Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 06CF931 Honorable Scott Drazewski, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Knecht
Carla Bender 4th District Appellate
JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Steigmann and Justice Holder White concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Defendant was convicted of two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and sentenced to concurrent 11-year prison terms. This court affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences. In February 2009, defendant filed a pro se post-conviction petition. In September 2010, defendant filed a motion for discovery. In May 2011, the trial court denied defendant's motion for discovery based on the belief discovery was not allowed in post-conviction proceedings. In December 2011, an evidentiary hearing was held on defendant's remaining post-conviction claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Because defendant failed to present any evidence at the hearing, the trial court dismissed his post-conviction petition.
¶ 2 Defendant appeals, arguing the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his discovery request because it failed to recognize it had the discretion to grant defendant's request for discovery. We remand for the limited purpose of allowing the trial court to exercise its discretion on defendant's discovery request and for such further proceedings as may be warranted.
¶ 4 Following a December 2006 jury trial, defendant, Andrew Pinkston, was convicted of two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570/401(d)(i) (West 2006)). In January 2007, defendant was sentenced to concurrent 11-year terms of imprisonment. This court affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences on direct appeal. People v. Pinkston, No. 4-07-0399 (Aug. 14, 2008) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).
¶ 5 In February 2009, defendant filed a pro se post-conviction petition, raising multiple claims, including that the State improperly withheld discovery information relating to payments made to an informant, the State's key witness, in his case. During a March 2010 hearing on the State's motion to dismiss defendant's post-conviction petition, the court dismissed all but one of defendant's claims on the grounds they were either meritless, forfeited, or barred by res judicata. The only issue allowed to proceed to a third-stage evidentiary hearing concerned whether trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate or call key witnesses who had exonerating information to support defendant's claim of innocence.
¶ 6 In September 2010, defendant filed a motion for discovery. The discovery motion contained numerous requests, including a request for the Bloomington police department and the Illinois State Police to disclose any reports made by the State's witnesses, as well as any promises, rewards, or threats made by the State to any witnesses. Additionally, the motion requested the records of all other proceedings or trials the State's witnesses had participated in, any records of their drug or alcohol treatment, records of any funds paid to the witnesses, exculpatory information, records of any substance testing done on the witnesses, and any other material pertaining to defendant's case.
¶ 7 During a May 2011 hearing, the trial court denied defendant's motion for discovery, informing defendant "There's no discovery that is contemplated in a post-conviction petition." When defendant asked the court to repeat itself, the court responded, "Discovery is not available in a post-conviction petition." Defendant repeated the statement as a query to the court, asking, "Discovery is not available in a post-conviction petition?" The court responded, "Correct." The court later reiterated, "As I've already said, there is no discovery process that is contemplated or provided for in the Post-Conviction Act." Defendant stated he understood the court's ruling, but "hate[d] to make a claim without having proof of the facts." The court again reiterated discovery is "not provided for by way of the statute."
¶ 8 During a December 2011 evidentiary hearing on his post-conviction issue, defendant informed the trial court he was not ready to proceed and sought a continuance. The court denied defendant's request. Because defendant failed to examine either of his attorneys who were present at the hearing or present any other evidence, the State sought a directed judgment, which the court granted.