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People v. Dodson

June 6, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MAURICE DODSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Effingham County. No. 99-CF-140 Honorable Richard H. Brummer, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn

Released for publication.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MAURICE DODSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Effingham County. No. 99-CF-140 Honorable Richard H. Brummer, Judge, presiding.

Attorneys for Appellant: Daniel M. Kirwan, Deputy Defender, Rita K. Peterson, Assistant Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Fifth Judicial District, Route 15 East, P.O. Box 2430, Mt. Vernon, IL 62864-0047

Attorneys for Appellee Hon. Ed Deters, State's Attorney, Effingham County, 101 N. 4th, Suite 400, Effingham, IL 62401; Norbert J. Goetten, Director, Stephen E. Norris, Deputy Director, Gerry R. Arnold, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, Route 15 East, P.O. Box 2249, Mt. Vernon, IL 62864

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn

This case arrives for review after a trial that lacked many of the features normally associated with trials conducted under our adversary system of justice. We confront a case where defense counsel promoted, as the process to judgment, a jury waiver and the use of a written stipulation prepared by the prosecutor. Counsel chose to adjudicate the question of her client's guilt or innocence by way of a stipulated bench trial, conduct that raises the ultimate question for our review. Can a defense lawyer forego an adversarial test of the State's case and ease the path to conviction on a plea of not guilty, in the hope that an absence of a true challenge to the State's case might curry the trial judge's favor and, thereby, result in the imposition of lesser punishment?

Whether counsel can utilize stipulated bench trials in order to preserve adverse rulings for appellate review or whether a lack of a contest in lieu of a guilty plea can be utilized as a means to procure concessions from the State are two questions not at issue. Here, there was no adverse ruling to appeal, and the State had not agreed to recommend lighter punishment in return for a surrender to its evidence.

Maurice Dodson appeals his armed robbery conviction. The circumstances set forth in the written stipulation, and agreed upon as a means to a decision, make it fairly clear that he committed the armed robbery that underlies this case. The following facts are set forth in the State-drafted evidentiary stipulation.

On July 22, 1999, in broad daylight, a man who matched Dodson's race and frame, wearing sunglasses and a purple cap, entered an Effingham, Illinois, liquor store called Sporty's Beverage Connection and robbed the clerk at gunpoint. A large amount of cash was taken. An eyewitness saw the same man, gun in hand, run hastily into a room located on the second floor of a Best Inns hotel, a short distance from the crime scene.

The Effingham police arrived at the hotel just moments after the armed robbery occurred. They learned from the hotel clerk that a man who fit the robber's description was staying in room 234. The police called the room and Dodson answered. The police ordered Dodson to exit the room with his hands up. When he complied, it was immediately apparent that the officers had caught him with his pants down. Dodson stood naked, save his underwear.

In the search that immediately ensued, police found torn receipts and checks from Sporty's, floating in the toilet bowl. They found a pellet handgun shoved under the air conditioner. Sunglasses were found behind the television set, and a purple cap was found hidden behind a telephone book. The police found most everything related to the crime, except the large amount of cash reportedly taken in the robbery. When Dodson was later booked into jail, the police found $608 hidden in his underwear.

According to the facts set forth in the stipulation, the prosecution seemed to be well-armed with evidence to support Dodson's guilt. The State appeared poised for a trial that would result in an easy conviction, no matter how hard a criminal defense lawyer would strive to defeat that goal. *fn1

Dodson could not afford to hire a criminal defense lawyer. Since he was entitled to have a trained and licensed professional to champion his defense, the trial judge appointed the public defender to represent him.

On October 13, 1999, Dodson's case was called for trial. He appeared with counsel. She advised him to waive a jury and proceed to a trial before the judge. In addition to this advice, she promoted a waiver of the right to confront the State's witnesses and the right to present evidence in his own behalf. Counsel assisted ...


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