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The People of the State of Illinois v. Ashwani K. Shamlodhiya

February 26, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ASHWANI K. SHAMLODHIYA,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 01-CF-2665 Honorable George J. Bakalis, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hudson

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

Presiding Justice Burke and Justice McLaren concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 I. INTRODUCTION

¶ 2 Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Du Page County, defendant, Ashwani K. Shamlodhiya, was convicted of first-degree murder and residential arson. Defendant filed a post-conviction petition, raising a number of issues. See 725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 2008). The trial court summarily dismissed the petition, and this court reversed (People v. Shamlodhiya, No. 2-08-0449 (2007) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23)). Following remand, the trial court dismissed a number of defendant's claims following second-stage post-conviction proceedings. See People v. Tate, 2012 IL 112214, ¶ 10. One claim proceeded to the third stage (see id.), after which the trial court denied defendant's petition. Defendant now appeals, raising two issues. First, he contends that his attorneys' failure to disclose to him that they would not argue for the lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter rendered him incapable of making a knowing decision regarding whether to seek a second-degree murder conviction in a bench trial (the trial judge believed second-degree murder would be an appropriate result). Second, he argues that during closing argument his attorney, without consulting him, effectively abandoned his request that the jury consider involuntary manslaughter. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

¶ 3 II. BACKGROUND

¶ 4 The full factual background of this case is set forth in an earlier order (People v. Shamlodhiya, No. 2-05-0200 (2007) (unpublished order under Supreme Rule 23)), and we will not restate it here. Instead, as the issues defendant raises are somewhat narrow, we will set forth only those facts necessary to resolve these issues. Both issues pertain to trial counsel's closing argument.

¶ 5 In 2004, defendant was tried on several counts of residential arson and murder. He was found guilty of arson, but the jury could not arrive at a verdict on the various murder counts. The trial court declared a mistrial. The parties contemplated a bench trial on stipulated evidence. Subsequently, defendant was retried before another jury. During the instruction conference of the second trial, defense counsel requested the trial court to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter. Defendant participated in this decision. Defendant responded affirmatively when the trial court asked whether he wished to decline an instruction on second-degree murder. The trial court abided by defendant's wishes, giving the former instruction but not the latter.

¶ 6 During closing argument, defense counsel addressed involuntary manslaughter as follows:

"[The j]udge will give you the choice of looking at involuntary manslaughter and deciding whether or not that is the charge that [defendant] is truly guilty of.

I consider that a compromised verdict. This has been a trial of self defense. We started with self defense and we are ending with self defense, because that is the truth; and every piece of physical evidence from the hinges on the door to the money in the gas tank, the rice cooker to the fact that the cooker was plugged in supports [defendant's] version of what occurred; and that is self defense.

Now, the State may try to argue to you yet, but the evidence still supports involuntary manslaughter. They may argue, why don't you compromise? We are not ...


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