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People v. Bramlett

March 30, 2004

[5] THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CHARLES E. BRAMLETT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



[6] Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 99CF1053 Honorable Leo J. Zappa, Jr., Judge Presiding.

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

[8]  In August 2002, defendant, Charles E. Bramlett, filed a petition for relief of judgment under section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2002)), seeking to set aside the trial court's August 2000 judgment, which found defendant was a sexually dangerous person under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act (Act) (725 ILCS 205/0.01 through 12 (West 1998)). That same month, the court dismissed sua sponte defendant's petition as frivolous and without merit. Defendant filed a motion to reconsider, which the court denied.

[9]  Defendant appeals pro se, contending (1) the trial court lacked the authority to dismiss sua sponte his section 2-1401 petition; (2) his section 2-1401 petition is not frivolous or without merit because (a) his trial counsel fraudulently coerced him into stipulating to the psychiatric report that alleged he was sexually dangerous; and (b) his stipulation was based on his belief the Department of Corrections (DOC) would comply with the Act, and DOC has not because its preparer of socio-psychiatric reports is not qualified under the Act to render such reports; and (3) he was found not to be sexually dangerous less than a year before the August 2000 judgment. We affirm.

[10]   I. BACKGROUND

[11]   In October 1999, the State charged defendant with aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-16(c)(1)(i) (West 1998)). In January 2000, the State filed a petition to proceed under the Act. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the State's petition. After a hearing, the trial court allowed the State to file a petition under the Act and ordered defendant to be examined by two psychiatrists, Dr. Joseph Bohlen and Dr. Terry Killian.

[12]   In June 2000, the State informed the trial court the two psychiatrists had found defendant not to be a sexually dangerous person. The State also noted defendant was arrested on new matters, and the State sought a court-ordered reexamination of defendant by the two psychiatrists. The trial court granted the State's motion for reexamination, observing the new charges against defendant were similar to his pending criminal case. People v. Bramlett, 329 Ill. App. 3d 286, 288, 767 N.E.2d 961, 963 (2002).

[13]   In July 2000, the State filed an amended petition to proceed under the Act. On August 2, 2000, the trial court conducted a hearing on the State's petition to proceed under the Act. At the hearing, defendant stipulated to Dr. Killian's and Dr. Bohlen's reports, finding defendant was a sexually dangerous person. The court then found defendant was a sexually dangerous person as defined by the Act, dismissed without prejudice the aggravated-criminal-sexual-abuse charge, and ordered defendant committed to DOC's custody for care and treatment.

[14]   Defendant appealed the trial court's judgment, asserting the court erred in allowing him to stipulate to evidence that established he was a sexually dangerous person without first admonishing him pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 402 (177 Ill. 2d R. 402) to determine the voluntariness of his stipulation. Bramlett, 329 Ill. App. 3d at 287-88, 767 N.E.2d at 963. In April 2002, this court affirmed the trial court's judgment. Bramlett, 329 Ill. App. 3d 286, 767 N.E.2d 961. Defendant then filed a petition for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Illinois, which was denied in October 2002. People v. Bramlett, 201 Ill. 2d 579, 786 N.E.2d 188 (2002).

[15]   On August 7, 2002, defendant filed a section 2-1401 petition (which he mailed on August 2, 2002), requesting the trial court to set aside its August 2000 judgment because (1) his trial counsel fraudulently coerced him into stipulating to the psychiatric reports to avoid presenting a defense, and (2) he believed his evaluations would be performed by qualified staff as mandated by the Act. That same month, the court dismissed sua sponte defendant's petition, finding (1) defendant could have raised his allegations in his appeal, and (2) his petition was frivolous and without merit.

[16]   In September 2002, defendant filed a motion to reconsider the trial court's dismissal. In August 2003, the court denied defendant's motion. This appeal followed.

[17]   II. ANALYSIS

[18]   A. The Trial Court's Authority To Dismiss Sua Sponte Defendant's Section 2-1401 Petition

[19]   Defendant first argues the trial court did not have the authority to dismiss sua sponte his section 2-1401 petition. We disagree.

[20]   Since defendant has raised a question of law, our review is de novo. See Berryman Transfer & Storage Co. v. New Prime, Inc., 345 Ill. App. ...


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