Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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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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Reese escaped from custody during a medical appointment, stabbed the guard, then jumped onto a hospital shuttle bus and told the driver, Rimmer: If you stop, I’m gonna stab you in the neck. After driving a short distance, Rimmer opened the door, causing the bus to stop suddenly. Rimmer grabbed Reese’s arm. Reese stabbed Rimmer in the face and chest, broke free, ran outside, and was tackled by police. Reese never drove the bus or gave directions on where to drive. He was charged with aggravated vehicular hijacking (720 ILCS 5/18-4(a)(3), vehicular invasion (720 ILCS 5/12-11.1), attempted armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/8-4, 18-2), and escape (720 ILCS 5/31-6). He represented himself and asked to have his leg shackles removed. The judge stated both counsel tables would be covered with drapes. The court asked potential jurors if anything about defendant’s appearance “with this drapery in front of him” would affect their ability to be fair. One potential juror expressed confusion; two did not respond. The court granted the prosecution’s motion to introduce defendant’s prior murder conviction for impeachment and ordered removal of Reese’s shackles during trial. Reese testified, asserting that he did not commit the murder, that he tried to escape because his health was failing and he had been beaten by guards before his murder trial, and that he never threatened Remmer. Convicted, Reese was sentenced to concurrent sentences of 50 years for hijacking, 30 years for vehicular invasion, 30 years for attempted armed robbery, and 14 years for escape, consecutive to the sentence for murder. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the convictions. Aggravated vehicular hijacking encompasses taking actual physical possession of a vehicle but may also be committed when a defendant exercises control of the vehicle by use or threat of force with the victim still present. View "People v. Reese" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant was charged with residential burglary and disarming a peace officer. The circuit court allowed defendant’s public defender to withdraw. Defendant proceeded pro se and was convicted. On appeal, defendant’s sole claim was that his waiver of trial counsel had not been voluntary. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. Defendant sought post-conviction relief (725 ILCS 5/122-1(a)). The appellate court affirmed dismissal of the petition. Defendant filed a pro se motion for leave to file a second postconviction petition (725 ILCS 5/122-1(f)). Defendant did not address cause and prejudice but claimed actual innocence, newly discovered evidence, denial of due process, speedy trial violation, and ineffective assistance of counsel. He claimed that his expected favorable ruling in a suit against the trial judge would provide the evidence necessary to support his claims. The circuit court held a hearing and dismissed; defendant was not present, nor was he represented. Defendant argued that the circuit court erred in permitting the state to participate at the cause and prejudice stage. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The Post-Conviction Hearing Act permits a defendant to file a successive postconviction petition only if he can demonstrate cause and prejudice by alleging facts to explain why the claims being asserted in the successive petition could not have been raised in the initial postconviction petition. Whether this prima facie showing of cause and prejudice has been made is a question of law for the circuit court. Here, the circuit court erroneously permitted the state to argue against a finding of cause and prejudice, however, as a matter of law, defendant failed to demonstrate cause and prejudice. View "People v. Bailey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant, age 20, was charged with six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW), and agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for 22 years’ imprisonment, and dismissal of the AUUW charges and a separate pending charge for possession of a stolen motor vehicle. Five years later, defendant filed a pro se postconviction petition alleging that his due process rights were substantially violated because he was not advised that he would be required to serve a 3-year term of mandatory supervised release (MSR) upon completion of the prison sentence. The trial court summarily dismissed the petition, finding that the record contradicted defendant’s allegations. The appellate court affirmed, finding that the admonishment satisfied due process and “conveyed the necessary warning regarding the three-year term of MSR in no uncertain terms, such that an ordinary person in defendant’s circumstances would understand it.” The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The record reflects that before accepting defendant’s plea, the court advised defendant that, for the offense of first-degree murder, the sentence required a term in prison ranging between 20 and 60 years, that the maximum period of imprisonment could be life, and that “[u]pon your release from the penitentiary, there is a period of three years mandatory supervised release, sometimes referred to as parole.” View "People v. Boykins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Gray and Carthon spent an evening drinking. The two had been friends for 20 years and had dated each other exclusively for two years, 15 years ago. The two regularly spent the night together and, on the night in question, had sex. In the morning, Gray began strangling Carthon and stabbed her with a knife. Gray was convicted of aggravated domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.3), after arguing that he wounded Carthon in self-defense. The appellate court held that the statutory definition of “family or household members,” as including “persons who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship. ... For purposes of this Article, neither a casual acquaintanceship nor ordinary fraternization between individuals in business or social contexts shall be deemed to constitute a dating relationship,” violated substantive due process as applied to defendant. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, first rejecting Gray’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. The court applied the rational basis test, reasoning that the statutory definition does not deprive Gray of a fundamental right. The absence of a time limit on former dating relationships, as applied to the instant case, was reasonable and rationally related to the statutory purpose of curbing domestic violence. View "People v. Gray" on Justia Law

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The Attorney General filed a complaint in which Count IV alleged that Wildermuth, an attorney, and Kleanthis, a veteran of the real estate business, engaged in acts and practices that violated section 3-102 of the Illinois Human Rights Act by a pattern and practice of discrimination in the offering of loan modification services to Illinois consumers. The complaint alleged that defendants advertised that they would succeed where other loan modification providers had failed, help consumers save their homes and obtain significant reductions in their monthly payments. The circuit court of Cook County denied defendants’ motion to dismiss but certified for interlocutory appeal the question: “Whether the State may claim a violation under the Illinois Human Rights Act pursuant to a reverse redlining theory where it did not allege that the defendant acted as a mortgage lender.” The appellate court answered the question in the affirmative. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed in part, stating that it is not necessary to allege that one is a mortgage lender to sustain a claim for a violation of the statute. The court concluded, nonetheless, that Count IV should have been dismissed, rejecting the state’s argument that the defendants engaged in a “real estate transaction” by providing “financial assistance for ... maintaining a dwelling.” Defendants’ services cannot be considered necessary; they were not “necessary conduits” through which funds flow, nor did they act as real estate brokers. View "Madigan v. Wildermuth" on Justia Law

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Holman, then age 17, was convicted of the 1979 murder of an 83-year-old woman. Holman had a criminal history as a juvenile and confessed to his involvement in a crime spree that involved other murders. He had been diagnosed as mildly mentally retarded.Holman’s attorney told the court that Holman did not want to offer any mitigating evidence and that Holman’s mother did not want to testify on his behalf. Holman received a sentence of life without parole. His appeal and post-conviction petitions were unsuccessful. In 2010, Holman filed a pro se petition for leave to file a successive postconviction petition, arguing that his life sentence was unconstitutional under Supreme Court precedent. The appellate court rejected that argument because it was not raised before the trial court and noted that the sentence was not unconstitutional under Miller v. Alabama (2012) because Holman was “afforded a ‘sentencing hearing where natural life imprisonment [was] not the only available sentence.’ ” The Illinois Supreme Court held that Miller announced a new substantive rule of constitutional law that applied retroactively. On remand, the appellate court reached the merits, recognized that Supreme Court precedent requires trial courts to consider youth and its attendant characteristics before imposing life sentences on juveniles, and concluded that the trial court in this case did so. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the denial of relief. The trial court looked at the evidence and concluded that Holman’s conduct placed him beyond rehabilitation; his sentence passes constitutional muster. View "People v. Holman" on Justia Law

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Wright, charged with armed robbery with a firearm (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a)(2)), refused to agree to continuances so his public defender withdrew. Before being allowed to represent himself, Wright was admonished by the court (Illinois Supreme Court Rule 401(a)) that he was charged in two different cases and could possibly be sentenced to consecutive sentences of 21-45 years in prison for each conviction. After the state informed the court that he was eligible for a maximum sentence of 60 years because of his criminal background, the court admonished Wright accordingly. Wright reiterated that he wanted to proceed pro se. The court later admonished him again that he faced concurrent sentences of 21-60 years. The court allowed Wright to proceed pro se. Wright was convicted. At sentencing, the state indicated that Wright was eligible for a maximum sentence of 75 years but sought the imposition of a 60-year sentence. The court imposed a 50-year sentence. The appellate court reversed based upon this incorrect admonishment. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court decision. Despite its incorrect statement of the maximum potential sentence, the court substantially complied with Rule 401(a). Wright made a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of counsel. The court also rejected arguments that deceptive evidence was presented to the grand jury; that the evidence concerning the gun was insufficient; that the court erred in excluding the hearsay statement of Wright’s codefendant about a BB gun; and concerning jury instructions defining “firearm.” View "People v. Wright" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Drew Peterson, was found guilty of the first-degree murder of his third ex-wife, Kathleen Savio and sentenced to 38 years’ imprisonment. Savio’s body was discovered in her bathtub in 2004 and her death was initially determined to be an accidental drowning. After the disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, Savio’s body was exhumed and the cause of death was determined to be a homicide. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed Peterson’s conviction and sentence, noting that there was no challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. The courts upheld the admission at trial of testimony about prior bad acts and of testimony about hearsay statements made by Savio and Stacy. The court applied the forfeiture by wrongdoing doctrine, which permits the introduction of an absent witness’s statements where the defendant engaged in conduct designed to prevent the witness from testifying. The court rejected arguments that counsel rendered ineffective assistance when he called attorney Smith as a witness at trial, to testify about Smith’s conversation with Stacy concerning Peterson’s involvement in Savio’s death and that Smith’s testimony should have been barred by the attorney-client privilege. Defense counsel was not operating under a per se conflict of interest despite having signed a media contract. View "People v. Peterson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner, charged with six counts of violating an order of protection and two related counts of witness harassment, pleaded guilty to two charges with the understanding that the others would be dropped and his sentences would be served concurrently. On witness harassment, a Class 2 felony, he was sentenced to five years in prison plus two years of mandatory supervised release (MSR). For violation of an order of protection, a Class 4 felony, he was sentenced to three years in prison. A sentence for violating an order of protection must include a four-year MSR term, 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(d)(6), but no term of MSR connected to that conviction was mentioned during plea negotiations, the sentencing hearing, or in the sentencing order. Petitioner completed his prison sentences on September 23, 2015. He was “violated at the door” for failure to identify a suitable host site for electronic monitoring. He had accrued day-for-day credit for serving MSR while incarcerated. His two-year MSR term was to end on December 23, 2016, but the government asserted that his sentence included a four-year MSR term by law that did not start until after the five-year prison sentence, giving him a discharge date of December 23, 2017. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the MSR term is included in the sentence as a matter of law and that the failure to include it in the sentencing order does not invalidate the sentence. Although neither the prosecutor nor the court could allow petitioner to avoid the MSR term, the parties believed petitioner was pleading guilty in exchange for a sentence of seven years in custody and two years of MSR. However, petitioner declined an opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea and has not proven a right to have his sentence reconfigured. View "Round v. Lamb" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law