from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Tazewell
County, Illinois, Appeal No. 3-15-0542 Circuit No. 10-CF-659
Honorable Paul Gilfillan, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Justices O'Brien and Schmidt concurred in the judgment
1 Defendant, William S. Thomas, appeals from the denial of
his motion for forensic testing. He argues that his motion
set forth each of the elements required for such testing to
be granted and thus requests this court reverse the Tazewell
County circuit court's judgment. We find that any result
of the proposed testing would not have the potential to
produce evidence that would raise a reasonable probability
that defendant would have been acquitted had he proceeded to
trial. We therefore affirm the circuit court's denial of
3 Defendant pled guilty on June 24, 2011, to one count of
being an armed habitual criminal (720 ILCS 5/24-1.7 (West
2010)). As a part of the factual basis for the plea, the
State submitted certified copies of defendant's previous
convictions for burglary, aggravated battery, and unlawful
possession of a weapon by a felon.
4 The State further declared that Genie Hopkins would testify
that she saw defendant with a green and orange sawed-off
shotgun. That shotgun was later recovered from a vehicle
being driven by defendant on or about November 26, 2010. In a
videotaped interview with police, defendant admitted to
purchasing and possessing that sawed-off shotgun. Following
the factual basis, defense counsel responded: "Your
honor, that's a very, very truncated version of the case,
but yes, we agree that they could present that
evidence." The court accepted defendant's plea and,
at a later date, sentenced him to a term of 18 years'
5 Following his plea hearing, defendant filed numerous
motions seeking to withdraw the plea and to obtain new
representation. In one of those motions, defendant alleged
that his videotaped confession was involuntary because he was
under the influence of alcohol and Xanax when the statements
were made. Defendant attached to one motion an affidavit from
Hopkins, in which she admitted to perjuring herself.
6 On June 28, 2012, just over a year after defendant's
plea hearing, the court held a hearing on defendant's
motion to withdraw his guilty plea. At the hearing, Hopkins
testified that defendant is the father of her child and her
boyfriend of six years. Hopkins testified that around
November 26, 2010, she and defendant had been arguing and
defendant was threatening to leave her. Hopkins decided to
frame defendant for possession of firearms. She first put six
Xanax into three beers that defendant drank. She then
retrieved the sawed-off shotgun from another residence and
brought it to the home she shared with defendant. When
defendant saw Hopkins with the sawed-off shotgun, he tried to
wrestle it away from her. In the ensuing scuffle, the shotgun
struck Hopkins in the face, causing a gash on her forehead.
Hopkins then put the gun into her Jeep. Hopkins later asked
an acquaintance to hit her with a pistol to make it look like
defendant had battered her. She then reported to the police
that defendant had kidnapped their son and was in possession
of multiple firearms. She recanted her story about the
kidnapping prior to defendant's guilty plea. She did not
recant the portion of her story relating to the firearms
because she feared being charged herself.
7 Defendant testified that he asked his original defense
attorney, Fred Bernardi, to conduct DNA testing on the
sawed-off shotgun, but Bernardi refused. According to
defendant, Bernardi also refused to introduce expert
testimony regarding the effects of Xanax. Defendant insisted
that his confession to police was involuntary.
8 Bernardi testified that he did not seek DNA testing on the
sawed-off shotgun because defendant had consistently
acknowledged, both in a videotaped interview with police and
in jail phone recordings, that he possessed the weapon.
9 The court denied defendant's motion to withdraw the
plea. The court rejected the notion that counsel had been
ineffective, observing: "[Defendant] knew he
couldn't prevail at trial, or the likelihood was
infinitesimal." The court outright rejected
Hopkins's testimony, stating: "[Hopkins] has no
credibility at all. The story that she put forth today in
front of the Court was completely a manufactured story, [and]
was an insult to the Court's intelligence. She clearly
lied today again. She's a habitual liar." The court
declared that Bernardi was the only credible witness.
10 On appeal, this court granted appointed counsel's
motion to withdraw and affirmed the court's denial of
defendant's motion to withdraw the guilty plea.
People v. Thomas, No. 3-12-0544 (Jan. 1, 2014)
(unpublished summary order under Supreme Court Rule 23(c)).
11 On July 2, 2015, defendant filed a pro se motion
for DNA testing, the only subject of the present appeal. In
the motion, defendant sought DNA testing on the green and
orange sawed-off shotgun, alleging that he never touched the
weapon and that Hopkins and two other individuals complicit
in the scheme to frame him likely did touch the weapon.
Defendant asserted that the presence of Hopkins's DNA or
that of her two alleged cohorts ...