Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00 CR 7694 Honorable Charles P. Burns, Judge Presiding.
Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice Delort concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 This appeal arises from a June 21, 2010 order entered by the circuit court of Cook County, which denied defendant-appellant Lawrence Wideman (Wideman) leave to file his successive postconviction petition. On appeal, Wideman argues that he properly raised a claim of actual innocence pursuant to section 122-1 of the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (the Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 (West 2010)). For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.
¶ 2 BACKGROUND
¶ 3 Following a jury trial, Wideman was convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery, and was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 43 years and 10 years, respectively. Wideman and codefendants Frad Muhammad (Muhammad), Marvin Treadwell (Treadwell), and Jovan Mosley (Mosley), were charged with first-degree murder for allegedly beating and bludgeoning Howard Thomas (the victim) to death on or about August 6, 1999, in the course of robbing him of money and a beverage.
¶ 4 The evidence at Wideman's trial showed that a group of young men, including Wideman and his codefendants, attacked the victim. Codefendant Muhammad repeatedly struck the victim with a baseball bat. While the victim was on the ground, the other men kicked him. The group then fled, leaving the victim severely wounded on the ground. The victim's autopsy found multiple broken bones, cerebral hemorrhages, and a torn kidney among his injuries. While several witnesses heard and/or saw the attack, only one witness identified Wideman as participating in the attack. Another witness identified codefendant Treadwell as one of the men kicking the victim, but could not identify Wideman as one of the attackers though she had seen Wideman previously in the neighborhood. After his arrest, Wideman gave a statement admitting to participating in the attack, which was intended to be a robbery to obtain money to buy liquor. In his statement, Wideman admitted that after the attack, he and all the men in the group drank from a bottle of soda that the victim had been carrying. At trial, Wideman did not testify in his own behalf, and he presented no defense evidence beyond the stipulated testimony of a police detective regarding a police report.
¶ 5 On direct appeal, this court affirmed Wideman's conviction and sentence. This court rejected Wideman's arguments regarding his unsuccessful pretrial motions to: (1) quash arrest for lack of probable cause; and (2) suppress his postarrest statement for lack of Miranda warnings and for being involuntary. People v. Wideman, No. 1-05-1137 (2007) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).
¶ 6 Appellate court records show that codefendants Muhammad and Treadwell took direct appeals from their convictions in the instant case and that this court affirmed their convictions in both cases. People v. Muhammed, No. 1-06-0560 (Mar. 4, 2008) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23), appeal denied, 228 Ill.2d 546 (2008); People v. Treadwell, No. 1-06-0269 (2006) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).
¶ 7 On June 12, 2008, Wideman filed his initial pro se postconviction petition. Wideman alleged, in relevant part, that he was actually innocent. He noted that several people were charged with the instant offenses "with no specific determination as to who delivered the fatal blow" and that mere presence at a crime scene or knowledge that a crime is being committed is insufficient to find that a person aided or abetted the crime. The petition was supported on this point by Wideman's general self-verification of the petition. See 735 ILCS 5/1-109 (West 2010). On September 5, 2008, the circuit court summarily dismissed the petition. On February 12, 2008, Wideman filed a motion to reconsider. On March 11, 2009, the circuit court of Cook County denied the motion.
¶ 8 Wideman then filed a motion for leave to file a successive postconviction petition based on actual innocence. On January 27, 2010, the circuit court granted Wideman leave to file a successive petition solely on the claim of actual innocence "if support[ed] by documents attached."
¶ 9 On May 7, 2010, Wideman filed his pro se successive postconviction petition, claiming actual innocence on the basis that codefendants Muhammad and Treadwell would testify that Wideman was merely present at the scene of the instant offenses and did not participate. Wideman noted that the codefendants were not available as trial witnesses because their pending trials on the same charges would have caused them to invoke their fifth amendment right to refrain from self-incrimination. Attached to the petition were documents from Wideman, Muhammad, and Treadwell making detailed averments regarding the events in question. The undated documents were titled affidavits, and each document was signed and had a self-verification pursuant to section 1-109 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/1-109 (West 2010)). None of the documents were notarized.
¶ 10 On June 21, 2010, the circuit court denied Wideman leave to file his petition. The court found that the purported newly discovered evidence of actual innocence did not qualify as such because the documents from Wideman, Muhammad, and Treadwell purporting to be affidavits were not notarized and thus did not constitute valid affidavits. On July 13, 2010, Wideman filed a timely notice of appeal. Therefore, this court has jurisdiction to consider ...