "P.R." when he cites the post-conviction report of proceedings. These abbreviations never appear again, as defendant fails to cite the post-conviction record when referring to the post-conviction proceedings. The only citations in defendant's brief are sporadic ones to the original trial record, which he failed to make part of the record on appeal. Additionally, the appendix to defendant's brief, which must contain a "complete table of contents, with page references, of the record on appeal" (155 Ill. 2d R. 342(a)), contains a table of contents of the original trial record rather than of the post-conviction record.

Throughout the argument section of defendant's brief, he repeatedly refers to facts, events, documents, and statements of the parties or the trial court, with no corresponding record citations. At times, defendant even quotes from the record without providing citations.

Rule 341(e)(7) provides in relevant part that the appellant's brief shall include:

"Argument, which shall contain the contentions of the appellant and the reasons therefor, with citation of the authorities and the pages of the record relied on. Evidence shall not be copied at length, but reference shall be made to the pages of the record on appeal or abstract, if any, where evidence may be found." 177 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(7).

Defendant makes virtually no attempt to comply with this rule. Almost every page of defendant's brief contains references to the record with no supporting citations.

An additional significant problem with defendant's brief is the lack of legal citations supporting his arguments. At the beginning of his brief, defendant presents many citations. However, over the course of the brief, the frequency of the citations steadily deteriorates. Indeed, by the time he reaches his ineffective assistance of appellate counsel argument, defendant does not even cite the standard by which such claims are measured and does not attempt to apply that standard to his claims. When asked at oral argument about this deficiency, Redmond responded that he was under a page constraint and wanted to focus on his most important arguments. We note that defendant's brief was 20 pages under the 75-page limit and that the only way in which most of his arguments could be considered would be if they were argued as ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims.

Generally, the consequences for failure to comply with Rule 341(e)(7) are that the issues will be deemed waived. People v. Lantz, 186 Ill. 2d 243, 261-62 (1999). More specifically, the appellate court has held that the failure to include record citations when the argument requires an examination of the record results in waiver of the issue on appeal. People v. Loera, 250 Ill. App. 3d 31, 54 (1993); see also People v. Isbell, 177 Ill. App. 3d 854, 864 (1988). When the appellate court is faced with briefs that fail to comply with Rule 341(e)(6) or 341(e)(7), but the record is short and the issues are simple, the court ordinarily will admonish the attorney but address the issues anyway. See, e.g., First National Bank v. Loffelmacher, 236 Ill. App. 3d 690, 691-92 (1992); Ryan v. Katz, 234 Ill. App. 3d 536, 537 (1992). In these cases, the courts chose to reach the merits only because of the simplicity of record and the issues.

Here, defendant has not presented the issues in such a way that they can be considered without this court doing much of defendant's work for him. Time after time, defendant refers to matters in the record without providing supporting record citations. The post-conviction record is over 4,500 pages long, and the direct appeal record, of which we take judicial notice, is over 3,500 pages long. Every time defendant refers to the record, he leaves to this court the task of combing through these 8,000-plus pages to find the material to which he refers. That is not the job ...


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