Petitioner must specifically claim that appellate counsel was ineffective

The petitioner in People v. Stockton, 2018 IL App (2d) 160353 pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. She then filed a post-conviction petition, alleging that her Sixth Amendment rights were violated because the trial court considered improper evidence at her sentencing hearing. The petition was summarily dismissed.

On appeal, Stockton argued that the claims raised in her petition should be construed as claims of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel relating to her appellate attorney’s failure to raise on appeal the trial court’s consideration of improper evidence at sentencing. Stockton argued that the invocation of her Sixth Amendment rights “placed her claim under the umbrella of the Sixth Amendment.” Id. at ¶ 12.

The appellate court disagreed, noting that the Sixth Amendment only guarantees the right to trial counsel. It is the Fourteenth Amendment that guarantees the right to appellate counsel. Therefore, she could not argue on appeal that the claims raised in her petition should be construed as ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims, where she did not specifically allege that and where the Sixth Amendment does not cover the effective assistance of appellate counsel.

Because Stockton could not construe her claims as ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims in the trial court, she forfeited this argument for appeal. Having made no other argument, the appellate court affirmed the dismissal of Stockton’s petition.

This case underscores the importance of properly pleading the petition. Stockton filed this petition pro se, but if she had had the assistance of an attorney, this attorney would have likely been able to shape these claims into their appropriate forms, such that they would be more likely to survive summary dismissal and be properly preserved for appeal.

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