Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois

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In 1993, ISU student Lockmiller was found dead in her Normal apartment. Police questioned Lockmiller’s then-boyfriend, Swaine, and former boyfriends, including Beaman. At a meeting including the McLean County prosecutors and several detectives, the prosecutors decided to charge Beaman. In discussing Lockmiller’s relationship with Murray with defense counsel, the prosecution did not disclose Murray’s drug use and incidents of domestic violence against another girlfriend, nor Murray’s incomplete polygraph examination. At trial, the state argued that all other possible suspects were excluded by alibis. Beaman was convicted of first-degree murder. Beaman sought postconviction relief, based on failure to disclose material information on Murray’s viability as a suspect. In 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court vacated Beaman’s conviction. The state dismissed the charges. In April 2013, the state certified his innocence. Beaman filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit against the prosecutors and detectives with state law claims, including malicious prosecution, against the Town of Normal. The district court dismissed the claims. In 2014, Beaman filed a state court suit against the detectives and Normal, pleading the state law claims that the federal court had dismissed without prejudice. The circuit court granted defendants summary judgment, reasoning that Beaman could not satisfy the elements to establish malicious prosecution, noting testimony that the prosecutor rejected suggestions to investigate other avenues. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The appellate court erroneously focused its inquiry on whether the “officer[s] pressured or exerted influence on the prosecutor’s decision or made knowing misstatements upon which the prosecutor relied" and failed to consider whether the defendants proximately caused the commencement or continuance or played a significant role in Beaman’s prosecution. View "Beaman v. Freesmeyer" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Defendant was charged with the sexual assault of his 10-year-old daughter, J.G. The indictment alleged that defendant inserted his fingers in J.G.’s vagina, licked her vagina, and touched her buttocks. After his conviction, Defendant filed multiple pro se collateral challenges to his convictions and at various times was represented by different attorneys. In 2015, Defendant filed a pro se motion seeking DNA testing under the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/116-3). The state argued that the controversy at trial was not whether another individual had committed the crime but whether the alleged assault occurred at all. At a hearing, Defendant appeared pro se but was accompanied by attorney Brodsky, who sought to file a Supreme Court Rule 13 limited scope appearance. The court denied Brodsky’s oral request, stating that allowing the motion would mean that attorney Caplan, Brodsky, and the defendant were all working on the case. Defendant later argued extensively in support of his DNA motion. Brodsky was not present. The appellate court vacated the denial of the motion, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s "Powell: decision concerning a court's refusal to hear chosen counsel. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, finding no “Powell” violation. A section 116-3 action is civil in nature and independent from any other collateral post-conviction action and Brodsky’s request failed completely to comply with the requirements of that rule. View "People v. Gawlak" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. His driver’s license was summarily suspended under Illinois’s implied consent statute (625 ILCS 5/11-501.1). Defendant filed a petition to rescind the statutory summary suspension, arguing that he was arrested in a privately-owned Walgreens parking lot that was not a “public highway,” as defined by the implied consent law. At his hearing, defendant, the only witness, testified that he was parked in a Joliet Walgreens parking lot and “was sleeping behind the wheel” when he “was woken up by police officers,” who arrested him. The state successfully moved for a directed finding, arguing he had not met his initial burden of proof. The Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Defendant was required to present affirmative evidence to make a prima facie case for rescission. Defendant’s testimony did not specify the proximity or physical connection of the parking lot to the storefront or the location of his car within the parking lot; was obliged to produce “enough evidence to allow the fact-trier to infer the fact at issue and rule in [his] favor.” Defendant’s mere reference to “Walgreens,” without more, establishes nothing about either the identity of the entity that maintained the lot or the public’s use of the lot, the essential components for a prima facie showing that the parking lot was not a “public highway.” View "People v. Relwani" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged in a separate case with domestic battery and criminal trespass to a residence. He was released on bond, with the court ordering as conditions of the bail bond that defendant have no contact with the victim, S.L. (his former girlfriend), and that he refrain from entering or remaining at the victim’s residence or going on the premises located at the victim’s residence. Later that month, in violation of his bail bond conditions, defendant returned to and entered S.L.’s home. While there, according to S.L., defendant battered and sexually assaulted her. Defendant was charged with home invasion (720 ILCS 5/19-6(a)(2)), aggravated criminal sexual assault, domestic battery, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, and violation of bail bond. With respect to home invasion, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected an argument that S.L. granted authority to the defendant to enter her home based on S.L.’s acceptance of defendant’s practice of using and then returning her car and keys. A person who enters the dwelling place of another in violation of a court order thereby enters the dwelling “without authority” under the home invasion statute View "People v. Witherspoon" on Justia Law

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In 2013, defendant (age 31) was charged with several controlled drug incidents, In a negotiated plea agreement, he agreed to plead guilty to two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a church—a Class 1 felony with a sentencing range of 4-15 years, 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-30(a). The state agreed to dismiss seven remaining charges and to recommend a sentencing cap of 13 years’ imprisonment. After the circuit court delivered Rule 402 admonishments. Defendant acknowledged that he understood he was agreeing to a sentence of no less than 4 years and no more than 13 years. Defendant’s presentence investigation report included prior convictions for resisting a peace officer, criminal trespass to property, four counts of aggravated driving under the influence involving two fatalities and two counts of great bodily harm, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, and unlawful restraint. Defendant sought a six-year sentence, noting mitigating factors, including a substantial history with alcohol abuse without meaningful intervention, difficult childhood circumstances, poor education, and defendant’s participation in rehabilitation programs and expressions of remorse. The court expressly stated that the state’s recommendation for a 13-year sentence was justified, then imposed a sentence of 11 years. At the hearing on defendant’s motion to withdraw his plea, defendant argued that his plea was not knowing and voluntary. The Illinois Supreme Court held that a defendant who enters into a negotiated plea agreement may not challenge his sentence on the basis that the court relied on improper statutory sentencing factors. This was an excessive sentence challenge. Under Rule 604(d), defendant’s recourse was to seek to withdraw the plea and return the parties to the status quo before the plea. View "People v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged following a search of his residence pursuant to warrant. He unsuccessfully moved to quash the warrant and suppress evidence and was convicted of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon but was acquitted of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, finding that the facts recited in the warrant application did not establish a sufficient nexus between the residence and the criminal activities. The officer had stated that: two of three drug buys conducted over 19 days occurred in the vicinity of the residence; Casillas arrived at the first drug buy in a vehicle registered to Hernandez (defendant’s live-in girlfriend) at the residence; while the officer was texting Casillas about the third drug buy, other officers, watching the residence, observed Casillas exit the residence and walk to meet the officer and exchange cocaine for $150 in cash; Casillas had been identified from a driver’s license photograph; law enforcement records showed that Casillas was an associate of Hernandez. The connection between Casillas and Hernandez was not further explained. The statement alone did not create an inference that the two were involved in drug dealing together, let alone that Casillas was storing evidence at defendant’s home. There was no evidence that Hernandez had ever been suspected of or charged with any crime nor any evidence that Casillas had been involved in drug dealing before his three transactions with the officer. There was no evidence that Casillas used Hernandez’s vehicle more than the one time described in the complaint. View "People v. Manzo" on Justia Law

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Defendant sold cocaine to an undercover officer and was convicted of delivery of a controlled substance. He did not post bail and spent 482 days in pre-sentence custody. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The court imposed various fines, fees, and costs under the heading “Fees and costs not offset by the $5 per-day presentence incarceration credit.” On appeal, the defendant argued that certain charges imposed were fines, not fees. The state conceded that several of the charges were fines and the defendant withdrew his challenge to the $25 “Court Services (Sheriff)” charge. The state then conceded that the $2 Public Defender Records Automation Fund charge is a fine. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the classification as fees of the remaining items: the $2 Public Defender Records Automation Fund fee (55 ILCS 5/3-4012), the $2 State’s Attorney Records Automation Fund fee (section 4-2002.1(c)), the $15 Court Document Storage Fund fee (705 ILCS 105/27.3a), the $190 “Felony Complaint Filed, (Clerk)” fee (section 27.2a(w)(1)(A)), and the $15 court automation fee (section 27.3a). All of those items compensate the state for a cost related to the defendant’s prosecution and not subject to the defendant’s presentence incarceration credit. View "People v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought reinstatement of his withdrawn post-conviction petition. The state argued that neither the Post-Conviction Hearing Act, 725 ILCS 5/122-5 nor the Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/13-217 authorizes “reinstatement,” so that the motion should, instead, be treated as a motion for leave to file a new, successive petition that must meet the cause-and-prejudice test. Referencing only section 122-5, Petitioner argued, broadly, that a “judge has discretion to allow a post-conviction petitioner’s motion to reinstate his petition after he has voluntarily withdrawn it.” Petition argued that the state coerced him into withdrawing his petition by stating that it would again seek the death penalty upon retrial if he succeeded in his challenge; that his attorney and the court failed to adequately admonish him regarding his options, the current law, and the likely course of death penalty jurisprudence; and that the procedure by which the withdrawal took place was generally unlawful. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court’s denial of the motion as untimely, having been filed seven years after the motion to withdraw; “it is clear that petitioner sought reinstatement well beyond either statute's time limitations.” The facts of record would not have supported a finding that petitioner’s delay in refiling was not due to his culpable negligence. The timing was intentional and strategic. Petitioner is, free to seek leave to file a successive post-conviction petition. View "People v. Simms" on Justia Law

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Following a third trial, the jury found Defendant guilty of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. Defendant appealed, arguing that the state failed to exercise due diligence in obtaining DNA test results, so the trial court erred in granting an extension of the speedy-trial deadline. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court denied leave to appeal; the U.S. Supreme Court denied his petition for writ of certiorari. In 2014, a private attorney retained by Defendant filed a post-conviction petition, which was summarily dismissed. Defendant’s attorney filed a notice of appeal. Two weeks later, defendant filed a timely pro se motion to reconsider the dismissal and to allow supplementation, alleging his post-conviction attorney had failed to include several claims that defendant had requested be part of the petition. Defendant stated that, after receiving a letter from his attorney “about money and why he didn’t raise ineffective [assistance] of direct appeal counsel,” defendant “never heard from counsel again, until [the] court dismiss[ed] [the] petition.” The circuit court denied the motion and did not consider the merits or whether defendant’s attorney should have included those claims. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. A defendant who retains a private attorney at the first stage of postconviction proceedings is entitled to reasonable assistance of counsel. At the first stage, there are no hearings, no arguments, and no introduction of evidence; any assertion of deficient attorney performance will almost certainly be that counsel failed to include claims the defendant wanted to have raised. A defendant who retains private counsel is bound by the attorney’s decision not to include a claim in the petition. The rationale for requiring a reasonable level of assistance from privately retained counsel at the second and third stages of postconviction proceedings applies equally to first stage representation. View "People v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Easton pled guilty to aggravated unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle, unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle, and four counts of unlawful use of a credit card. At sentencing, the court imposed concurrent 10-year prison terms for all six convictions. Defendant moved for reconsideration of the sentences. Defense counsel filed an Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) certificate. The circuit court denied the motion. The appellate court vacated, holding that the certificate did not comply with Rule 604(d), which was amended during the pendency of the appeal, requiring that counsel certify that he “has consulted with the defendant ... to ascertain defendant’s contentions of error in the sentence and the entry of the plea of guilty”. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that the certificate did not comply with the unamended rule. The amended rule, although procedural in nature, did not apply to the petition. The defendant’s post-plea proceedings in the circuit court were completed more than a year before Rule 604(d) was amended, so there were no “ongoing proceedings” to which the amended rule would apply. The result of the appellate court’s decision was to necessitate new proceedings in order to apply an amendment to a procedural rule that postdated the post-plea proceedings, which is not warranted under Illinois retroactivity jurisprudence. View "People v. Easton" on Justia Law