People v. JohnsonAnnotate this Case
Following a third trial, the jury found Defendant guilty of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. Defendant appealed, arguing that the state failed to exercise due diligence in obtaining DNA test results, so the trial court erred in granting an extension of the speedy-trial deadline. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court denied leave to appeal; the U.S. Supreme Court denied his petition for writ of certiorari. In 2014, a private attorney retained by Defendant filed a post-conviction petition, which was summarily dismissed. Defendant’s attorney filed a notice of appeal. Two weeks later, defendant filed a timely pro se motion to reconsider the dismissal and to allow supplementation, alleging his post-conviction attorney had failed to include several claims that defendant had requested be part of the petition. Defendant stated that, after receiving a letter from his attorney “about money and why he didn’t raise ineffective [assistance] of direct appeal counsel,” defendant “never heard from counsel again, until [the] court dismiss[ed] [the] petition.” The circuit court denied the motion and did not consider the merits or whether defendant’s attorney should have included those claims. The appellate court affirmed.
The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. A defendant who retains a private attorney at the first stage of postconviction proceedings is entitled to reasonable assistance of counsel. At the first stage, there are no hearings, no arguments, and no introduction of evidence; any assertion of deficient attorney performance will almost certainly be that counsel failed to include claims the defendant wanted to have raised. A defendant who retains private counsel is bound by the attorney’s decision not to include a claim in the petition. The rationale for requiring a reasonable level of assistance from privately retained counsel at the second and third stages of postconviction proceedings applies equally to first stage representation.