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People v. Church

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

June 15, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ALBERT D. CHURCH, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Effingham County. No. 14-CF-25 Honorable Allan F. Lolie, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Ellen J. Curry, Deputy Defender, Ian C. Barnes, Assistant Appellate Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Fifth Judicial District, .

          Attorneys for Appellee Honorable Bryan M. Kibler, State's Attorney, Effingham County Government Center Patrick Delfino, Director, David J. Robinson, Acting Deputy Director, Patrick D. Daly, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor.

          JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Cates and Barberis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          GOLDENHERSH JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 After a stipulated bench trial in the circuit court of Effingham County, defendant, Albert D. Church, was convicted of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance (heroin) under an accountability theory (720 ILCS 570/401(d)(i) (West 2012)) and sentenced to three years and six months in the Department of Corrections to be followed by two years of mandatory supervised release. The issues raised on appeal are (1) whether defendant was proven guilty of delivery of a controlled substance by accountability beyond a reasonable doubt and (2) whether defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Jessica James, age 29, died as the result of a heroin overdose on February 5, 2014. Jay Miller (Jay), defendant's roommate, sold the heroin to James on February 4, 2014. On February 12, 2014, defendant was charged by information with one count of delivery of a controlled substance on a theory of accountability after a police investigation revealed that defendant was involved in arranging the heroin purchase between James and Jay. Defendant was later charged by indictment with the same count. Defendant entered a written plea of not guilty and a demand for a speedy trial.

         ¶ 4 On June 27, 2014, the State filed a second count, charging defendant with criminal drug conspiracy (720 ILCS 570/405.1 (West 2012)). On August 28, 2014, defendant stated on the record that he waived his right to a jury trial as he simultaneously signed a waiver. The prosecutor stated that as "part of the consideration that [defendant] used in waiving his jury trial right was that the People were going to dismiss Count 2, and the trial before your Honor will solely be on Count 1." On September 17, 2014, the case proceeded via a stipulated bench trial.

         ¶ 5 Defendant admitted that his roommate, Jay, supplied heroin to James. The only point of contention during the stipulated trial was whether defendant was accountable for Jay's delivery of the heroin to James. The State submitted six exhibits.

         ¶ 6 People's Exhibit 1 contains the stipulated facts. People's Exhibit 2 is a series of screen shots of Facebook conversations between a Facebook account in the name of Jessica James and an account in the name of defendant. People's Exhibit 3 shows incoming and outgoing calls and text messages from defendant's phone and includes communications between him, James, Jay, and Jay's girlfriend, Tomeka Price. People's Exhibit 4 is a map of central Illinois between Effingham and Decatur and shows the digital pinging of Christopher Miller's (Christopher) phone between the two cities on February 4, 2014. Christopher gave a stipulated statement that he and Jay (no relation) went to Decatur on February 4, 2014, purchased heroin, and then returned to Effingham. People's Exhibit 5 is the transcript of defendant's interview with police that took place on February 7, 2014. People's Exhibit 6 is a DVD copy of the interview.

         ¶ 7 The State introduced Facebook conversations that took place between defendant and James, dating back to April 2013. Several of the conversations revolve around James's attempts to procure drugs. For example, in July 2013, the following conversation occurred between defendant and James:

"[James:] can u get anything? Like pills, etc?
[Defendant:] hold on let me ask some ppl
[James:] omg please
[Defendant:] wait what kind lol
[James:] dros
or anything reall[y]
vikes
downers
[Defendant:] right on I just didn't know up or down
[James:] yep down
or h possibl? Ahh need something
do u still have my number ...

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