Court re-affirms that free-standing innocence claim cannot be brought after guilty plea

On May 8, 2019, the Appellate Court of Illinois Fourth District, having previously denied appellant Demario D. Reed’s appeal of the Macon County Circuit Court’s decision to deny post-conviction relief in People v. Reed, 2019 IL App (4th) 170090, re-affirmed their judgment (originally filed on March 27, 2019) and denied a subsequent petition for re-hearing.

The court’s background and analysis in the modified opinion remains largely the same, yet the analysis section is augmented significantly by their revised consideration of the precedential value of People v. Shaw, 2018 IL App (1st) 152994.

Shaw was initially cited by appellant in his appellate brief for its determination that “a freestanding actual innocence claim may be brought [in a postconviction proceeding] after a guilty plea, and that a defendant need not challenge the knowing and voluntary nature of his or her plea to bring such a claim.” Id. at ¶ 16. The Court originally “disagreed with Shaw’s holding that a postconviction claim of actual innocence may be brought after a valid guilty plea for three reasons.”

These three reasons were:

“First, the court believed the application of the Washingtontest inShawis like “trying to jam a square peg into a round hole” as (the supreme court dictates that) all postconviction claims of actual innocence must meet the Washingtonstandard and guilty-please are “inherentlyincapable of meeting the Washingtonstandard.” Id. at ¶ 36.

Second, the court held that “actual innocence would be a no jurisdictional defense to the charge and a guilty plea waives all nonjurisdictional defenses or defects.” Id. at ¶ 37. The court concluded that “[i]f, by a postconviction claim of actual innocence, defendant now can obtain a trail, [the] admonition (of relinquished rights to a trial of any kind) would have been false.” Id. at ¶ 37.

Third, the court held that “defendants cannot knowingly and voluntarily plead guilty in the trial court and then turn around and complain to reviewing court that the trial court found them guilty” as that would be duplicitous. Id. at ¶ 38. Further, the court argued that even in the event that defendant’s conviction was a constitutional error, “it was an error he himself invited by pleading guilty” and “the use of invited error as a basis for postconviction relief is clearly frivolous and patently without merit.” Id. at ¶ 38. In support of this, the court cited People v. Harvey, 211 Ill. 2d 368, 385 (2004), which ruled “Defendant is estopped from “us[ing] the exact ruling or action [he] procured in the trial court as a vehicle for reversal on appeal.” Id.at ¶ 38.”

However, while the reasons cited by the court were sufficient to hold “because the validity of the guilty plea entered by defendant was not called into question upon appeal, that, de novo, appellant remains bound by his guilty plea and that “his claim of actual innocence cannot be entertained,” id. at ¶ 2,” they became inconsequential following the First District’s withdrawal of their opinion in Shaw, on March 19, 2019. Id. at ¶ 16. Following the First District’s withdrawn decision, the Court determined that “[a] withdrawn opinion lacks precedential value.” People v. Jordan, 103 Ill. 2d 192, 205 (1984).” Id. at ¶ 16.

As a result of Shaw’s lack of precedential value, the Court turned to the only Illinois case which “has addressed the question of whether, in a postconviction proceeding, a defendant may raise a claim of actual innocence after being convicted on a valid, i.e., knowing and voluntary, guilty plea,”People v. Barnslater, 373 Ill. App. 3d 512 (2007). Id. at ¶ 17. Notably, the Court had initially looked to Barnslater (in the initial opinion) as more substantial precedent in the consideration of appellant’s grounds for appeal because it had cited Supreme Court precedent from People v. Cannon, 46 Ill. 2d 319, 321 (1970), noting, “when the supreme court speaks, our duty is to obey.” Id.at ¶ 19. Following the withdrawal of the First District’s decision in Shaw, Barnslater became the only precedent on the matter.

As such, the Court’s analysis remained largely the same. In the consideration of Barnslater, the court held that:

“only in the event of a coerced plea agreement would there be sufficient constitutional deprivation to justify postconviction relief,” and “not where he claims actual innocence in the face of a prior, constitutionally valid confession of guilt.” Id.at ¶ 17.

Despite acknowledging the cited passage from the ruling may have been obiter dictum (a “remark or expression of opinion that a court uttered as an aside, and is generally not binding authority or precedent within the stare decisis rule,”), because there was no Supreme Court precedent establishing that “a postconviction claim of actual innocence can be entertained after a guilty plea,” the Court held that “the obiter dictum of Cannon is still the law.” Id. at ¶ 21.

The remainder of the court’s analysis remained the same:

“the court used the Washington evidentiary standard set in People v. Washington, 171 Ill. 2d 475, 489 (1996), that all evidence of actual innocence brought under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act must be “new, material, noncumulative[,] and, most importantly, of such a conclusive character as would probably change the result on retrial” in their evaluation of Reed’s claims of actual innocence. Id.at ¶ 23. As a result, the court held that in the event of a negotiated guilty plea, the defendant in that case would never be in a position for retrial as a voluntary guilty plea involves waving the rights to a jury trial and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, the court held that because a guilty plea releases the State from their evidentiary burden, “[e]vidence, in general, would have been immaterial and superfluous.” Id.at ¶ 24.

Ultimately, the court held, because the validity of the guilty plea entered by defendant was not called into question upon appeal, that appellant remains bound by his guilty plea and that “his claim of actual innocence cannot be entertained.” Id.at ¶ 2. In support of this ruling, the court cited People v. Pendleton, 223 Ill. 2d 458, 473 (2006) and People v. Cannon, 46 Ill. 2d 319, 321 (1970).

As a result, the Appellate Court of Illinois Fourth District affirmed the ruling of Circuit Court of Macon County No. 14-CF-1205 and awarded the State $50 in costs against defendant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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