Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00 CR 2264 The Honorable Rickey Jones, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cohen
Defendant Ronald Parker was charged by information with two counts of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon (UUWF) (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 1998)). After extensive admonishment from the trial court, Parker waived his right to representation by counsel and elected to proceed pro se. Following a jury trial, Parker was convicted on a single count of UUWF and sentenced to two years' imprisonment.
Through appointed counsel, Parker appealed his conviction. While Parker's direct appeal (No. 1-00-3074) was pending, Parker filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 1998)). The trial court dismissed Parker's post-conviction petition as frivolous and patently without merit (725 ILCS 5/122-2.1(a)(2) (West 1998)). Parker then appealed the dismissal of his post-conviction petition (No. 1-01-0824), also through appointed counsel. We consolidated Parker's appeals for purposes of disposition.
On appeal, Parker argues that the trial court erred in failing to appoint standby counsel prior to trial. Parker further argues that the trial court erred in allowing the State to establish the nature of his prior felony conviction (second degree murder) where the UUWF statute required the State to prove only that Parker had been "convicted of a felony." 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 1998). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
Ronald Parker was arrested on suspicion of burglary after police detained and searched a truck Parker was driving. In the truck, police found three washing machines and a clothes dryer that they suspected had been stolen from a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) development. A subsequent search revealed a loaded .380-caliber pistol hidden between the driver and front passenger seats.
Parker was charged by information with two counts of UUWF. One count was predicated on possession of a firearm and the other on possession of ammunition. On January 27, 2000, Parker was arraigned on both charges, elected to proceed pro se and pled not guilty. Parker filed a pro se motion for dismissal and requested an evidentiary hearing, arguing that he was exempt from prosecution because: (1) "the presumption that a weapon found in a car is in possession of the occupants of the car does not apply to the driver of a vehicle operated for hire"; and (2) Parker had been hired to move the washing machines and dryer police found in his truck. At a February 9, 2000, status call, Judge Joseph Kazmierski acknowledged that he had previously granted Parker leave to proceed pro se. Also present were Assistant State's Attorneys (ASAs) Aleksandra Nikolich and Stephen Fine. Judge Kazmierski then addressed Parker's motion to dismiss and informed Parker that whether he was exempt from prosecution was a factual matter to be resolved at trial and not an appropriate basis for dismissal. Judge Kazmierski then denied Parker's motion for reduction of bond and set the case for trial.
The case was then transferred to Judge Rickey Jones for trial. Prior to jury selection, Judge Jones admonished Parker with respect to Parker's decision to proceed pro se:
"THE COURT: Let me explain to you, you're entitled to have a lawyer represent you. Do you understand that?
THE COURT: If you're unable to afford a lawyer a lawyer will be appointed to represent you. Do you understand that?
THE COURT: Do you desire a lawyer to represent you[, Mr. Parker]?
THE COURT: Let me explain some other things to you, Mr. Parker.
This offense you're charged with, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon[,] is a Class 3 felony. If you're found guilty of that offense you could be sentenced to *** between two and five years plus one year mandatory supervised release. Do you understand that?
THE COURT: Also, Mr. Parker, you could be sentenced to an extended term *** between five and ten years if it is established that you have been convicted of a similar or greater felony within the last ten years. Do you understand that?
THE COURT: Now, Mr. Parker, if you decide to represent yourself I will hold you to the same standards that I would hold any other attorney that would appear in this courtroom. Do you understand that?
THE COURT: That means you would be going against these two [S]tate's [A]ttorneys over here, who are lawyers. They've graduated from law school, been practicing law for a number of years. They're skilled trial attorneys and I would expect that you would conform to the same standard as any other attorney would. Do you understand that?
THE COURT: All right. Knowing and understanding the nature of the charge and your right to an attorney and the possible sentence in this case do you still desire to represent yourself?
[PARKER]: Yes, I do, your Honor.
THE COURT: Have you given that considerable thought?
THE COURT: You understand that there are attorneys in the Public
Defender's office who could be appointed to represent you if you so desire. Do you understand that?
[PARKER]: Yes sir, your Honor. My reason for it, it's been made pretty clear to me that my best interests wouldn't be served by the Public Defender's office.
THE COURT: I don't know what you mean. If someone has tried to induce you in any way not to obtain representation from the Public Defender's office--
[PARKER]: No, sir, your Honor. It was just a matter which they wanted to proceed with the issues of the charges.
THE COURT: Have you had an opportunity to speak to an attorney from the Public Defender's office?
THE COURT: How many did you ...