Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Nelson, and her codefendants, Hall, Cox, and Ball, were tried simultaneously but in severed bench trials for the armed robbery and stabbing death of Wilson. The prosecution produced five eyewitnesses, who gave generally consistent testimony. Police had followed a blood trail to the four defendants. There was DNA evidence linking defendants to the crime. All were found guilty. The appellate court rejected Nelson's argument that she was denied her sixth amendment right to conflict-free counsel where attorneys from the same law firm represented her and codefendant Hall and that the attorneys, in making their choice of defenses, decided to forgo asserting an innocence defense in favor of pursuing a joint defense of self-defense. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding that Nelson had not demonstrated an actual conflict. In light of the evidence, Nelson could not show that an innocence defense based on a lack of accountability was a plausible alternative defense. View "People v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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Sebby was involved in a confrontation with deputies who had come to his home to take custody of Sebby’s niece. Sebby was convicted by a jury of resisting a peace officer, a Class 4 felony, 720 ILCS 5/31-1(a-7), and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court committed erred in admonishing prospective jurors under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 431(b), which concerns the defendant’s presumption of innocence and the state’s burden of proof, and that, despite his failure to object to that error, he was entitled to a new trial because the evidence was closely balanced. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the evidence was closely balanced. The deputies’ testimony was largely consistent, but so was the testimony of Sebby and his witnesses. Neither account of that morning’s events was fanciful. Prejudice rests not upon the seriousness of the error but upon the closeness of the evidence. View "People v. Sebby" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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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Defendant drove over the center line of a road and struck head-on a truck driven by Wood, causing Wood, who was pregnant, great bodily harm and permanent disability, and great bodily harm to defendant’s passenger, her 14-year-old son. Defendant consented to blood and urine samples on the day of the accident. The urine test revealed the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) metabolite, which results from cannabis use. Before trial, defendant acknowledged that the state was not required to show impairment, but argued that she should be allowed to rebut the presumption of impairment and present an alternative basis for the cause of the accident. No medical records were presented. The defense later asserted that it would have presented evidence that defendant’s low blood pressure might have caused her to lose consciousness. The court rejected defendant’s claim, finding that the Vehicle Code indicated a legislative intent to require “strict liability as to the accident.” Defendant was convicted of aggravated driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(6), (d)(1)(C)). After reversal by the appellate court, the Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court holding. The trial court erred in finding that defendant was barred, as a matter of law, from raising as an affirmative defense that the accident was caused solely and exclusively by a sudden unforeseeable medical condition that rendered defendant incapable of controlling her car. Defendant, however, failed to make an adequate offer of proof to support this affirmative defense View "People v. Way" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Officer Lenover was patrolling near Irving Elementary School when he noticed a car parked “partially in” a T-intersection, about 15 feet from school property. It was a weekday. There were 80-100 children playing in the school yard. Lenover ran the license plate and discovered that the car was owned by defendant, a registered child sex offender. Lenover approached and verified that the driver was defendant. According to Lenover, defendant admitted that he knew he was not supposed to be around the school. Lenover arrested him. Defendant later testified that he had driven a friend to the school, to deliver lunches to the friend’s grandchildren while defendant waited in the car. The friend stated that she had been inside the school for four to five minutes. Defendant denied telling Lenover that he knew he was not supposed to be near the school. The court found defendant had violated 720 ILCS 5/11-9.3(b), which makes it unlawful for a child sex offender to knowingly loiter within 500 feet of a school while persons under the age of 18 are present, and sentenced him to 30 months’ probation. The appellate court affirmed, holding that a child sex offender who is neither a parent nor a guardian of a school child “loiters” if he remains within “the restricted school zone for any purpose, lawful or unlawful, while children under age 18 are present,” rejecting defendant’s contention that the statute is unconstitutionally vague. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting defendant’s “legitimate purpose” defense. View "People v. Howard" on Justia Law

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In April 2011, Pearse, a convicted sex offender, registered the address of his Belvidere home under the Sex Offender Registration Act, 730 ILCS 150/3. In October, an officer verified his presence at that address, which had been entered into the state database. In January 2012, a police officer was dispatched to a Forest Park hospital and filled out an “initial” sex offender registration for Pearse, listing the hospital as Pearse’s address and his home as a “secondary” address. While the secondary address is entered on the form, it is not entered into the state database. About two weeks after his release from the hospital, Pearse was arrested at home for failure to register a change of address. The appellate court affirmed his conviction. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, noting the statute’s lack of clarity, but finding no statutory basis for imposing a duty to “reregister.” The Act requires notification of temporary absence from a registered address, which was accomplished in this case. The court noted that the form used for registration includes several terms that do not appear in the statute. View "People v. Pearse" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant, then 17 years old, was arrested and charged with eight aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW) counts and one unlawful possession of a firearm count. On June 2, 2009, defendant, as part of a negotiated plea agreement, pled guilty to count I (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A)); the state agreed to a nolle prosequi on the remaining charges. The court accepted the plea and sentenced defendant to 24 months’ probation based on the Class 4 felony offense of AUUW. Defendant completed his sentence. In 2013, defendant brought a petition under 735 ILCS 5/2-1401, seeking to vacate the conviction as void under the Illinois Supreme Court’s 2013 decision, People v. Aguilar, that the Class 4 form of AUUW was facially unconstitutional. Conceding that defendant’s conviction should be vacated, the state moved to reinstate AUUW counts that were previously nol-prossed. The court denied the motion on the basis that reinstatement of the charges would violate the one-act, one-crime doctrine. The appellate court determined it lacked jurisdiction to consider the state’s appeal. The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that the statute of limitations served as an absolute bar to refiling the charges, rejecting an argument that its decision will have a chilling effect on plea bargains. View "People v. Shinaul" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In April 2013, Ayres, pled guilty to aggravated battery and was sentenced to 12 months’ conditional discharge, with the requirement he not leave the state without court permission. In July, the state sought to revoke his conditional discharge alleging Ayres left the state without court approval. Ayres stipulated he left the state without permission. At sentencing, McClellan testified he had been Ayres’s attorney in the past and had received a telephone call from Ayres months earlier. Ayres stated he was the subject of a police investigation involving a shooting. McClellan responded “you need to get the hell out of Dodge.” McClellan stated that, based on previous conversations with Ayres’s mother, Jones, he believed Ayres had places within the state where he could go. He denied being told Ayres could only go to Indianapolis. Jones testified she told McClellan the only place Ayres could go was Indianapolis. The court sentenced Ayres to seven years’ imprisonment. Ayres’s attorney filed a motion to reconsider sentence, arguing it was excessive. Ayres mailed a pro se petition to withdraw guilty plea and vacate sentence, alleging “ineffective assistance of counsel.” The court held a hearing and denied counsel’s motion. Ayres was not present. The court did not reference defendant’s petition. The appellate court affirmed, finding the words “ineffective assistance of counsel” without explanation or supporting facts insufficient to trigger the court’s duty to inquire. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, finding the allegation sufficient to trigger a duty to determine whether new counsel should be appointed. View "People v. Ayres" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant, age 16, was charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and tried in adult court under the “automatic transfer” provision of the Juvenile Court Act, 705 ILCS 405/5-130. He was convicted only of the uncharged offense of second-degree murder, 720 ILCS 5/9-2(a)(2). The court found that the state had proved the elements of first-degree murder but also found that “at the time of the killing [defendant] believed the circumstances to be such that if they existed would have justified or exonerated the killing under the said principles of self-defense, but his belief was unreasonable.” The state had not filed a written motion requesting that defendant be sentenced as an adult pursuant to 705 ILCS 405/5-130(1)(c)(ii), nor did defendant object or argue at the time of sentencing that he should have been sentenced as a juvenile. Instead, the trial court and the parties proceeded directly to sentencing. Defendant was sentenced, as an adult, to 18 years in prison. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in automatically sentencing defendant as an adult pursuant to section 5-130(1)(c)(i) because second-degree murder was not a “charge[ ] arising out of the same incident” as the first-degree murder charges. View "People v. Fort" on Justia Law

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In 2005, defendant was convicted of first-degree murder. The appellate court affirmed. Defendant neither appealed nor sought certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. In August 2008, defendant filed a pro se post-conviction petition. He asserted the petition’s due date as March 11, 2008, reasoning that he would have had until June 11, 2007 to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court and until September 11, 2007, to seek certiorari. An affidavit from inmate Askew, a “freelance paralegal,” indicated that defendant was unable to obtain the record until March 19, 2008; after that, timely completion of the petition was prevented by prison lockdowns from March 25 through April 18, and on April 24 and May 15, 2008. The trial court dismissed the petition as untimely; the appellate court reversed. On remand, defendant testified that sometime in 2007, he received notice that his conviction had been affirmed, but was unsure how to proceed. In January 2008 he was approached by Askew, who told him to request transcripts. Defendant stated that he never knew what the deadline was. The judge granted the motion to file the petition late. The case was reassigned. The second judge dismissed defendant’s petition as untimely, also finding that defendant’s claims had no merit. The appellate court affirmed, holding that the second judge had authority to reconsider the prior order. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, stating that a court in a criminal case has inherent power to reconsider and correct its rulings. While literal reading of the statute does not specifically include a deadline for filing a post-conviction petition when no petition for leave to appeal is filed, the correct reading of the statute indicates that the post-conviction petition was due on December 11, 2007, before any of the cited hardships. View "People v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law