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People v. Lyles

March 03, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 78 CR 1191 The Honorable John A. Wasilewski, Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Hoffman

[8]  The defendant, Enice Lyles, Jr., appeals from an order of the circuit court summarily dismissing his second pro se petition for relief under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 2000)). A different division of this court subsequently dismissed the defendant's appeal for want of prosecution. The same division later vacated the dismissal and reinstated the appeal on the defendant's motion. The State now asserts that this court lacked jurisdiction to grant the defendant's motion to vacate our prior dismissal order and, as a consequence, we have no jurisdiction to consider the instant appeal. For the reasons that follow, we agree with the State's contention and dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

[9]  The defendant was initially charged with three counts of first degree murder. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and one count of voluntary manslaughter. The defendant was sentenced to death for the murders and 14 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.

[10]   On direct appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, the court affirmed the defendant's convictions, but vacated his death sentence and remanded the matter to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing. People v. Lyles, 106 Ill. 2d 373, 478 N.E.2d 291 (1985). On remand, the trial judge sentenced the defendant to natural life in prison for the murders and to the same 14-year prison term for voluntary manslaughter. The defendant appealed, and this court affirmed. People v. Lyles, 208 Ill. App. 3d 370, 567 N.E.2d 396 (1990).

[11]   In 1991, the defendant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The trial court dismissed the petition as frivolous and patently without merit. We affirmed the summary dismissal of the defendant's petition. People v. Lyles, No. 1-92-0464 (1994) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

[12]   In 2001, the defendant filed a second pro se post-conviction petition, alleging that his natural life sentence was imposed in violation of his rights under the United States Constitution pursuant to the holding of Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 157 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000), and was otherwise unconstitutional. The trial court summarily dismissed the petition, finding that it was not timely filed and lacked merit, and the defendant timely filed the instant appeal.

[13]   During the course of the appeal, this court granted the defendant four extensions of time to file an appellate brief. The last extension allowed the defendant until October 11, 2002, to file his brief. On April 18, 2003, the appeal was dismissed for want of prosecution. On May 27, 2003, the defendant, through the State Appellate Defender, filed a motion to vacate the dismissal order and reinstate the appeal, and for leave to file his brief instanter. In that motion, the State Appellate Defender acknowledged culpability for the defendant's failure to file a timely brief. On June 4, 2003, the dismissal order was vacated and the defendant's appeal was reinstated.

[14]   Before addressing the merits of the defendant's arguments on appeal, we must first address the State's contention that we do not have jurisdiction to consider the instant appeal. Specifically, the State argues that the April 18, 2003, order dismissing the defendant's appeal became final 21 days after it was entered and that, thereafter, this court lost all jurisdiction in this matter. The State asserts that, under Supreme Court Rule 367(a) (155 Ill. 2d R. 367(a)), which allows a party only 21 days after the filing of a reviewing court's judgment to file a petition for rehearing, our jurisdiction over this matter expired before the defendant filed his motion to vacate the dismissal order and reinstate the appeal. In support of its argument, the State relies on our supreme court's decision in Woodson v. Chicago Board of Education, 154 Ill. 2d 391, 609 N.E.2d 318 (1993), for the proposition that, where an appeal from a circuit court's final order is dismissed for want of prosecution and no petition for rehearing is filed within 21 days, the dismissal order becomes final and this court loses jurisdiction to consider the appeal.

[15]   The defendant counters that the rule in Woodson applies only in civil cases and relies on our supreme court's decision in People v. Moore, 133 Ill. 2d 331, 549 N.E.2d 1257 (1990), for the proposition that a criminal defendant should not be deprived of his right to an appeal as a result of the ineffective assistance of his appellate counsel. The Moore court, citing to the United States Supreme Court's decisions in Evitts v. Lucey, 469 U.S. 387, 83 L. Ed. 2d 821, 105 S. Ct. 830 (1985), and Penson v. Ohio, 488 U.S. 75, 102 L. Ed. 2d 300, 109 S. Ct. 346 (1988), held that reviewing courts should reinstate direct appeals that have previously been dismissed for want of prosecution where the dismissal was due to the misconduct or neglect by a defendant's appellate counsel. Moore, 133 Ill. 2d at 337. The Moore court reinstated the appeal and remanded the defendant's case for further appellate proceedings. Moore, 133 Ill. 2d at 341. See also People v. Brown, 39 Ill. 2d 307, 235 N.E.2d 562 (1968); People v. Aliwoli, 60 Ill. 2d 579, 328 N.E.2d 555 (1975); People v. Sistrunk, 259 Ill. App. 3d 40, 630 N.E.2d 1213 (1994).

[16]   The defendant is correct that Moore, Brown, and Aliwoli stand for the proposition that a defendant's right to a direct appeal cannot be lost through appellate counsel's failure to comply with procedural court rules. Although the supreme court in Moore appears to have reinstated the appeal through the exercise of its supervisory authority, it is clear that in Brown and Aliwoli the supreme court held that the appellate court abused its discretion in denying the defendants' motions to reinstate their direct appeals after they had been dismissed either for the failure to file requisite abstracts and briefs or for want of prosecution. Accordingly, by ruling that the appellate court abused its discretion in the latter cases, the supreme court implicitly stated that this court originally had jurisdiction over the matter. The authorities relied on by the defendant, however, deal with a criminal defendant's right to a direct appeal of his convictions and the possible infringement of that right through the failure of appellate counsel to abide by court rules. The posture of this case differs significantly. Here, we do not have a direct appeal, but rather, an appeal from a collateral proceeding, i.e., the summary dismissal of the defendant's second post-conviction petition. Therefore, the issue we are faced with is whether the rule enunciated in Woodson applies to appeals from post-conviction proceedings. For the reasons which follow, we conclude that it does.

[17]   We begin our analysis with the Supreme Court's decision in Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353, 9 L. Ed. 2d 811, 83 S. Ct. 814 (1963), wherein the Court held that criminal defendants have the right to counsel on direct appeal as a matter of due process. The Supreme Court in Evitts v. Lucey, 469 U.S. 387, 83 L. Ed. 2d 821, 105 S. Ct. 830 (1985) extended the holding in Douglas, finding that criminal defendants are entitled to the effective assistance of counsel on direct appeal, pursuant to the holding in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 104 S. Ct. 2052 (1984). In Evitts, the defendant's direct appeal was dismissed due to his counsel's failure to file necessary documents with the appellate court in a timely manner. The defendant sought federal habeas corpus relief, contending that the dismissal of his appeal was unconstitutional because his counsel's ineffective assistance deprived him of his right to an appeal. Evitts, 469 U.S. at 389-90. The Supreme Court concluded that an appeal adjudicated where the appellant is not adequately represented violates the appellant's right to due process, stating that an appellant whose counsel is unable to provide effective assistance on a first appeal as of right may as well have had no counsel at all. Evitts, 469 U.S. at 396.

[18]   The holding in Douglas was limited by the Supreme Court's decision in Ross v. Moffitt, 417 U.S. 600, 41 L. Ed. 2d 341, 94 S. Ct. 2437 (1974), where the Court held that the due process right to counsel did not extend to parties seeking discretionary appeals. The Supreme Court concluded that due process did not require states to provide appellants with counsel for the purpose of a discretionary appeal. The Court distinguished a defendant's need for counsel at trial and on appeal, stating that an attorney on appeal serves "not as a shield to protect [the defendant] against being 'haled into court' by the State and stripped of his presumption of innocence, but rather as a sword to upset the prior determination of guilt." Ross, 417 U.S. at 610-11. The Court determined that, although a North Carolina statute provided for appointed counsel to defendants on direct appeals, the state was not required to extend the provision to apply to defendants seeking discretionary appeals, and there was no indication that the defendant had been deprived of his right to a direct appeal of his conviction. Ross, 417 U.S. at 614-15.

[19]   Taking these decisions together, it follows that a criminal defendant cannot be deprived of a due process right to effective assistance of counsel where no constitutional right to counsel exists in the first instance. See Wainwright v. Torna, 455 U.S. 586, 71 L. Ed. 2d 475, 102 S. Ct. 1300 (1982). Accordingly, we must next consider whether any such due process concerns are implicated in the context of a post-conviction proceeding.

[20]   The Act provides an opportunity for a defendant to assert that his conviction was the result of a substantial deprivation of his constitutional rights. 725 ILCS 5/122-1 (West 2000). Under the Act, counsel may be appointed for an indigent defendant for purposes of an evidentiary hearing in the trial court where the defendant's petition has survived summary dismissal. 725 ILCS 5/122-4 (West 2000). The Act also provides that defendants may seek appellate review of any final judgment entered upon a post-conviction petition. 725 ILCS 5/122-7 (West 2000). Therefore, Illinois has established a statutory right to post-conviction proceedings and a right to counsel for purposes of those proceedings in the trial court. However, Illinois provides no statutory right to counsel for appeals from post-conviction ...

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