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The People of the State of Illinois v. Steven Couch

June 15, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
STEVEN COUCH,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County No. 05CF503 Honorable Craig H. DeArmond, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Knecht

JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Turner concurred.

Justice Steigmann specially concurred, with opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 In December 2009, defendant, Steven Couch, pro se filed a petition under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 to 122-8 (West 2008)), asserting he was denied his right to a fair trial because the trial judge, Judge Claudia Anderson, was biased against him, given that (1) as a youth he had fought with the trial judge's stepson and (2) his mother had publicly condemned the trial judge for having an affair with a married man. Defendant further asserted the trial judge sentenced him based upon facts that she obtained from her current husband, "Glen Anderson." In March 2010, the trial court dismissed defendant's petition at the first stage of post-conviction proceedings as frivolous and patently without merit based on the fact the trial judge in question did not have a stepson and was not married to Glen Anderson.

¶ 2 Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by dismissing his post-conviction petition at the first stage because the trial court failed to accept his assertions. Defendant contends that (1) those assertions, if true, would establish the gist of a constitutional claim, and (2) the court was required to accept them as true at the first stage of post-conviction proceedings. We disagree and affirm.

¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 4 In August 2005, the State charged defendant with (1) criminal drug conspiracy (720 ILCS 570/405.1 (West 2004)), (2) three counts of delivery of a controlled substance (15 grams or more but less than 100 grams of a substance containing cocaine) (720 ILCS 570/401(a)(2)(A) (West 2004)), and (3) delivery of cannabis (more than 30 grams but not more than 500 grams of a substance containing cannabis) (720 ILCS 550/5(d) (West 2004)). The jury convicted defendant on all counts. Following a September 2007 sentencing hearing, the trial court, Judge Claudia Anderson, sentenced defendant to (1) concurrent prison terms of 26, 5, and 20 years on three counts, and (2) 20 years in prison on a separate count, which the court ordered to be served consecutively to his 26-year prison sentence.

¶ 5 Defendant appealed, arguing only Judge Anderson (1) erred by not instructing the jury on the affirmative defense of entrapment and (2) abused her discretion by imposing consecutive sentences. In People v. Couch, 387 Ill. App. 3d 437, 438, 899 N.E.2d 618, 619 (2008), we rejected defendant's contentions and affirmed.

¶ 6 In December 2009, defendant pro se filed a post-conviction petition, asserting, in pertinent part, he was denied his right to a fair trial because Judge Anderson was biased against him, given that (1) as a youth he fought with Judge Anderson's stepson and (2) his mother had publicly condemned Judge Anderson for having an affair with a married man. Defendant further asserted that Judge Anderson sentenced him based upon facts that she obtained from her current husband, Glen Anderson. In March 2010, Judge Craig H. DeArmond dismissed defendant's petition at the first stage of post-conviction proceedings, explaining as follows:

"5. [Defendant's] post[]conviction petition includes allegations against [Judge Anderson] which are known to be false since they allegedly involve [Judge Anderson's] 'stepson'. This Court has known [Judge Anderson] for over 35 years and knows she has no stepson. He alleges [that she was] previous[ly] marri[ed] to one 'John Smith'. This Court is aware Judge Anderson is still married to the only person she has ever been married to and his name is not John Smith. [Defendant] identifies her current husband as Glen Anderson[,] which is not the name of [her] husband.

6. As a result, all of the allegations against [Judge

Anderson] based on some perceived bias or prejudice because of the false statements regarding her family relationships and [defendant's] alleged involvement in those relationships are frivolous and patently without merit.

9. [Defendant's] claims about information dehors the record which may have impacted his sentence are based upon nonexistent sources since they purport to come from someone who does not exist, ...


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