from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, La Salle
County, Illinois. Appeal No. 3-15-0419 Circuit No. 13-CF-158
Honorable Cynthia M. Raccuglia, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Holdridge and Lytton concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Defendant, Willie Harrison, appeals from the third-stage
dismissal of his postconviction petition. He argues that his
waiver of postconviction counsel was invalid because the
trial court failed to admonish him pursuant to Faretta v.
California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975). We affirm.
3 In August 2013, pursuant to a fully negotiated guilty plea,
the court sentenced defendant to 16 years' imprisonment
for the unlawful possession of a controlled substance with
the intent to deliver (720 ILCS 570/401(c)(2) (West 2012)).
Although the offense itself is a Class 1 felony,
defendant's criminal history required a Class X sentence.
4 In September 2013, defendant filed a timely motion to
withdraw his guilty plea and vacate his sentence.
Subsequently, he voluntarily dismissed this motion.
5 In August 2014, defendant filed a pro se
postconviction petition raising various claims of ineffective
assistance of trial counsel. The trial court appointed
postconviction counsel to represent defendant on his
6 At an April 2015 hearing, postconviction counsel informed
the trial court that defendant wished to proceed pro
se on his petition. The court then addressed defendant
stating, "This is a crucial stage of your proceedings in
post conviction, and I need to know why you think you are
capable of handling the complex issues in a post conviction
proceeding." Defendant responded that he had been asking
postconviction counsel "to do stuff" for seven
months but counsel told him he was unable to get in contact
with the witnesses defendant asked him to seek out. Counsel
then informed the court that defendant "is seeking to
have another person admit that the drugs that were found that
he was charged with and that he pled guilty to were in fact
another person's, " but that counsel had spoken with
the two people defendant asked him to contact and neither
knew where "Mr. Finny" was. Defendant next informed
the court that he wished to represent himself on his claims
of ineffective assistance of trial counsel because his trial
attorney, whose performance he was attacking, was
postconviction counsel's boss. The court then announced
it would let defendant proceed pro se.
7 At the June 2015 evidentiary hearing, defendant questioned
his trial counsel on the stand. Following arguments, the
trial court denied the postconviction petition, finding that
defendant failed to meet his burden of showing trial
counsel's performance was ineffective.
8 This appeal followed.
10 Defendant argues that the trial court's failure to
properly admonish him pursuant to Faretta, 422 U.S.
806, rendered his waiver of postconviction counsel invalid.
Defendant also asserts that "[a]dmonishments regarding
the potential punishment, required by [Illinois Supreme
Court] Rule 401(a) [(eff. July 1, 1984), ] in the trial
context, should likewise be required in post[ ]conviction
proceedings where the defendant faces the possibility of a
11 We begin by noting that a postconviction petitioner has a
right to represent himself in postconviction proceedings.
People v. Heard, 2014 IL App (4th) 120833, ¶ 10
(citing 725 ILCS 5/122-4 (West 2010)). In fact, a court must
accept a defendant's knowing and intelligent request to
proceed pro se provided that the waiver is clear and
unequivocal, not ambiguous. People v. Baez, 241
Ill.2d 44, 115-116 (2011) (citing Faretta, 422 U.S.
at 835, and People v. Burton, 184 Ill.2d 1, 21
(1998)). In determining whether a defendant has intelligently
waived his right to counsel, a court must consider the
particular facts and circumstances of defendant's case,
including his background, experience, and conduct. People
v. Lego, 168 Ill.2d 561, 564-65 (1995). We review a
trial court's decision regarding a defendant's waiver
of his right to counsel for an abuse of discretion.
Baez, 241 Ill.2d at 116. An abuse of discretion
exists only where the ruling is "arbitrary, fanciful,
unreasonable, or where no reasonable person would ...