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People v. York

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

November 7, 2016

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL E. YORK, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Fayette County No. 07-CF-153 Honorable James L. Roberts, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Ellen J. Curry, Deputy Defender, Alexander G. Muntges, Assistant Appellate Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Fifth Judicial District

          Attorneys for Appellee Hon. Joshua Morrison, State's Attorney, Fayette County Courthouse, Patrick Delfino, Director, David J. Robinson, Deputy Director, Luke McNeill, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor

          JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Stewart and Cates concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          CHAPMAN JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 This appeal involves a provision of the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 2012)) which allows a defendant to voluntarily withdraw his petition (725 ILCS 5/122-5 (West 2012)). The statute does not specify when a petitioner who voluntarily withdraws his petition may refile it. The defendant in this case voluntarily withdrew his petition after it was docketed for second-stage proceedings. Sixteen months later, he filed a new pro se petition, raising the same issue he raised in his earlier petition and asking the court to "set aside the withdrawal" of his earlier petition. The trial court summarily dismissed the petition, providing two alternative bases for its ruling: (1) if viewed as a successive petition, the court found that the defendant did not allege facts establishing cause and prejudice and (2) if viewed as a nonsuccessive petition, the court found that it was not filed timely. The defendant appeals, arguing that (1) the petition is not a successive petition and (2) the court erred in dismissing it at the first stage on the basis of untimeliness. We reverse.

         ¶ 2 On November 1, 2007, the State filed a two-count information charging the defendant with one count each of intentional homicide of an unborn child (720 ILCS 5/9-1.2(a)(1) (West 2006)) and aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(11) (West 2006)). The charges stemmed from the beating of the defendant's pregnant girlfriend, Krystal Heggie. The baby was born alive, but died a few days later. On July 17, 2008, the State filed an amended information charging the defendant with first degree murder in the death of the baby, Malayna Heggie York, and adding a charge of aggravated battery under an alternative theory (720 ILCS 5/12-4(a) (West 2006)).

         ¶ 3 On October 2, 2008, a jury found the defendant guilty of first degree murder and aggravated battery. On October 29, the defendant filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial. He raised numerous issues. In relevant part, he argued that (1) trial counsel was operating under a per se conflict of interest because he previously represented the victim, Krystal Heggie, on a misdemeanor charge and (2) the amended information filed in July 2008 ran afoul of compulsory joinder rules and violated the defendant's right to a speedy trial.

         ¶ 4 On November 17, 2008, the court held a sentencing hearing. The defendant's attorney, Edwin Potter, informed the court that the parties had agreed to a sentencing recommendation in exchange for "certain waivers and stipulations." The prosecutor explained that the State would recommend sentences of 20 years on the murder charge and 5 years on the aggravated battery charge, to be served consecutively. In exchange for this recommendation, the defendant agreed to withdraw his pending posttrial motion and waive his right to an appeal. Defense counsel Potter noted that the State also agreed to have various court costs, fees, and fines that the defendant owed in both this case and prior cases dismissed or declared uncollectible.

         ¶ 5 Before accepting the sentencing agreement, the court addressed the defendant. The court first discussed with the defendant each of the 10 claims of error raised in his posttrial motion. One of the 10 claims, as previously noted, was the defendant's contention that Potter operated under a conflict of interest due to his previous representation of Heggie. The court asked the defendant if he understood each of the claims he was withdrawing. The defendant indicated that he was previously informed that Potter had represented Heggie in the past. He further indicated that he understood each of the claims raised in the motion, and he acknowledged that he was agreeing to withdraw them.

         ¶ 6 The court then revisited the conflict of interest question, asking the defendant if he wanted Potter to continue to represent him in light of the conflict. The defendant indicated that he did want Potter to continue to represent him.

         ¶ 7 Finally, the court discussed the sentencing agreement itself with the defendant. The court noted that the agreement called for the State to waive approximately $700 in fees and fines. The defendant informed the court that he owed $2300. Asked if he understood the recommended sentence under the agreement, the defendant told the court that prior to the hearing, he was under the impression that the two sentences would be served concurrently rather than consecutively. However, he indicated that he wanted to accept the agreement anyway, explaining that "it was just a bad situation, and I just want it to be over with." The court accepted the sentencing agreement and entered a written order of conviction the same day.

         ¶ 8 On November 26, 2008, the defendant sent a letter to the court stating that he wanted to withdraw the sentencing agreement "due to the fact that Edwin Potter should not have represented [him] in the first place." On December 10, the defendant filed a pro se motion for reduction of sentence, asking the court to order the two sentences to be served concurrently rather than consecutively. On the same day, he filed a pro se motion to vacate the sentencing agreement, arguing that he agreed to it after being advised to do so by an attorney operating under a conflict of interest. The court appointed a new attorney to represent the defendant and docketed the matter for further proceedings. On January 30, 2009, however, the defendant withdrew the motions.

         ¶ 9 On November 2, 2011, the defendant filed his original pro se postconviction petition, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The defendant asserted that his trial counsel was under a conflict of interest due to his prior representation of the victim. The defendant further alleged that counsel talked him into the sentencing agreement by telling him that if he did not take the agreement, he would be sentenced to 40 years in prison, and that if he appealed, ...


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