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The People of the State of Illinois v. Rolando Guerrero

February 17, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Karmeier

JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 The issue presented in this appeal is whether the defendant, Rolando Guerrero, demonstrated cause and prejudice under section 122-1(f) of the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1(f) (West 2006)) sufficient to grant him leave to file a successive post-conviction petition. That petition claimed that his due process rights were violated because the trial court failed to admonish him regarding his term of mandatory supervised release (MSR) after the parties negotiated a 50-year prison sentence in exchange for his guilty plea to first degree murder, the trial court informed him that it was not bound by this agreement, and he was ultimately sentenced to a 50-year term. The circuit court of Will County denied defendant leave to file his successive post-conviction petition. A majority of the appellate court reversed, concluding that, because defendant established cause for his failure to raise the MSR issue at an earlier date and prejudice in that his plea was not knowingly and voluntarily made, his sentence should be reduced to 47 years' imprisonment to be followed by a term of 3 years' MSR. No. 3-07-0856 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We granted the State leave to appeal (Ill. S. Ct. R. 315(a) (eff. Feb. 26, 2010)), and for the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court and affirm the circuit court's judgment.


¶ 3 Defendant was charged by criminal complaint with first degree murder, which occurred on or about September 22, 1991. The grand jury of Will County thereafter returned a bill of indictment on October 16, 1991. On December 2, 1991, the parties appeared before the trial court and the State indicated that defendant would be pleading guilty to first degree murder in exchange for a recommendation of 50 years in the Department of Corrections. Defense counsel concurred with that representation to the court. The trial court then confirmed with the State that this was the extent of the negotiations.

¶ 4 The State presented an agreed factual basis to the trial court, after which the court advised defendant that first degree murder carried a minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum sentence of 60 years in the Department of Corrections and up to a $10,000 fine. On the record, defendant verbally indicated that he understood these penalties, whereafter the court verified that defendant understood that the court was not bound by the plea agreement. After further admonitions, defendant stated that he was pleading "Guilty" to the charge, which the court accepted. Prior to proceeding to sentencing, the trial court raised the necessity for a presentence investigation (PSI) report with counsel. The attorneys for the State and defense agreed to waive the preparation of a PSI report.

¶ 5 Defense counsel then stated as follows regarding defendant's criminal history:

"He is approximately sixteen and a half, at this time. He was previously adjudicated delinquent and sentenced to the Department of Corrections as a juvenile. That occurred shortly before this occurred. The mittimus was stayed. So he has a mittimus to juvenile D.O.C. for that offense. The mittimus should reflect that he will be sent to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Juvenile Division."

Thereafter, the court approved the plea negotiations and sentenced defendant to 50 years in the Department of Corrections. The parties agree that the trial court did not advise defendant regarding the statutorily required three years of MSR that would follow the period of imprisonment. Nor did the trial court's signed written judgment, entered on December 4, 1991, order or reference any term of MSR which defendant would have to serve.

¶ 6 Defendant filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief on October 27, 1994. The trial court dismissed that petition, and the dismissal was affirmed on appeal. People v. Guerrero, No. 3-95-0423 (1996) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). On December 21, 2006, defendant filed a pro se successive post-conviction petition which claimed, for the first time, that the trial court failed to properly admonish defendant at the time of his guilty plea that his sentence included a term of three years MSR and that, under People v. Whitfield, 217 Ill. 2d 177 (2005), he was therefore entitled to a three-year reduction in his prison sentence. Defendant averred in his petition that he learned that the trial court had erred and that MSR would be applied to his sentence after speaking to Ronald Whitfield, the subject of the Whitfield decision, while in prison.

¶ 7 Counsel was appointed and filed an amended post-conviction petition and a motion for leave to file the successive petition on May16, 2007. On October 22, 2007, the trial court held a hearing at which it heard testimony from defendant, including the following:

"MR. STRZELECKI [defense counsel] When did you first learn of the mandatory ...

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