In March 2022, Lake County Judge Patricia Fix found in favor of the State of Illinois and rejected a post-conviction petition filed by a man who in June 2014 killed his wife, his 17-year-old disabled daughter, and the family dog. In February 2015, the man pled “guilty but mentally ill” to the murder charges. He was subsequently sentenced to 45 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Shortly thereafter, the man sought relief under Illinois’ Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1), claiming that he had not fully understood the nature of his plea agreement. Additionally, he claimed his public defenders were ineffective and he now wanted to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. After a four-day third-stage evidentiary hearing, Judge Fix found there was no evidence of any ineffective assistance by the Lake County Public Defender’s Office.
The man’s narrative was found by the court to be incredible. While the man claimed his public defender had failed to fully disclose an expert’s opinion that he met the legal criteria for insanity, the court found there was no evidence that his public defender had coerced him into pleading guilty but mentally ill. The court cited the man’s own testimony that he had wanted to dispense with his case quickly (first before the holidays and then before his other daughter’s impending wedding in the summer of 2015). The court found the evidence overwhelmingly reflected that it was the man himself who was seeking to avoid the stress of a double murder trial and spare his surviving daughter further anguish. The court also observed that the man had testified at his own plea hearing that he had reviewed and discussed the expert’s report with his public defender before the plea hearing. Finally, the court found that, even if his attorney’s performance had been deficient, there was still no evidence of prejudice since the court had repeatedly admonished the defendant when he pled guilty regarding his right to a trial, the possibility of asserting an insanity defense, and the consequences of his negotiated plea at the plea hearing.
Chuck Hervas and Jason Rose represented the Lake County Public Defender’s Office in the matter.