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People v. Stokes

August 16, 2002


Appeal From The Circuit Court Of Cook County. Honorable Frank Meekins, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Reid


Following the dismissal by the trial court of his supplemental petition for post-conviction relief under the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 2000)), Donald Stokes filed this appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 651 (a) (103 Ill. 2d R. 651(a)). Stokes was charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle. 625 ILCS 5/4-103(a)(1) (West 1994). He entered a plea of guilty which, in conjunction with his criminal history, resulted in his being sentenced as a Class X offender to consecutive eight-year sentences, less a credit of 138 days for time served. In his petition for post-conviction relief, Stokes attacks the information and his conviction dealing with the possession of a stolen motor vehicle. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.


Stokes was charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle. While on bond awaiting trial on that charge, Stokes was also charged with burglary under a separate indictment. Stokes pled guilty on January 5, 1995, to the charge of possession of a stolen motor vehicle. At the plea hearing, Stokes stated that he was pleading guilty of his own free will, was waiving trial by jury, had been a user for 21 years of drugs including heroin and cocaine, and had been taking the prescription drugs Haldol and Cogentin. Stokes also indicated he had not taken heroin or cocaine for three months prior to the entry of the plea of guilt. Stokes further indicated that he comprehended the nature and consequences of the plea. In aggravation, the trial court was presented with evidence of Stokes' previous convictions of robbery, armed violence, aggravated battery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle. In mitigation, Stokes told the trial court that he made lots of mistakes while using drugs. Stokes also begged the trial court for mercy. Stokes was sentenced on that charge to eight years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. On the burglary indictment, before a different judge, Stokes pled guilty and was sentenced to eight years. The sentences were to be served consecutively.

Stokes filed a pro se post-conviction petition which was supplemented after the public defender was appointed to represent him. In the supplemental petition, Stokes argues that his guilty plea was involuntary and must be vacated because he was allowed to enter his plea and waive his right to trial by jury without a fitness hearing. Stokes argued that the need for a fitness hearing was because he was ingesting daily doses of psychotropic drugs at or near the time of the plea of guilty. The People filed a motion to dismiss the supplemental petition. The trial court, assuming the claims of drug taking to be factual, held that Stokes had failed to make a substantial showing of the deprivation of a constitutional right. Specifically, the trial court reasoned that the right to a fitness hearing for a defendant who is medicated with psychotropic drugs is a statutory right and not a constitutional right. As a result, the trial court denied the supplemental petition for post-conviction relief, declining to comment on the People's argument that the petition was untimely.


Stokes argues that a party may challenge the constitutionality of a statute at any time. He also argues that the statutes give him a right to a fitness hearing under circumstances where a defendant is taking psychotropic or other medications under medical direction. According to Stokes, the denial of a fitness hearing to establish psychotropic drug use and the resultant lack of a voluntary plea amounts to error. He seeks a decision from this court vacating the denial of the post-conviction petition and remanding the matter back to the trial court. Alternatively, Stokes would like a new trial.

The People argue that the trial court properly dismissed the post-conviction petition. The People claim that the trial court was correct in holding that the Post-Conviction Hearing Act does not recognize a constitutional right to a fitness hearing. Because Stokes' claim is statutory, rather than constitutional, it is not proper under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act. The People also argue that the only constitutional claim that is cognizable under the Act is ineffective assistance of counsel. 725 ILCS 5/104-21(a) (West 1994). Pointing to the fact that Stokes has not argued that the failure to request a fitness hearing was ineffective assistance, the People argue Stokes is not entitled to post-conviction relief. The People argue that, even if this court were to entertain the issue, Stokes cannot show ineffective assistance because no Illinois court has held that the failure to hold a fitness hearing deprives a defendant of due process of law. Were we to entertain that, the People argue, the record shows that Stokes was fit to stand trial and that he understood what was happening to him at all times.


The Post-Conviction Hearing Act provides a mechanism by which criminal defendants can assert that their convictions and sentences were the result of a substantial denial of their rights under the United States Constitution, the Illinois Constitution, or both. People v. Peeples, No 83783) (June 20, 2002), citing 725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 1996). A petition filed pursuant to the Post-Conviction Hearing Act is a collateral attack on a prior conviction and sentence. People v. Mitchell, 189 Ill. 2d 312, 321-22 (2000), citing People v. Mahaffey, 165 Ill. 2d 445, 452 (1995). The purpose of a post-conviction proceeding is to permit inquiry into constitutional issues involved in the original conviction and sentence that were not, nor could they have been, adjudicated previously upon direct appeal. People v. Haynes, 192 Ill. 2d 437, 464 (2000), citing People v. Griffin, 178 Ill. 2d 65, 72-73 (1997).

An evidentiary hearing on the petition is required only when the allegations of the petition, supported by the trial record and the accompanying affidavits, make a substantial showing of a violation of a constitutional right. Mitchell, 189 Ill. 2d at 322, citing People v. Hobley, 182 Ill. 2d 404, 428 (1998). For purposes of determining whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, all well-pleaded facts in the petition and in the supporting affidavits are taken to be true. Mitchell, 189 Ill. 2d at 322, citing People v. Caballero, 126 Ill. 2d 248, 259 (1989). If the circuit court determines that the petition should be dismissed without an evidentiary hearing, its judgment is subject to de novo review. Mitchell, 189 Ill. 2d at 322, citing People v. Coleman, 183 Ill. 2d 366, 388-89 (1998).

Stokes argues that he was denied due process of law when he did not receive a hearing to determine his fitness for trial while under psychotropic medication. The Illinois Supreme Court, in People v. Britz, 174 Ill. 2d 163, 198 (1996), adopted the definition of "psychotropic medications" found in the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code, specifically:

" 'Psychotropic medication' means medication whose use for antipsychotic, antidepressant, antimanic, antianxiety, behavioral modification or behavioral management purposes is listed in AMA Drug Evaluations, latest edition, or Physicians's Desk Reference, latest edition, or which are administered for any of these ...

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