Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed October 6, 2005

No. 91874 People v. Sharpe

Direct appeal from the circuit court of Cook County.

Opinion by THOMAS, C.J.

In the circuit court of Cook County, defendant Kenneth Sharpe was indicted in connection with the March 13, 2001, fatal shooting of Bernard Magett. Making findings of statutory unconstitutionality, the court entered certain dismissals, from which the prosecution brought a direct appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, as is permitted by rule. Trial on the merits has not yet occurred.

In the counts at issue, defendant was charged with intentional first degree murder and first degree murder knowing that a strong probability of death or great bodily harm was created. Each of these offenses was charged twice, once as enhanced with a mandatory 15-year additional sentence for carrying a firearm and once as enhanced with a mandatory 20-year additional sentence for discharging a firearm. This was pursuant to the statute enacted in 2000 which adds 15, 20, or 25 years to a sentence for certain felonies for various types of firearms involvement. This enactment has been challenged a number of times in recent years and has been subjected to several findings of invalidity as creating an unconstitutional disproportionality.

In this decision, the supreme court said that cross-comparison analysis has become unworkable and must end insofar as comparison of offenses with different elements is concerned, which was the case here. Cases employing this analysis were overruled. The supreme court also said that the circuit court's result could not be upheld on the basis of the defendant's arguments making a due process claim.

The circuit court's rulings were reversed and the cause was remanded for further proceedings.