from the Circuit Court of McLean County No. 14CF732 Honorable
Robert L. Freitag, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Holder White and Turner concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Following a September 2015 bench trial, defendant, Earnest
Maurice Bell, was convicted of two counts of unlawful
delivery of a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a
church, two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled
substance, one count of possession of a controlled substance
with the intent to deliver within 1000 feet of a church, and
one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance
with the intent to deliver and sentenced to three concurrent
terms of 22 years' imprisonment. In October 2015,
defendant filed a pro se motion alleging, in part,
he was provided ineffective assistance by his trial counsel.
At a December 2015 hearing, the trial court did not inquire
into defendant's complaint about his counsel's
2 Defendant appeals, arguing this court should (1) remand the
matter because the trial court failed to conduct an inquiry
into his pro se posttrial claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel; (2) remand for a new trial and fitness
hearing because the court failed to sua sponte
order, and/or his trial counsel provided ineffective
assistance by failing to request, a fitness evaluation when a
bona fide doubt existed as to his fitness at the
time of trial; (3) remand for a new trial because his right
to due process and his right to confront witnesses were
violated when his trial was held without him; (4) reverse his
convictions for possession with intent to deliver because the
State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt he had either
actual or constructive possession of the discovered drugs;
and (5) reduce his sentence or remand for a new sentencing
hearing because his sentence is excessive in light of his
mental illness and history of drug addiction.
3 Under People v. Krankel, 102 Ill.2d 181, 464
N.E.2d 1045 (1984), and its progeny, we remand the matter for
the trial court to conduct an inquiry into defendant's
pro se posttrial claim of ineffective assistance of
counsel. As a result, we do not reach defendant's other
4 I. BACKGROUND
5 A. Indictment
6 In June 2014, the State charged defendant by indictment
with unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1000
feet of a church (720 ILCS 570/407(b)(2) (West 2012)) (count
I), unlawful delivery of a controlled substance (id.
§ 401(d)) (count II), unlawful delivery of a controlled
substance within 1000 feet of a church (id. §
407(b)(1)) (count III), unlawful delivery of a controlled
substance (id. § 401(c)(2)) (count IV),
unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1000 feet
of a church (id. § 407(b)(1)) (count V),
unlawful delivery of a controlled substance (id.
§ 401(c)(2)) (count VI), unlawful possession of a
controlled substance with the intent to deliver within 1000
feet of a church (id. § 407(b)(1)) (count VII),
and unlawful possession of a controlled substance with the
intent to deliver (id. § 401(c)(2)) (count
VIII). The State later nol-prossed counts I and II.
7 B. Bench Trial
8 On September 11, 2015, the trial court held a scheduled
bench trial. Prior to commencing the trial, the court held a
discussion on the record with defense counsel and the
prosecuting attorney. Defendant was not present but rather
remained in a holding cell. Defense counsel indicated
defendant was "agitated, " "very upset, "
and "expressed that he was going to hurt himself"
because counsel was unwilling to present a defense that
counsel found to have no basis in law. The court elicited
comment from the supervising sergeant of court security, who
explained defendant was "hitting the walls, "
"kicking the door, " "demanding to go
downstairs back to the jail, " and "saying he's
not coming into the courtroom." The court indicated it
would recess to allow defense counsel to speak with defendant
about his right to be present during trial.
9 After speaking with defendant, defense counsel returned to
the courtroom, and the trial court continued a discussion on
the record. Defendant remained in a holding cell. Defense
counsel indicated he explained to defendant his right to be
present at trial, to which defendant "repeatedly said he
didn't understand and he intended to harm himself."
Defense counsel noted defendant's agitation began that
morning after counsel refused defendant's request to
present a "police misconduct defense." The
prosecutor noted defendant had not acted out in court
previously and had no jail disciplinary reports. Defense
counsel further noted defendant had "always been civil
up until this morning." The supervising sergeant noted
he witnessed defendant with defense counsel and saw defendant
knot a shirt around his own neck and attempt to flush the
shirt in a toilet. The court found it would be appropriate
for it to take additional measures to explain to defendant,
on the record, of his right to be present at trial.
10 The trial court convened a hearing outside the holding
cell with defense counsel, the prosecuting attorney,
defendant, a court reporter, and court security. The court
explained to defendant why he was going to trial and his
right to be present, to which defendant maintained he did not
understand. Defendant asserted "[t]he police department
is trying to set me up" and "trying to kill
me." Defendant repeatedly stated he did not understand
why he was being charged and why he was going to trial.
Defendant then sat on the floor in the back of the holding
cell and refused to answer the court's question about
waiving his right to be present at trial. The court found
defendant had been fully admonished regarding his right to be
present during his trial and his inappropriate behavior
constituted a waiver of that right.
11 Back in the courtroom, the trial court continued the
discussion on the record. With respect to the need for a
fitness hearing, the court noted it had "numerous
occasions" to interact with defendant during the case.
The court found it did not have a bona fide doubt as
to defendant's fitness. It believed "defendant is
simply being uncooperative, and for whatever reason[, ] he
has chosen to do so." Defense counsel noted he and
defendant had communicated "very well" and
defendant became agitated only after their disagreement that
morning. Defense counsel believed defendant was "fit to
stand trial, " and he "detected nothing to
indicate" defendant did not understand the questions
posed from ...