People v. Ayres, 2017 IL 120162 (February). Episode 307 (Duration 5:41)
What does defendant have to say to trigger a Krankel inquiry?
Defendant mailed a pro se petition to withdraw guilty plea and vacate sentence, alleging “ineffective assistance of counsel” and nothing more.
This motion was ignored by the trial court.
The issue in this case is whether defendant’s allegation of “ineffective assistance of counsel” without any factual support was sufficient to trigger a Krankel inquiry.
There is a split in the appellate court on this question.
Some decisions hold a bare claim warrants inquiry. Conversely, other decisions hold a bare allegation is insufficient and that a defendant must meet minimal requirements by asserting supporting facts or specific claims.
Raising The Issue
The common-law procedure, which has evolved from our decision in Krankel, is triggered when a defendant raises a pro se post trial claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. People v. Jolly, 2014 IL 117142, ¶ 29.
This procedure “serves the narrow purpose of allowing the trial court to decide whether to appoint independent counsel to argue a defendant’s pro se post trial ineffective assistance claims.”
Defendant can raise the issue through a motion, orally or in a letter.
However, the trial court is not required to automatically appoint new counsel when a defendant raises such a claim.
Rather, the law requires the trial court to conduct some type of inquiry into the underlying factual basis, if any, of a defendant’s pro se post trial claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Specifically, the trial court must conduct an adequate inquiry, that is, inquiry sufficient to determine the factual basis of the claim.
If the trial court determines that the claim lacks merit or pertains only to matters of trial strategy, then the court need not appoint new counsel and may deny the pro se motion.
However, if the allegations show possible neglect of the case, new counsel should be appointed. In making the inquiry, some interchange between the trial court and trial counsel regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegedly ineffective representation is permissible and usually necessary in assessing what further action, if any, is warranted on a defendant’s claim.
Accordingly, the trial court is permitted to inquire of trial counsel about the defendant’s allegations.
Likewise, the court is permitted to discuss the allegations with defendant.
Lastly, the trial court is permitted to make its determination based on its knowledge of defense counsel’s performance at trial and the insufficiency of the defendant’s allegations.
Here, the Illinois Supreme Court held that, when a defendant brings a clear claim asserting ineffective assistance of counsel, either orally or in writing, this is sufficient to trigger the trial court’s duty to conduct a Krankel inquiry.
The court agreed with defendant in saying that the whole point and primary purpose of the preliminary inquiry is to give the defendant an opportunity to flesh out his claim of ineffective assistance so the court can determine whether appointment of new counsel is necessary.
Plus, judicial economy is served by holding an express claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is all that is necessary to trigger a Krankel inquiry.
The goal of Krankel is to facilitate the trial court’s full consideration of a defendant’s pro se claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel and thereby potentially limit issues on appeal.
Moreover, by initially evaluating the defendant’s claims in a preliminary Krankel inquiry, the circuit court will create the necessary record for any claims raised on appeal. Absent such a record, as in the case at bar, appellate review is precluded. The inquiry is not burdensome upon the circuit court, and the facts and circumstances surrounding the claim will be much clearer in the minds of all involved when the inquiry is made just subsequent to trial or plea, as opposed to years later on appeal.
The Full Blown Hearing
A full blown Krankel procedure is limited to post trial motions.
So general concerns that full blown inquiries will be triggered each and every time a defendant claims ineffectiveness are not a concern.
After a trial, in a post trial motion the purpose of the preliminary inquiry is to ascertain the underlying factual basis for the ineffective assistance claim and to afford a defendant an opportunity to explain and support his claim.
In this way, the circuit court will have the necessary information to determine whether new counsel should be appointed to argue the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
A defendant need only bring his claim to the court’s attention, post trial, whether orally or in writing.
Here, defendant properly filed a pro se petition to withdraw his guilty plea and vacate sentence in which defendant claimed he received ineffective assistance of counsel.
Despite this, the circuit court never addressed defendant’s petition. Defendant was not present at the post trial hearing and, therefore, was unable to ask the court to rule on his petition.
Reversed and remanded for a preliminary Krankel inquiry.