Conviction overturned after defendant serves entire sentence

Criminal defendants are usually happy when an appellate court reverses their convictions, but a Collinsville man may have had mixed feelings after his criminal conviction was reversed by an Illinois appellate court. His reception of the decision may have been lukewarm due to the fact that he had already served his entire sentence before the ruling was announced. The facts of the case and the grounds for reversal demonstrate again the wisdom of hiring a competent criminal defense counsel.

The defendant was convicted of concealing a dead body. The defendant had lived intermittently with two other men in a house in Collinsville. He testified that one of the men had strangled the third member of the trio and then asked him to help conceal it. According to the prosecution, the two men moved the body outside and covered it with a tarp. The defendant waited about 30 days before calling police and telling them about the body. A jury found the defendant guilty of concealing a dead body, and the court sentenced him to 30 months of probation. The probationary period ended more than 10 months before the court reversed his conviction.

The court ruled that the defendant had been represented by ineffective counsel. This ruling was based on the finding that the defense counsel failed to request a jury instruction that would have helped the jury understand the argument that the defendant had stopped his involvement in the crime and had told the other man that he intended to do so. Effective withdrawal from a criminal scheme can protect a defendant from a charge of participating in the scheme.

The 30-month probation that was served by the defendant may not seem like much of a penalty, but it unquestionably limited the man’s freedom of action. Perhaps more importantly, the conviction could be subject to disclosure on employment applications. Had the man retained a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, he might have been acquitted at trial and avoided the real pain and disruption of conviction.

Source: Belleville News-Democrat, “His charges were dropped – long after he’d served the entire sentence. Here’s why.” Dana Rieck, Sep. 29, 2017