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People v. Cook

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

September 23, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RORY COOK, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 99 CR 10066 Honorable Neera L. Walsh, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: James E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, and Deepa Punjabi, of State Appellate Defender’s Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Kimberly M. Foxx, State’s Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg Annette Collins and Joseph Alexander, Assistant State’s Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

          WALKER JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Mikva and Justice Pierce concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          WALKER JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Following a 2000 jury trial, defendant, Rory Cook, was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment. We affirmed on direct appeal. People v. Cook, 352 Ill.App.3d 108 (2004). We affirmed the dismissal of his 2005 postconviction petition and the denial of leave to file a successive postconviction petition in 2012. People v. Cook, 2013 IL App. (1st) 111551-U; People v. Cook, 2015 IL App. (1st) 123236-U. We also affirmed the denial of defendant's 2013 pro se "Motion for Prosecutorial Misconduct, " denial of his 2014 mandamus petition, denial of his 2015 motion for forensic testing, and dismissal of his 2015 petition for relief from judgment.[1]

         ¶ 2 Defendant now appeals from the circuit court's disposition of his pro se "Motion for New Trial for Newly Discovered Evidence, State's Miscarriage of Justice for Witholding [sic] Evidence in Defendants [sic] Judicial Proceedings." Defendant's contention is that the court erred in recharacterizing his motion as a successive postconviction petition and denying leave to file it without first notifying him and giving him an opportunity to withdraw or amend it. For the reasons stated below, we vacate the denial of leave to file and remand for the requisite notice and opportunity to withdraw or amend the motion.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 Defendant filed his "Motion for New Trial for Newly Discovered Evidence, State's Miscarriage of Justice for Witholding [sic] Evidence in Defendants [sic] Judicial Proceedings" on December 31, 2015. He did not name or cite any statute as a basis for the filing. In the motion, defendant claimed newly discovered evidence showed he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he was actually innocent, and he was wrongfully convicted. Defendant claimed he was denied a fair trial and due process of law because the State withheld evidence from the jury and made prejudicial, inflammatory, and erroneous statements in closing argument, and the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Defendant did not support the motion with attachments.

         ¶ 5 On April 1, 2016, the circuit court issued an order finding that defendant's filing of December 31, 2015, asserted constitutional claims as a collateral attack on his conviction and characterized the filing as a successive postconviction petition. In the same order, the court denied leave to file the petition, finding defendant's claims barred by waiver and res judicata and he did not state the requisite cause and prejudice for a successive postconviction petition.

         ¶ 6 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 7 On appeal, defendant's sole contention is that the court erred by recharacterizing his pro se "pleading" as a successive postconviction petition without notice and an opportunity to amend or withdraw the "pleading, " as required by People v. Shellstrom, 216 Ill.2d 45 (2005), and People v. Pearson, 216 Ill.2d 58 (2005). The State does not dispute that the court characterized defendant's filing as a successive postconviction petition without providing said notice and opportunity. It contends, however, that the court was not required to do so because defendant's filing was not a pleading commencing an action cognizable under Illinois law. See id. at 68 (holding the three-step Shellstrom notice procedure applies to "recharacterizing as a successive postconviction petition a pleading that a pro se litigant has labeled as a different action cognizable under Illinois law" (emphases added)).

         ¶ 8 The Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1(a)(1) (West 2016)) allows a defendant to file a petition claiming that "in the proceedings which resulted in his or her conviction there was a substantial denial of his or her rights under the Constitution of the United States or of the State of Illinois or both." Generally, a defendant may file only one petition under the Act without leave of court, and claims not raised in an initial petition as amended are waived. Id. §§ 122-1(f), 122-3. Leave to file a successive petition is granted if the defendant can show cause for not raising the new claim in an earlier proceeding and prejudice-a deprivation of due process-from not raising it earlier. Id. § 122-1(f). Thus, the requirements for filing a successive postconviction petition are higher than those for an initial postconviction petition. See Shellstrom, 216 Ill.2d at 55-56 (cause-and-prejudice test is "not easy to overcome"); Pearson, 216 Ill.2d at 68 ("rigorous standards of a successive postconviction petition").

         ¶ 9 It is well settled that the circuit court can recharacterize a pro se pleading alleging a deprivation of rights cognizable in a postconviction proceeding but not labeled a postconviction petition, even one clearly labeled as something ...


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