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People v. Blankley

March 12, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JOHN E. BLANKLEY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Bond County. No. 97-CF-51 Honorable Charles V. Romani, Jr., Judge, presiding.

Justices: Honorable Terrence J. Hopkins, J. Honorable Thomas M. Welch, J., and Honorable Richard P. Goldenhersh, J., Concur

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hopkins

On June 8, 1998, John Blankley (defendant) pled guilty to one count of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(3) (West 1998)) and one count of concealment of homicidal death (720 ILCS 5/9-3.1(a) (West 1998)). Prior to sentencing, defendant filed a pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea. At the sentencing hearing on August 26, 1999, before his sentences were imposed, defendant asked the court to consider his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, but the court declined, as defendant had not yet been sentenced. The court sentenced defendant to 35 years' incarceration for the first-degree-murder conviction and five years' incarceration on the concealment-of-homicidal-death conviction, with both sentences to run concurrently; however, the court ordered the two sentences to run consecutively to a five-year prison sentence defendant received previously for a conviction in Macoupin County. The court appointed defendant new counsel to represent him on his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant filed an amended motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which the court subsequently denied. Defendant appeals.

The issue presented for review is whether the court abused its discretion when it denied defendant's amended motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant's argument is two-pronged: (1) that his guilty plea was not voluntarily or knowingly made but resulted from his counsel's ineffective assistance because counsel failed to subject the State's case to meaningful adversarial testing and (2) that his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered because the court did not admonish him that his sentences could be imposed consecutively to a five-year prison sentence defendant was to serve for a conviction from another county. We affirm.

FACTS

Defendant was arrested in Bond County on August 14, 1997. An information charging defendant with one count of first-degree murder and one count of concealment of homicidal death was filed on August 15, 1997. Defense counsel filed a motion for discovery on August 21, 1997, and the record reflects that the State timely complied with defendant's discovery request.

On September 4, 1997, defendant appeared for a preliminary hearing. Defendant indicated that he desired to waive his right to a preliminary hearing. The court fully admonished defendant as to the rights he would be relinquishing and also admonished defendant as to the possible penalties he could receive if convicted on both counts. The court asked defendant if he understood his rights and his possible penalties, and defendant acknowledged that he did. The court also asked defendant if he discussed with counsel his waiver of the preliminary hearing, and again defendant acknowledged that he had. After thorough questioning, the court allowed defendant to waive his right to a preliminary hearing.

Subsequent to the date of the preliminary hearing, defense counsel filed several motions: a motion for substitution of judge, a motion to set bail, and a motion to determine defendant's fitness to stand trial. Defendant's motion to determine fitness to stand trial stated that he was taking psychotropic medication. The court allowed defendant's motion for fitness to stand trial and appointed Dr. Taliana to conduct an examination of defendant. At a hearing held on April 30, 1998, Dr. Taliana's report was presented to the court, and based upon the report, the court found defendant fit to stand trial.

On June 8, 1998, defendant appeared before the court and stated he wanted to plead guilty to one count of first-degree murder and one count of concealment of homicidal death. The State presented the plea negotiations: in exchange for defendant's plea of guilty to the two counts, the State would recommend a sentencing cap of 50 years' imprisonment on the first-degree-murder count. The prosecutor also stated that the sentence on count one would run concurrently to the sentence on count two.

The court advised defendant as to the rights he would relinquish if he pleaded guilty and asked defendant if he understood the rights he was giving up. Defendant stated that he understood. The court then admonished defendant as to the penalties he could receive if convicted. The court stated as follows:

"Upon conviction for first[-]degree murder, you could be sentenced to prison for a fixed term, anywhere from twenty to sixty years.

Under certain circumstances, you could get an extended sentence. That means you could be sentenced to prison for a fixed term, anywhere from sixty to one hundred years.

Upon release, there is a three[-]year mandatory supervised release period.

Under this type of charge, you are also eligible, under certain circumstances, for a natural life sentence, without parole. You would also be eligible, under certain circumstances, for the death penalty.

The concealment of a homicidal death is a Class Three felony. Upon conviction, you could be sentenced to prison for a fixed term, anywhere from two to five years.

If you have a prior Class Three or greater felony conviction within the last ten years, you could receive an extended sentence. This would be a sentence to ...


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