Regardless of defendant’s attempt to preserve a defense and the trial court’s acknowledgement that the purpose of defendant’s stipulated bench trial was to preserve defendant’s right to appeal certain issues, the stipulated bench trial was tantamount to a guilty plea when defendant stipulated that the evidence was sufficient to convict, since the stipulation that the evidence was sufficient to convict transformed the stipulated bench trial into a guilty plea, all nonjurisdictional issues were waived, and defendant could not raise claims relating to the deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred prior to the entry of the guilty plea.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Perry County, No. 10-CF-84; the Hon. Richard A. Aguirre, Judge, presiding
Charles H. Stegmeyer, of Stegmeyer & Stegmeyer, Ltd., of Belleville, for appellant.
David Stanton, State's Attorney, of Pinckneyville (Patrick Delfino, Stephen E. Norris, and Sharon Shanahan, all of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE STEWART delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Spomer and Cates concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 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 ...