The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Thomas
Docket No. 94425-Agenda 5-September 2003.
At issue in this case is whether defense counsel, by stipulating to the admission of evidence, can waive a defendant's constitutional right to confront the source of the evidence without the defendant's knowing consent to the stipulation. The appellate court, with one justice dissenting, held that defense counsel can stipulate to prosecution testimony without a defendant's knowing consent because the decision to stipulate is a matter of trial strategy within defense counsel's sound judgment. 332 Ill. App. 3d 808. The dissent believed that the decision whether to stipulate to the testimony of a key witness belongs to the defendant, after consultation with defense counsel. 332 Ill. App. 3d at 815-17 (Cook, J., dissenting). For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the appellate court, which affirmed the judgment of the circuit court of Champaign County.
The State charged defendant, Richard D. Campbell, Jr., with residential burglary (720 ILCS 5/19-3 (West 2000)), alleging that defendant knowingly and without authority entered the dwelling place of Blake M. Hoerr and Griff P. Powell in Champaign, Illinois. Defendant's trial began on May 14, 2001. After the jury was sworn, the prosecutor moved for a continuance on the ground that Blake Hoerr had not appeared for trial, even though he was under subpoena. Hoerr's father had informed the prosecutor that Hoerr was in Maryland for a job and would not be able to make it to court. The prosecutor asked for a brief recess to obtain Hoerr's appearance, stating that Hoerr was a material and critical witness for the State's case. Defense counsel objected, noting that the State had answered ready at pretrial. The trial court agreed to continue the matter to the following morning, stating that "if the witness is not here at that time, then we're either going to have to dismiss the case, or proceed with the witness, one or the other." The prosecutor then elected to proceed with his other witnesses.
Griff Powell testified for the State that he was a student at the University of Illinois in Champaign. On March 13, 2001, Powell was living with Hoerr and some other roommates at 1001 South First Street in Champaign. The residence was a two-story home. Powell testified that there were no signs on the home indicating that there were rooms for rent. The front door to the home was made of wood, and there was a screen door in front of the wood door. Only the wood door had a lock on it.
Powell said that March 13 was the Tuesday of spring break week for the University, so that all of his roommates except Hoerr were out of town. Both Powell and Hoerr were in town on March 13, although they both planned to leave Champaign that day. Around 10:15 a.m., Hoerr was sleeping on the couch in the living room and Powell was upstairs in his room watching television when Powell heard a loud knocking on the door.
Powell assumed Hoerr would answer the door, but the knocking continued for approximately two minutes. Just as Powell began to wonder why Hoerr was not answering the door, he heard voices talking. Powell could not hear what was going on, so he started walking down the stairs and saw defendant walking out the front door. Powell did not know defendant and had never seen defendant in the house. Powell and Hoerr decided to call the police because they were both leaving town that day and knew that it was easy to break into empty homes. At the time Powell heard the knocking, the wood door was unlocked.
Dennis Thomas testified that he is a police officer for the City of Champaign and is assigned to the campus area, south of the University. Thomas explained that winter breaks and spring breaks are significant when working the campus area because all the students leave the area during that time, and the burglary rate increases tremendously. On March 13, 2001, at 10:17 a.m., he was dispatched to 1001 South First Street to check a report of a person that had walked into a house and then left, going in a southerly direction. On his way to 1001 South First Street, Thomas spotted defendant, who fit the description of the suspect, and stopped to talk to him. Thomas asked defendant if he had been in the building at 1001 South First Street. Defendant initially denied that he had been there. When Thomas told defendant that someone fitting defendant's description had been in 1001 South First Street, defendant then said that he had been there looking for someone. Thomas asked defendant who he was looking for, but defendant could not give him a name.
At the close of Thomas' testimony, the trial was continued until the following day. The next day, the trial court asked the prosecutor whether his witness was present. The prosecutor responded that Hoerr was not present, but that he had a stipulation concerning Hoerr's testimony. The trial court asked defense counsel whether he objected to the trial court reading the stipulation and explaining the stipulation. Defense counsel responded that he had no objection and "[i]n fact had signed the court's copy" of the stipulation.
The stipulation of facts concerning Hoerr's testimony provided that on March 13, 2001, at approximately 10:15 a.m., Hoerr was sleeping on a couch in the living room when he was awakened by someone knocking on the front door. After hearing several knocks, Hoerr heard the interior wooden door open. Hoerr sat up, looked over the back of the couch, and saw defendant in the hallway. When defendant saw Hoerr, defendant asked if Hoerr had a room for rent. Hoerr said no, and defendant left the home. Defendant did not have Hoerr's permission to enter the residence.
After defendant left, Hoerr called 911 and reported that a white male had entered the residence without authority and described defendant to the 911 dispatcher. At 10:30 a.m., Hoerr was taken to the intersection of First Street and Springfield Avenue and positively identified defendant as the person who had entered his residence.
After the stipulation concerning Hoerr's testimony was read to the jury, both sides rested. The trial court then denied defendant's motion for a directed verdict. Pursuant to defendant's request, the jury was instructed concerning the lesser-included offense of criminal trespass to a residence (720 ILCS 5/19-4 (West 2000)), in addition to the offense of residential burglary. The jury found defendant guilty of criminal trespass to a residence and defendant was sentenced to 364 days in jail.
On appeal, defendant argued that he had been denied his constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him because his attorney stipulated to the testimony of Blake Hoerr without defendant's knowing consent. 332 Ill. App. 3d at 812. The appellate court, with one justice dissenting, held that defense counsel can stipulate to prosecution testimony without a defendant's knowing consent because the decision to stipulate is a matter of trial strategy within defense counsel's sound judgment. 332 Ill. App. 3d at 814. The appellate court recognized two exceptions to its holding: (1) when the State's entire case is to be presented by stipulation; and (2) when the stipulation includes a statement that the evidence is sufficient to convict the defendant. 332 Ill. App. 3d at 814. In those situations, "the stipulation is tantamount to a guilty plea," so a defendant must be admonished about the stipulation and must agree to the stipulation before the court can accept such a ...