People v. Keagbine, 78-288

CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtKARNS; While defendant was pursuing the various motions discussed above, he and his two codefendants, who subsequently pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea arrangement, filed numerous motions seeking the substitution of various judges. Following various
Citation396 N.E.2d 1341,77 Ill.App.3d 1039,33 Ill.Dec. 617
Parties, 33 Ill.Dec. 617 PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Randall KEAGBINE, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 78-288,78-288
Decision Date13 November 1979

Page 1341

396 N.E.2d 1341
77 Ill.App.3d 1039, 33 Ill.Dec. 617
PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Randall KEAGBINE, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 78-288.
Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth District.
Nov. 13, 1979.

[77 Ill.App.3d 1040]

Page 1342

[33 Ill.Dec. 618] John H. Reid, Deputy Defender, E. William Hutton, Asst. Defender, Mount Vernon, for defendant-appellant.

J. Edward Helton, State's Atty., Golconda, Raymond F. Buckley, Jr., Deputy Director, Gillum Ferguson, Staff Atty., State's Attys. Appellate Service Commission, Mount Vernon, for plaintiff-appellee.

KARNS, Justice:

Following a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Pope County, defendant, Randall Keagbine, was convicted of murder and armed robbery. Defendant appeals from his conviction contending that his waiver of a jury trial was involuntary and further contending that he was denied his statutory right to a speedy trial.

The facts established at trial revealed that defendant and two acquaintances, who testified for the State, committed an armed robbery of the Cox's Hillybilly Store in Renshaw, Illinois, and that during the commission of the offense, defendant struggled with the owner of the store and shot and killed him with a .16 gauge shotgun.

Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to compel the prosecution to [77 Ill.App.3d 1041] disclose whether it would request a death penalty hearing if defendant were convicted of murder. In the motion, defendant alleged that disclosure of this fact was necessary because it would enable him to attack the constitutionality of the Illinois Death Penalty Act and to file certain motions designed to afford defendant all possible procedural safeguards in a capital case. At a hearing, the State objected to this disclosure and the motion was denied. The court, however, requested the State to disclose its course of action in this regard to simplify matters.

Three months later, defendant, his attorney and the State entered into a stipulation in open court whereby defendant waived his right to a jury trial in return for the State agreeing not to seek the death penalty on the murder charge. After fully admonishing defendant of his rights to a jury trial, the court accepted a written waiver form signed by defendant.

On appeal, defendant contends that his waiver of a jury trial was not voluntary, alleging that the State's failure to reveal its intentions concerning the death penalty was used to create fear and confusion in defendant and to force a jury waiver. He further alleges that the death penalty could not be imposed in any event because, in his opinion, the Illinois death penalty law is unconstitutional and, alternatively, because the State could not have legally sought the death penalty where the presence of one

Page 1343

[33 Ill.Dec. 619] statutory mitigating factor, namely, that defendant had "no significant history of prior criminality," would preclude the imposition of a death sentence. (See Ill.Rev.Stat.1977, ch. 38, par. 9-1(c) and 9-1(g).) The State responds that defendant's fear of a possible death sentence did not render invalid a knowing and intelligent waiver of a jury trial. It further argues that even if the death penalty could not have been imposed because of some constitutional defect in the statute that fact would likewise not affect the voluntariness of the waiver. In addition, the State argues that the existence of a single mitigating factor does not Per se preclude a sentence of death and further argues that, in any event, the record fails to demonstrate that defendant had no significant history of prior criminality where he had apparently participated in at least two other armed robberies.

In People v. Coleman, 32 Ill.App.3d 949, 337 N.E.2d 269 (1st Dist. 1975), a case similar to the present one, the defendant alleged in a post-conviction proceeding that the assistant state's attorney had told him that the State would ask for the death penalty if the case proceeded to trial but would make no such request if defendant consented to a bench trial. The court, in rejecting defendant's argument that his waiver of a jury trial was coerced because of the State's conditioned leniency concerning the death penalty, noted that defendant's right to a jury trial was not violated merely because he wanted to avoid the possibility of receiving a death penalty. We agree with Coleman and hold that an otherwise valid waiver [77 Ill.App.3d 1042] of trial by jury is not rendered involuntary solely because the State promised that it would not seek the death sentence if defendant waived his right to such a trial. This holding, we believe, is consistent with the long line of cases holding that a guilty plea, motivated by an accused's desire to avoid the death penalty, is not invalid so long as that plea was knowingly and intelligently entered. (Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 90 S.Ct. 1463, 25 L.Ed.2d 747 (1970); Parker v. North Carolina, 397 U.S. 790, 90 S.Ct. 1458, 25 L.Ed.2d 785 (1970); People v. Scott, 49 Ill.2d 231, 274 N.E.2d 39 (1971); People v. Wilbourn, 48 Ill.2d 187, 268 N.E.2d 418 (1971); People v. Salerno, 54 Ill.App.3d 806, 12 Ill.Dec. 514, 370 N.E.2d 137 (2d Dist. 1977).) If it is permissible for a defendant to plead guilty under such circumstances and thereby waive his right to a jury trial, his right to confront his accusers and his right to counsel, it is certainly permissible for a defendant, upon receiving a promise of the State not to seek the death penalty, to waive a jury trial.

Defendant's contentions, that his waiver of a trial by jury was invalid because the death penalty statute is, in his opinion, unconstitutional, and therefore the court could not impose a sentence of death, are likewise without merit. The present Illinois death penalty statute has not been held unconstitutional and is presumed to be valid. (People v. Adduci, 412 Ill. 621, 108 N.E.2d 1 (1952).) Furthermore, even if it would be unconstitutional to impose the death penalty under the present statutory framework, the Supreme Court in Parker made it clear that the unconstitutionality of the statute would not render a guilty plea or consequently a waiver of a jury trial involuntary. (Parker v. North Carolina, 397 U.S. at 795-96, 90 S.Ct. at 1461, 25 L.Ed.2d at 791.) Parenthetically, the death penalty statute, applicable at the time the defendant in Coleman went to trial and which was allegedly used by the State as a bargaining tool to secure a jury waiver, was later found to be unconstitutional.

We note that the present defendant was fully admonished of his rights to a trial by jury, was well aware of the possible sentences he could receive upon conviction, and voluntarily and knowingly chose to enter into a bargain arrangement with the State. Having received the benefits of his bargain, defendant can have little cause to assert subsequently that the State could not have lawfully asked for the death penalty. This is especially true where the death penalty statute is presumed to be constitutional and where it was arguable that there were "no mitigating factors...

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