from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit No.
14-CF-268, Rock Island County, Illinois, Honorable Walter D.
Braud, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE O'BRIEN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justice Schmidt concurred in the judgment and
opinion. Justice McDade specially concurred, with opinion.
1 Defendant, Charles C. Gore, appeals from his convictions
for home invasion and aggravated domestic battery. He argues
that the circuit court violated his right to a public trial
when it closed the courtroom to the public in order to
address a question the jury had asked during its
deliberations. Defendant also argues that the State's
participation in the court's inquiry into his pro
se claims of ineffective assistance of counsel requires
remand for a new Krankel hearing. We affirm in part,
vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.
3 The State charged defendant with attempted murder (720 ILCS
5/8-4(a), 9-1(a) (West 2014)), home invasion (id.
§ 19-6(a)(2)), and aggravated domestic battery
(id. § 12-3.3). Collectively, the indictments
alleged that Melissa Stenger was a member of defendant's
family and that defendant entered Stenger's dwelling
place, knowing that she was home, and stabbed her in the neck
and chest. Defendant filed a notice of the affirmative
defense of self-defense.
4 The evidence adduced at trial showed that defendant and
Stenger had been in a relationship for 14 years and had a
12-year-old daughter together. They ended their relationship
in early 2014. Following the separation, defendant briefly
lived in the couple's home while Stenger and their
daughter lived with Stenger's father. Eventually,
defendant moved into an apartment, and Stenger moved back
into the home. Stenger believed defendant owed her money for
various expenses, including unpaid bills and some of her
personal property, which he had not returned.
5 Stenger testified that the night before the incident in
question, she spent time with a man. The man slept over at
her house that night. The next morning, after the man had
left, Stenger was in the bathroom when she heard the front
door to the house unlock. Defendant entered the bathroom and
confronted Stenger about the man. Defendant hit Stenger in
the head, knocked her down, and began choking her. He dragged
her by the hair to the kitchen, where he grabbed a knife from
a drawer. They struggled over the knife, and Stenger cut her
finger. She distracted defendant by telling him that her
father had just arrived at the house. When defendant went to
check, Stenger stood up and realized she had been stabbed.
She ran to a neighbor who called 911.
6 Stenger was in the hospital for six days after the
incident, recovering from a stab wound to her throat, two
stab wounds to her chest, and a cut on her hand. A blood
spatter expert testified that blood found on defendant's
shoes indicated that the shoes must have been close to the
source of the blood.
7 Defendant testified that he went to the house that morning
to retrieve some of his property. Stenger had told him
earlier that week that he needed to remove all of his
belongings from the house. He knocked and entered the house.
Immediately upon seeing him, Stenger demanded the money she
was owed. She screamed at him, demanding $800, and grabbed
his sweatshirt. When defendant told Stenger he was leaving,
Stenger grabbed a knife from the kitchen. She began swinging
the knife at him. A struggle ensued, and Stenger pushed
defendant over a chair. When defendant got up, he saw a pool
of blood. He speculated that Stenger had been stabbed or cut
when she was swinging the knife. Defendant was eventually
able to leave.
8 Following closing arguments, the jury retired to
deliberate. The court went back on the record when the jury
asked a question. The court stated: "They have a
question, and I'm reviewing that question in the presence
of the defendant and his counsel and the state's
attorney." The question asked, with regard to the
attempted murder charge, when the requisite intent had to be
formed. The parties agreed that the court would answer the
question by telling the jury that "it doesn't matter
when [the intent] occurred" and then reading a pattern
jury instruction regarding intent.
9 The jury was brought into the courtroom, at which point the
court stated: "Let the record show the jury is in court,
but we are, I guess, kind of in open session, because
I've closed the courtroom to outsiders. Because the jury
has a question, I consider that to be a private matter."
The court then answered the question in the manner agreed to
by the parties.
10 Later, the court went back on the record when the jury
asked a second question. The court again explained that all
parties were present, as was the jury, but "everyone
else" had been excluded from the courtroom. The question
asked for a transcript of Stenger's testimony. The court
informed the jury that there was no transcript, but that the
audio recording of her testimony could be replayed if the
jury so wished. In a subsequent-apparently written-question,
the jury asked specifically whether Stenger had testified
that defendant went to the front door before or after the
stabbing. The court used this question to narrow down the
portion of Stenger's testimony that would be replayed.
With the judge and parties still in the courtroom with the
jury, the audio recording from portions of Stenger's
testimony was replayed.
11 The jury found defendant guilty of home invasion and
aggravated domestic battery, but not guilty of attempted
12 After the verdict but prior to sentencing, defendant filed
a pro se motion seeking that the court allow counsel
to withdraw and either appoint new counsel or allow defendant
to represent himself. In his motion, defendant accused
counsel of incompetence, alleging that he had failed to move
for a mistrial and to subject the State's case to
13 The court heard defendant's complaints at a subsequent
hearing it referred to as a "Franks
hearing." Defendant detailed his allegations against
counsel, including counsel's perceived failure to provide
him with discovery materials. After a long discussion on the
issue that included the State, the court prompted defendant:
"[I]s there anything else that [defense counsel] did or
failed to do *** that you feel caused him to fall below the
standard and that if he had done it right or not done it
wrong, it would have changed the jury's verdict?"
14 Defendant noted that counsel had been on medication, was
incoherent, and was "in and out." He continued:
"I mean he's missing viable testimony in the
trial." The court did not ask counsel to weigh in on
this allegation, however, it asked the State for its input.
The State's reply, which spans nearly two uninterrupted
pages of the report of proceedings, emphasized that counsel
had multiple assistants during the trial and that counsel had
actually won an acquittal on the attempted murder charge. The
State commended counsel's performance at trial.
15 The court, in turn, commended the performance of
counsel's assistants. It further declared: "I really
can't make a good argument against his approach because
as the prosecutor has indicated, he won." The court
ultimately rejected defendant's claim, concluding:
"[Counsel] was sick but he put up a hell of a fight and