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People v. Gatlin

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division

June 8, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
GEORGE GATLIN, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Nos. 14 CR 4615 14 CR 4616 The Honorable Joseph M. Claps, Judge, presiding.

          JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Ellis and Justice McBride concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          BURKE JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Following a bench trial, which joined together two of his separate, but related, criminal cases, defendant George Gatlin was found guilty of aggravated battery in case number 14 CR 4615 and aggravated battery in case number 14 CR 4616. The trial court subsequently sentenced him to concurrent terms of four years' imprisonment. On appeal, defendant contends that (1) his right to a jury trial was violated in both cases because the trial court failed to adequately ensure he made a knowing waiver of this right and (2) even if the trial court adequately ensured that he knowingly waived his right to a jury trial, that waiver only applied to case number 14 CR 4616 and not to case number 14 CR 4615. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand for a new trial in case number 14 CR 4615, but affirm defendant's conviction in case number 14 CR 4616.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On March 17, 2014, the State charged defendant in case number 14 CR 4615 with aggravated battery and unlawful restraint for his alleged actions against Migdalia Castro. That same day, in case number 14 CR 4616, the State charged defendant with robbery, aggravated battery, and unlawful restraint for his alleged actions against Chauncey Roberts. All of the charges against defendant were in connection with a series of incidents occurring on February 23, 2014.

         ¶ 4 Defendant's arraignment in both cases occurred on March 25, 2014. The court read the charges against him in case number 14 CR 4615, and after it read the charges against him in case number 14 CR 4616, the court informed him that the charges were "Class 2, 3 and 4 offenses for which [he had] the right to a trial, a right [to] a trial by a jury." Defendant asked the court to repeat the charges against him in case number 14 CR 4616. After doing so, the court again told him that "[t]hese are charges for which you have a right to a trial, a right to trial by jury. Do you know what a trial by jury is?" Defendant replied, "[y]es, sir." The court continued the matter.

         ¶ 5 At the next court date, the State elected to proceed on case number 14 CR 4616. At subsequent court dates, the parties discussed various matters, including outstanding discovery. On August 14, 2014, the trial court set case number 14 CR 4616 for a bench trial and continued case number 14 CR 4615 for a status date, both for September 30, 2014.

         ¶ 6 On September 30, 2014, the parties appeared in court, and the following colloquy occurred:

"THE COURT: Are we ready? This case is set for trial, [defendant]. Do you want a trial by jury or a trial by judge?
THE DEFENDANT: Trial by judge.
THE COURT: Okay. You know what a trial by jury is?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Your desire at this time is to waive your trial by jury and have me hear this case?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Is this your signature on the document entitled ...

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