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People v. Brown

April 22, 2004


[6] Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 01CF986 Honorable Arnold F. Blockman, Judge Presiding.

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

[8]  Eager Brown appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 through 122-8 (West 2002)). We affirm.


[10]   Police bearing a warrant searched Brown's house in Champaign on June 25, 2001, and found 13.1 grams of crack cocaine in Brown's pocket. Brown received Miranda warnings (see Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966)), waived his rights, and admitted that he sold crack to approximately five regular customers to cover his living expenses.

[11]   On September 13, 2001, Brown pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver within 1,000 feet of a public park (720 ILCS 570/407(b)(1) (West 2002)), a Class X offense. Before accepting his plea, the trial court admonished him of his right to plead not guilty and to have a trial either by a jury or by the court. The court stated what Brown was charged with, informed him of the possible penalties, and confirmed that he was pleading guilty of his own free will, not because of threats or force applied by anyone.

[12]   The trial court then heard the factual basis for the plea and asked whether the plea had been negotiated. The assistant State's Attorney and Brown's attorney agreed that Brown was pleading guilty in exchange for a sentence of 12 years in prison, with credit for 101 days already served. In addition, Brown was to pay miscellaneous fines and fees. Brown concurred that this was the agreement that had been made. Finally, the court asked Brown whether any other promises or conditions were associated with the plea, and he responded that there were not. Brown then persisted in pleading guilty.

[13]   The trial court had earlier instructed a group of three defendants, with Brown present, on their rights under Supreme Court Rule 605 (188 Ill. 2d R. 605) (effective November 1, 2000). The court stated:

[14]   "[Y]ou do have the right, if you wish to, to ask to attempt to withdraw the guilty plea that you have entered into today. If you wish to attempt to do that, you will have to file a motion, in writing, with the clerk of the court within the next thirty days. That motion would have to state all of the errors that occurred in taking your plea here today. Any errors left out of that motion, you give it up forever and cannot rely on it later. In that motion, if it's allowed, any matters that were dismissed could be reinstated and this matter could be reinstated and you could have a trial on everything. If the motion was denied, you could appeal this matter."

[15]   Following Brown's plea, the court asked him if he had heard the above instructions, and Brown replied that he had.

[16]   Brown never did attempt to withdraw his guilty plea or to file a direct appeal. Assisted by an attorney, on March 19, 2002, he filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he had not voluntarily pled guilty. According to the petition, the plea was "the product of force and duress" because his trial lawyer did not adequately inform him of his options, did not negotiate with the prosecution, falsely informed him that he could not move to reconsider the sentence, and did not explain to him how the location enhancement for proximity to a public park operated.

[17]   On April 2, 2002, the circuit court dismissed this petition as frivolous or patently without merit, on the grounds that (1) the issue raised had been waived and (2) in any case, the record showed that the plea had been voluntary.


[19]   Brown appeals and raises several new arguments. He claims that his right to due process was violated because he did not receive proper admonishment of his right to appeal under Supreme Court Rule 605(b) and that he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel in various ways. In addition, he argues that he was denied reasonable assistance of post-conviction counsel because she did not raise the issue that his trial counsel was ineffective.

[20]   We begin by addressing the circuit court's decision to dismiss the petition as it was submitted. The court may summarily dismiss a post-conviction petition if it fails to raise the gist of a constitutional claim. People v. Edwards, 197 Ill. 2d 239, 244, 757 N.E.2d 442, 445 (2001). In making this determination, the court may consider the file of the original proceeding and may dismiss if the record positively rebuts the allegations in the petition. 725 ILCS 5/122-2.1(c) (West 2002); People v. Little, 335 Ill. App. 3d 1046, 1051, 782 N.E.2d 957, 962 (2003). In addition, because the Act is not designed to serve as a method of appeal (People v. Scott, 194 Ill. 2d 268, 273, 742 N.E.2d 287, 291 (2000)), a petitioner may therefore raise only those "'constitutional matters ...

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