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People v. Walker

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

January 4, 2018

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHRIST E. WALKER, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 21st Judicial Circuit, Kankakee County, Illinois, Circuit No. 05-CF-176 Honorable Clark E. Erickson, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE O'BRIEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Lytton and McDade concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          O'BRIEN, JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Christ E. Walker, appeals from the dismissal of his petition for relief from judgment filed pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2014)). Defendant contends that his appointed counsel provided inadequate assistance. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 A jury found defendant guilty of two counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9- 1(a)(1), (2) (West 2004)), one count of attempted murder of a peace officer (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9-1(b)(1) (West 2004)), two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm (720 ILCS 5/24- 1.2(a)(2), (3) (West 2004)), one count of aggravated assault (720 ILCS 5/12-2(a)(6) (West 2004)), and one count of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW) (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) (West 2004)).

         ¶ 4 On April 4, 2006, the trial court merged the appropriate counts and sentenced defendant to the following: 49 years' imprisonment for first degree murder, 20 years' imprisonment for attempted murder of a peace officer; 10 years' imprisonment for aggravated discharge of a firearm, and 5 years' imprisonment for AUUW. Defendant's sentence for first degree murder was ordered to run consecutive to the remaining sentences, resulting in an aggregate sentence of 69 years' imprisonment.

         ¶ 5 On direct appeal, this court affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences. People v. Walker, 386 Ill.App.3d 1025 (2008). Thereafter, defendant filed several additional but unsuccessful collateral appeals. See People v. Walker, No. 3-10-0077 (2010) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23); People v. Walker, No. 3-11-0100 (2011) (unpublished summary order under Supreme Court Rule 23(c)); People v. Walker, No. 3-11-0642 (2013) (unpublished summary order under Supreme Court Rule 23(c)).

         ¶ 6 Next, defendant appealed the denial of his second motion for leave to file a successive postconviction petition (denied November 14, 2013). On appeal, this court ordered the trial court to vacate defendant's AUUW conviction and sentence. People v. Walker, No. 3-14-0022 (2016) (unpublished summary order under Supreme Court Rule 23(c)).

         ¶ 7 On January 23, 2015, defendant filed a pro se section 2-1401 petition, which is the subject of this appeal. The petition alleged that the firearm enhancement to his first degree murder sentence was void because it was not presented to the jury. The petition also alleged that the evidence was insufficient to prove his guilt for the offense of attempted murder of a peace officer. The petition did not include any allegations to explain why defendant filed the petition nearly 10 years after his conviction.

         ¶ 8 At a hearing on the petition, defendant requested counsel to represent him on his section 2-1401 petition. The trial court, in an exercise of its discretion, appointed counsel to represent defendant.

         ¶ 9 At the next hearing, appointed counsel informed the court that he had reviewed defendant's petition, met with defendant, and discussed the petition with defendant. Counsel noted that, initially, it was unclear whether the public defender could be appointed to represent an indigent defendant in a section 2-1401 proceeding, however counsel told the court,

"Since then, I was appointed by [the public defender's office] and then I went out to the jail to discuss the options with [defendant] and I have reviewed it, the petition with him. There's really no procedural guideline here like under post-conviction law, the State would either be given a chance to answer or to file a motion to dismiss, but this is a 1401 and there's really no-no standard here."

         ¶ 10 The State then asked appointed counsel if he was adopting defendant's pro se ...


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