MT. VERNON—Despite the claims of a man who was convicted of domestic battery, he was not deprived of efficient counsel in his bench trial, the Fifth District Appellate Court determined on Nov. 19.
Justice John B. Barberis authored the decision and Justices Thomas Welch and Melissa Chapman concurred.
Corey L. Wilson, who was convicted of a Class 2 felony of one count of aggravated domestic battery and handed down seven years in the Illinois Department of Corrections (plus four years of mandatory supervised release), had appealed the ruling, claiming he was denied his right for an effective assistance of counsel after his lawyer didn’t prepare a defense, cross-examine witnesses or introduce proper evidence at trial.
The appellate panel affirmed the decision of the Circuit Court of Randolph County.
Wilson had been found guilty of “using his hands and fists to strike and grab the head and neck of his girlfriend, Kaitlyn Yockey,” according to the court filing.
While the State had a handful of witnesses to back the victim’s story and injuries (including Yockey, a 9-year-old who was at their home at the time of the incident, the child’s mother and officers that arrived on the scene), Wilson accused his counsel of not being effective. (Wilson himself took the stand and said Yockey’s injuries were the result of her falling into a ditch while intoxicated).
Still, Wilson got a new lawyer and in the post-trial phase, the new lawyer requested a new trial and said Wilson was a victim of ineffective counsel after his lawyer didn’t interview witnesses, failed to file any motions or provide a sufficient defense argument. To prove his case, Wilson would have to prove his counsel’s performance was lacking and that it led to prejudice.
The court disagreed with Wilson and said his first counsel’s decision not to call Yockey to testify could have simply been strategy, not proof that the counsel’s performance was insufficient. The court added the counsel fulfilled its responsibilities—“in addition to introducing the defendant’s conflicting testimony, trial counsel vigorously cross-examined Yockey at trial.” It pointed out the record showed trial counsel reiterated that Yockey didn’t tell authorities at first that Wilson had assaulted her.