Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 07CF194 Honorable Scott Drazewski, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann
JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Appleton concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Cook specially concurred, with opinion.
¶ 1 In this case, we are asked to determine whether defense counsel is ineffective when he rejects a defendant's directive that counsel serve essentially as merely the defendant's conduit during guilty-plea negotiations. We conclude that he is not, given that a criminal defendant's role in guilty-plea negotiations when he is represented by counsel is limited to accepting or rejecting the agreement for a guilty plea that defense counsel and the prosecutor have reached.
¶ 2 In February 2007, the State charged defendant, Alfred D. Robinson, with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570/402(a)(2)(B) (West 2006)) and unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 570/401(a)(2)(B) (West 2006)). In April 2007, the State charged defendant with unlawful possession of cannabis (720 ILCS 550/4(b) (West 2006)). Following an August 2007 trial, a jury found defendant guilty of all three charges, and the trial court later sentenced him to 12 years in prison. Defendant appealed, and this court affirmed. People v. Robinson, No. 4-07-0899 (Mar. 3, 2009) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).
¶ 3 In August 2009, defendant pro se filed a petition under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 to 122-8 (West 2008)), complaining, in pertinent part, that he was denied his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel when his attorney, Terry Dodds, failed to communicate to the State his desire to accept the State's guilty-plea offer. After advancing defendant's petition to the second stage of post-conviction proceedings, the trial court granted the State's motion to dismiss.
¶ 4 Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) the trial court erred by dismissing his post-conviction petition because he was denied the effective assistance of trial counsel, given that Dodds failed to communicate his desire to accept the State's guilty-plea offer, and (2) he should be afforded a new hearing because his post-conviction counsel provided unreasonable assistance by failing to adequately present his pro se post-conviction assertions. We disagree and affirm.
¶ 6 In February 2007, defendant was traveling on Interstate 55 in a vehicle driven by his cousin. Illinois State Police Officer Brandon Smick initiated a traffic stop after observing the vehicle speeding and swerving. During the stop, Smick discovered an outstanding warrant for defendant's arrest. Shortly thereafter, a canine unit arrived to assist Smick. After walking around the vehicle, the canine indicated that narcotics were present. While searching the vehicle, the officers discovered 249.9 grams of cocaine and 2.6 grams of cannabis.
¶ 7 The State thereafter charged defendant with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570/402(a)(2)(B) (West 2006)) and unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 570/401(a)(2)(B) (West 2006)). At a March 2007 status hearing, Dodds explained to the trial court that the State had "extended an offer" and that he required a continuance in order to discuss that offer with defendant.
¶ 8 In April 2007, the State charged defendant with unlawful possession of cannabis (720 ILCS 550/4(b) (West 2006)). At a status hearing held shortly thereafter, the State sought a trial date because it had made "six different offers," which defendant had rejected, adding that there were "no ongoing negotiations."
¶ 9 At the July 23, 2007, status hearing, the trial court inquired into the status of the parties' ongoing guilty-plea negotiations, as follows:
"THE COURT: Is the [S]tate proceeding on all three counts?
THE COURT: And although it is inferentially People versus Curry related, can you tell me, [prosecutor], if an offer, without specifying what the offer is, if an offer has been made for a disposition other than a conviction upon the most serious offense, that being a Class X felony.
[PROSECUTOR]: Previously, previously on multiple occasions, let's see, five occasions there was, but there is not one today.
THE COURT: So that's been withdrawn by the [S]tate? [PROSECUTOR]: Correct.
THE COURT: All right. Just to confirm, this is primarily to go ahead and protect your attorney, that being Mr. Dodds, at a later point in time for being challenged by you, [defendant], that he didn't tell you what at this point in time, do I assume that Mr. Dodds has-are you aware of what the potential penalties are for that, for the most serious of the offer with intent to deliver?
The court thereafter explained on the record the potential penalties for the charges that defendant was facing. The court then inquired into defendant's desire to proceed, as follows:
"THE COURT: Okay. And knowing that, is it still your desire then to proceed to trial?
THE DEFENDANT: No, I have attempted to accept the
[S]tate's offer of eight years, but it has been declined.
THE COURT: Well, apparently that offer isn't there any more and so I cannot nor will I get involved in negotiations, but basically, at this point in ...