Fifth District upholds conviction on protective order violation; Prosecutor's motion to withdraw granted

By Carrie Salls | Dec 24, 2018

MOUNT VERNON – A woman's conviction for violation of a protective order was upheld on an appeal that the Office of the State Appellate Defendant (OSAD) had argued "lacks merit."

Fifth District Appellate Court Justice David Overstreet delivered the Nov. 27 decision upholding Della Harris' conviction and approving the court-appointed attorney's motion to withdraw. 

"This court gave the defendant ample opportunity to file a pro se brief, memorandum, or other document explaining why the appeal has arguable merit or why OSAD should not be allowed to withdraw, but the defendant has not taken advantage of that opportunity," Overstreet wrote. 

Harris argued in her appeal that the prosecutor "failed to prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" and "that the state made inflammatory closing arguments that deprived the defendant of a fair trial."

Justice David Overstreet   Illinois Courts

According to the ruling, Harris was arrested on April 29, 2013. She was allegedly charged with violating a protective order after she called Henry Luster on Nov. 14, 2012. 

She was released on bond but failed to show up for the scheduled trial. She was arrested again on Aug. 7, 2013. She was sentenced in St. Clair County Circuit Court to pay a fine and other costs totaling $200. 

According to the appellate court ruling, a psychologist testified at a fitness hearing that Harris would likely not be able to participate in a trial because she suffers from bipolar disorder, "mania" and confusion. The psychologist also testified that Harris would be unable to properly pay attention to the proceedings. 

The circuit judge disagreed, concluding that "the defendant understood that she was charged with violating a court order; the defendant understood courtroom proceedings and could conform her behavior to the courtroom setting; she understood the functions of her attorney, the prosecutor and the judge."

The circuit judge also held that Harris knew where she was, recognized her attorneys and their role in the trial and even called the court when she was not able to appear. 

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