Appeal from the Circuit Court of Perry County. No. 10-CF-84 Honorable Richard A. Aguirre, Judge, presiding.
Attorney for Appellant Charles H. Stegmeyer, Stegmeyer & Stegmeyer, Ltd.
Attorneys for Appellee Hon. David Stanton, State's Attorney, Perry County Courthouse, Patrick Delfino, Director, Stephen E. Norris, Deputy Director, Sharon Shanahan, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate.
JUSTICE STEWART delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Spomer and Cates concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Bruce D. Stewart, J.
¶ 1 On November 24, 2010, the State charged the defendant, Robbie Mueller, with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of home invasion, one count of residential burglary, one count of kidnapping, and one count of concealment of a homicidal death. On September 13, 2012, the parties appeared in court and the State filed an amended information charging the defendant with first-degree murder (accountability) in violation of section 9-1(a)(1) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2010)). The State informed the court that the parties were prepared to enter into a stipulated bench trial. The following colloquy took place:
"THE COURT: Okay. So what you gentlemen call a stipulated bench trial, the Court is going to call a stipulation that the facts are sufficient to convict. Is that correct?
MR. STEGMEYER [defense counsel]: That is absolutely correct."
¶ 2 Before the trial court accepted the stipulation, the court admonished the defendant in accordance with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402 (eff. July 1, 2012). The court explained to the defendant that he had the constitutional right to confront his accusers, but that if he stipulated that there was evidence sufficient to convict, no witnesses would be brought in and there would "not be a trial of any kind." He stated that he understood. The trial court further informed the defendant:
"All you're simply saying with this particular type of proceeding [is] that, Judge, the evidence is sufficient to convict me. I am not contesting that. I am giving up my rights that I would have to do that. You have already waived your right to a trial by jury and you understand that. So that's not a factor any more but you would be waiving it now, if nothing else. Do you understand that?" The defendant stated that he understood.
¶ 3 The court asked the defendant if anybody threatened or forced him into entering this proceeding to stipulate to the court that there was evidence sufficient to convict him. He stated, "Absolutely not." The defendant agreed that his stipulation was of his own free will because he thought it was the best thing for him to do under the circumstances.
¶ 4 The court explained that previous motions had been denied including a motion to suppress the defendant's statement. The court stated: "So the only purpose of this proceeding would be to preserve your right to appeal those points. Do you understand that?" The defendant stated that he did. The court told the defendant that if he did not appeal any of those points within 30 days of the sentence, he would have 30 days from that date to ask the court to vacate the sentence and allow him to go to trial. If his motion to vacate was denied, he would have 30 days to appeal. The court told him, "The point being that if you didn't follow this procedure, you would lose the right to appeal which was the purpose of this proceeding." The defendant indicated that he understood.
¶ 5 The State informed the court that the stipulation included an agreement that digital and written copies of the statement the defendant gave to police and that was the subject of the motion to suppress be entered into the record under seal. The State presented the court with a nine-page statement of facts signed by the State, the defendant, and defense counsel.
¶ 6 The State gave the following summary of the stipulated facts "sufficient for the Court to find the defendant guilty this day." On July 25, 2010, the body of a young female was found floating near the Beaucoup Bridge south of Pinckneyville, Illinois. The body was later determined to be that of 15-year-old Sidnee Stephens. An investigation ensued that led the police to interview Carl Dane. Mr. Dane confessed to the murder and said that James Glazier and the defendant were also involved. Mr. Glazier was interviewed, and he admitted his involvement and stated that the defendant was also present. The defendant was brought in for questioning. His mother accompanied him. During the interview, after denying culpability and after being read his Miranda rights, the defendant admitted that he was present when the victim was killed. He admitted that he was with Mr. Dane and Mr. Glazier when they went inside the victim's home, wrestled with her, choked her until she passed out, dragged her outside, put her in a vehicle, and drove her to the Beaucoup Bridge where they pushed her into the creek. The court reviewed the statement of facts and asked the defendant whether he had the opportunity to ...