from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will
County, Illinois, Circuit No. 10-CF-2408 Honorable Amy
Bertani-Tomczak, Judge, Presiding.
O'BRIEN JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justice Carter concurred in the judgment and
opinion. Justice Schmidt dissented, with opinion.
1 Defendant, Paul J. Evans III, pled guilty to home invasion
(720 ILCS 5/12-11(a)(1) (West 2010)) and was sentenced to a
term of 12 years' imprisonment. Defendant has tried to
challenge that sentence as excessive through a postsentencing
motion numerous times, but each time this court has remanded
the matter on appeal either because defense counsel failed to
strictly comply with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (eff.
Mar. 8, 2016) or on jurisdictional grounds. Following our
latest remand, the trial court again denied defendant's
motion to reduce sentence. On this appeal, defendant once
again argues that his attorney failed to strictly comply with
Rule 604(d). Once again, we agree with defendant and must
remand the matter for strict compliance with that rule.
3 Defendant entered an open plea of guilty to one count of
home invasion in exchange for the nolle prosequi of
the remaining charges. On November 16, 2011, the trial court
sentenced defendant to a term of 12 years' imprisonment.
The court also made a finding of great bodily harm, in turn
ordering that defendant serve 85% of his sentence.
4 Defendant filed a motion to reconsider sentence on December
1, 2011. This motion to reconsider sentence would be the
first of three such motions filed in a two-year span. Each
time, the trial court denied the motion, and defendant
appealed. On each appeal, this court remanded the matter
because counsel had not strictly complied with the
certification requirements of Rule 604(d). See People v.
Evans, 2015 IL App (3d) 140753, ¶¶ 4-7
(providing detailed procedural history).
5 On September 25, 2014, following this court's third
remand for Rule 604(d) compliance, but prior to this
court's mandate being issued, defense counsel filed a new
motion to reconsider sentence and a Rule 604(d) certificate.
In that filing, counsel certified, inter alia:
"Counsel has examined the Trial Court file and report of
proceedings of the plea of guilty and was the original
counsel at both the plea and the sentencing hearing."
The trial court denied the motion prior to the issuance of
6 This court subsequently held that the trial court was
without jurisdiction to rule on the motion (id.
¶ 14) because the mandate from this court had not yet
issued. The trial court's decision was void and therefore
vacated. Id. ¶¶ 14, 17.
7 On January 8, 2016, defense counsel filed-for the fifth
time-a motion to reconsider sentence and a Rule 604(d)
certificate. In this certificate, as in the fourth
certificate, defense counsel certified: "Counsel has
examined the Trial Court file and report of proceedings of
the plea of guilty and was the original counsel at both the
plea and the sentencing hearing." The trial court denied
9 On this appeal, defendant argues that counsel has, once
again, failed to strictly comply with the certification
requirements of Rule 604(d). Defendant contends that strict
compliance with the rule is mandatory and that the matter
should therefore be remanded for such compliance. The State
argues that defense counsel was not required to file a Rule
604(d) certificate at all. Alternatively, the State argues
that defendant has already received a full and fair hearing
accompanied by a compliant certificate and that remand is
therefore not necessary.
10 I. Certification Requirement Under Rule 604(d)
11 Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016)
governs the procedures to be followed where a defendant
wishes to appeal after pleading guilty. The rule, in its
current form, mandates that defendants who entered an open
guilty plea and wish to challenge the ensuing sentence must
file a motion to reconsider sentence within 30 days of the
imposition of the sentence. Id. Defendants who
entered a negotiated guilty plea must file a ...