Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Tazewell County, Illinois No. 99--DT--438 Honorable Erik I. Blanc, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Holdridge
The defendant, Chawn Allan Spracklen, was charged with driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11--501(a)(2) (West 1998)). After filing a written waiver of his right to a trial by jury, he moved to withdraw his waiver. His motion was denied. Following a bench trial, the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to one year of conditional discharge. On appeal, he argues that he did not knowingly and understandingly waive his right to a jury. We reverse the denial of the defendant's motion to withdraw his jury waiver, vacate his conviction, and remand for further proceedings.
On July 25, 1999, the defendant was issued a citation for driving under the influence. He submitted a written demand for a jury trial on August 9, 1999. After multiple continuances, however, he filed a written waiver of his right to a jury trial. This document includes the defendant's signature and the hand-written date "7-11-01," but was not file stamped by the trial court. The waiver document states, "I further waive my right to have these proceedings recorded verbatim by a court reporter."
The record does not include a verbatim transcript of any proceeding in which the defendant waived his right to a jury. The record also does not include a bystander's report, an agreed statement of facts, or other record of such a hearing. The record is devoid of a docket sheet entry or other document to indicate that the defendant appeared in open court concerning his jury waiver. However, a court document, which is file stamped August 17, 2001, states that the defendant's case was "set for Bench trial on September 28, 2001 ***."
Following another series of continuances and the substitution of a new defense attorney, the defendant filed a "Motion To Vacate Withdrawal Of Jury Demand," on February 20, 2002. The record includes a transcript of the hearing on this motion held on March 18, 2002.
At the hearing, the defendant was the sole witness. He testified that on the day he signed the jury waiver document, he had "a Court date." The defendant spoke with his former attorney by phone prior to coming to the courthouse. According to the defendant, his former attorney wanted the defendant to meet one of the former attorney's associates at the courthouse for the defendant "to sign a waiver."
On direct examination, the defendant claimed that his former attorney did not discuss with him what the jury waiver meant. The defendant said that the attorney only told him that "it's a waiver for a jury and that way we will have a bench." The defendant claimed that when he asked the attorney what he meant by a "bench," the attorney "said no more and that was it." On cross-examination, however, the defendant admitted that his former attorney explained the meaning of a bench trial by saying "that you go in front of a Judge."
The defendant submitted that when he signed the jury waiver document, he "figured we were just waiving it for that day, to give [his attorney] more time to process the paperwork and get everything prepared." The defendant said that after he signed the waiver document at the courthouse, he did not go into a courtroom or "in front of a Judge."
At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Erik I. Blanc stated that he found the defendant's testimony not to be credible. Judge Blanc said,
"Judge Nemenoff took this waiver and in my experience[,] Judge Nemenoff is thorough about advising people of their rights.
This case is currently 2 and a half years old. I specifically find that this is an effort by the Defendant to further delay ...