Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Cook County circuit court found sections of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/5-101(3), 5-605(1) unconstitutional as applied to Destiny who was 14 years old when she was charged with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of aggravated battery with a firearm, three counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon. The court held that these sections, which do not provide jury trials for first-time juvenile offenders charged with first-degree murder, violated the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions, but rejected the defense argument that these sections were unconstitutional on due process grounds. On direct appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed with respect to the due process challenge but reversed with respect to equal protection. Destiny cannot show that she is similarly situated to the comparison groups: recidivist juvenile offenders charged with different crimes and tried under one of two recidivist statutes. These are the only classes of juvenile offenders who face mandatory incarceration if adjudicated delinquent and the legislature has denied a jury trial only to the former. The two classes are charged with different crimes, arrive in court with different criminal backgrounds, and are tried and sentenced under different statutes with distinct legislative purposes. Due process does not mandate jury trials for juveniles. View "In re Destiny P." on Justia Law

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Rozsavolgyi filed a charge of discrimination on the basis of disability with the Illinois Department of Human Rights against the city of Aurora. Rozsavolgyi had been employed by the city from 1992 until she was involuntarily discharged in 2012. Months later, Rozsavolgyi was notified that she had the right to commence a civil action. Rozsavolgyi filed suit, alleging civil rights violations under the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-101, including failure to accommodate her disability, disparate treatment, retaliation, and hostile work environment. The circuit court certified three questions for permissive interlocutory review to the appellate court under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308. After the appellate court addressed each question Rozsavolgyi obtained a certificate of importance under Rule 316 as to one question: Does the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/1, apply to a civil action under the Human Rights Act where the plaintiff seeks damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and costs? If yes, should the court modify, reject or overrule its prior holdings that the Tort Immunity Act applies only to tort actions and does not bar actions for constitutional violations? The Illinois Supreme Court vacated and remanded the appellate court’s response. The question is “improperly overbroad, should not have been answered, and does not warrant” review. The question ignores the breadth of the Human Rights Act, which provides for numerous types of civil actions for unlawful conduct in a variety of contexts. View "Rozsavolgyi v. The City of Aurora" on Justia Law

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Appellate court erroneously declined to consider ineffective assistance of counsel claim on direct review where record was sufficient for consideration of that claim. A Coles County jury found Veach guilty of two counts of attempted murder, rejecting his theory that someone else committed the crimes. On direct review, defendant argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for stipulating to the admission of recorded statements of the state’s witnesses. The appellate court affirmed, finding the record inadequate to resolve the issue. The majority encouraged defendant to raise the issue in a postconviction petition. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, holding that the record was sufficient for the appellate court to consider defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim on direct review. The state had conceded that the appellate court should have addressed the claim, but argued that counsel’s decision to stipulate to the witnesses’ recorded statements was not prejudicial nor was it deficient performance. In Illinois, a defendant must generally raise a constitutional claim alleging ineffective assistance of counsel on direct review or risk forfeiting the claim; issues that could have been raised and considered on direct review are deemed procedurally defaulted. View "People v. Veach" on Justia Law

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An altercation ended with defendant shooting Miller multiple times with a laser-sighted firearm. He was convicted of armed violence predicated on aggravated battery and aggravated battery with a firearm; the jury found that an extended-term sentence was warranted (730 ILCS 5/5-5-3.2(b)(6)). After post-trial motions, defendant wrote a letter asserting ineffective assistance by his privately-retained counsel, who, allegedly, assigned defendant’s bond to his fee without defendant’s knowledge; failed to disclose a prior connection to Miller’s father; failed to interview certain witnesses, to test certain evidence, to hire a ballistics expert, and to contest the admission of certain evidence; and failed to prepare defendant to testify. The court sentenced defendant to 25 years in prison for armed violence, into which was merged defendant’s aggravated battery conviction. The court appointed a public defender and scheduled a hearing on defendant’s ineffective assistance claims. At the hearing, no witnesses were called. Appointed counsel summarized the concerns raised in defendant’s letter. The court concluded that, under the “Stickland” standard, defendant failed to demonstrate a reasonable probability that counsel’s alleged errors substantially affected the outcome of defendant’s case. On appeal, defendant argued that aggravated battery cannot serve as the predicate for an armed violence conviction and that he received ineffective assistance from his appointed counsel by merely repeating the claims contained in defendant’s letter. The appellate court agreed that the statute prohibits predicating armed violence on the aggravated battery statute, but held that defendant was required to show that he was prejudiced by appointed counsel’s deficient performance. The court examined the record and determined that no prejudice occurred. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the armed violence conviction and affirmed as to ineffective assistance. Aggravated battery with a firearm is an enhanced form of battery; there is no reason why it cannot serve as the predicate for a charge of armed violence. The court rejected an argument that appointed counsel’s inaction “entirely failed to subject the prosecution’s case to meaningful adversarial testing,” such that a court may presume prejudice under United States v. Cronic. View "People v. Cherry" on Justia Law

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The Johnson County circuit court appointed a psychiatric expert at the state’s request, who testified at trial under the Sexually Dangerous Persons Act (SDPA), 725 ILCS 205/0.01, that Grant had not recovered and was substantially likely to commit future sex offenses. A jury found that he was still a sexually dangerous person. The appellate court reversed, holding that the SDPA does not contemplate the appointment of an independent psychiatric expert for the state in a recovery proceeding. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed; “when the legislature wants to grant the State the right to an independent psychiatric evaluation of a respondent, it knows how to do so.” While the SDPA quite clearly allows a respondent in a sexually dangerous persons proceeding to retain a private expert witness, there is nothing in the plain language of the SDPA allowing the state to do so, and the SDPA must be strictly construed. View "People v. Grant" on Justia Law

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In 2008, defendant was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced, as a habitual criminal, to natural life imprisonment. The appellate court affirmed. In 2011, defendant, through privately retained counsel, filed a postconviction petition, claiming due process violations and ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel on multiple grounds. The trial court advanced defendant’s petition to second-stage proceedings. The state moved to dismiss, arguing that the petition was not timely filed; that defendant failed to allege the untimely filing was not due to his culpable negligence; that defendant’s substantive claims were barred by res judicata and waiver and consisted primarily of unsupported, conclusory allegations; and that none of the claims made a substantial showing of a constitutional violation. Defendant’s postconviction counsel filed a response, arguing that the petition was untimely filed because trial counsel failed to inform defendant about the appellate court’s June 3, 2009, decision. In support, defendant attached evidence that the notice of appeal was mailed to his mother, not to defendant. The court dismissed, finding that the record did not substantiate defendant’s claim that his trial counsel suborned perjury and that counsel’s decisions did not rise to the level of deprivation of a constitutional right. The court did not reference timeliness. On appeal, defendant unsuccessfully argued only that his privately retained postconviction counsel did not provide the requisite “reasonable level of assistance” during second-stage proceedings because counsel failed to contest the assertion that defendant’s petition was untimely based on culpable negligence. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, stating the reasonable level of assistance standard applies to both retained and appointed postconviction counsel and that counsel met the standard. View "People v. Cotto" on Justia Law

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A search warrant was served at a home belonging to Chambers’ mother. He was found inside, along with a large quantity of cocaine, cash, weapons, and ammunition. The Cook County circuit court denied his repeated requests for a Franks hearing. He was convicted of armed violence and unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and sentenced to consecutive terms of 25 and 45 years’ imprisonment. The appellate court held that the trial court should have conducted a Franks hearing and remanded for determination of whether the search warrant was properly issued, stating that the informant’s appearance and testimony before an issuing judge is “but one factor to consider in determining whether to grant a Franks hearing, but it does not categorically preclude the court from holding a Franks hearing.” The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Chambers made a substantial preliminary showing that a false statement was intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly included in the warrant affidavit; it is irrelevant that the officer’s suspicions about the presence of guns and drugs at the address turned out to be well-founded. View "People v. Chambers" on Justia Law

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Sanders was convicted of the 1992 first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping of Cooks. Sanders was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of 60 and 15 years. Bingham, May, and Barfield were convicted in separate trials. In 2010, Sanders filed a second successive postconviction petition, alleging actual innocence. Despite the absence of any motion for leave to file the successive petition, the circuit court allowed it and advanced it to the second stage of proceedings. The court then dismissed the petition. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding purported new evidence and a recantation “not so conclusive in character as would probably change the result on retrial.” View "People v. Sanders" on Justia Law

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In 2011, defendant was convicted under the aggravated unlawful use of a weapon statute (AUUW) (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A)) and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. That statute was found to be unconstitutional in 2013 (Aguilar case). The appellate court affirmed defendant’s conviction, finding that, in Aguilar, the Illinois Supreme Court limited its finding of unconstitutionality to the “Class 4 form” of the offense and that the “Class 2 form,” applicable to felons, like defendant, was constitutional and enforceable. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. A “Class 2 form” of AUUW does not exist. There is only one offense of AUUW based on section 24-1.6(a)(1)(a)(3)(A) and a prior felony conviction is not an element of that offense. A prior felony conviction is a sentencing factor which elevates the offense from a Class 4 felony to a Class 2 felony. On its face, the provision constitutes a flat ban on carrying ready-to-use guns outside the home and amounts to a wholesale ban on the exercise of a personal right that is specifically guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, as construed by the Supreme Court. Because the prohibition is not limited to a particular subset of persons, such as felons, the statute, as written, is unconstitutional on its face. View "People v. Burns" on Justia Law

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McElwain, was involved in a traffic accident.. The driver and passenger of the motorcycle that hit McElwain's vehicle had substantial injuries; the passenger died. On the date of the accident, plaintiff was neither issued any tickets nor asked to take any chemical tests. During their investigation, police discovered rolling papers and a bag containing a residue that appeared to be cannabis in McElwain’s vehicle, but officers at the scene did not think he appeared to be under the influence of cannabis. Two days later, McElwain was questioned and admitted that he had smoked marijuana two weeks before the accident. The police issued a ticket for failing to yield when turning left and requested that he take a chemical test. The police read him statutory warnings (625 ILCS 5/11-501.6(c). McElwain refused. The Secretary of State suspended his driver’s license for three years. An ALJ upheld the suspension, rejecting an argument that the officers violated due process by waiting too long. The circuit court and Illinois Supreme Court disagreed, finding the statute unconstitutional as applied. While the state can condition receipt of a driver’s license on a driver’s agreement to consent to a chemical test if he is involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, the essential nexus between the state’s interest in protecting the public from intoxicated drivers and requiring consent to a chemical test following an arrest related to a serious accident no longer exists when the test is requested two days after the accident. View "McElwain v. Ill. Sec'y of State" on Justia Law