Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed March 20, 2014
People v. Davis 2014 IL 115595
Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (1st)112577-U.
JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Garman and Justices Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
This defendant was arrested at age 14, a few days after the 1990 fatal shooting of two men in Chicago. In the circuit court of Cook County, he was tried as an adult on an accountability theory and received, pursuant to statute, a natural life sentence without parole because he had been found guilty of murdering more than one person. He also received 30 years each for other offenses related to the shootings—two counts of attempted first degree murder and one count of home invasion—all to run concurrently. All of this was affirmed on direct appeal, and the defendant has spent the intervening years bringing unsuccessful collateral challenges, of which this is the fifth. However, in 2012, the United States Supreme Court held in Miller v. Alabama that it is cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the eighth amendment to the United States Constitution, to impose a mandatory life sentence without parole on one who was under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. When Miller was decided, the cause at issue here, the defendant’s 2011 motion for leave to file a successive postconviction petition, was pending in the appellate court after the circuit court had denied it. That reviewing body found that the United States Supreme Court’s decision applied retroactively to Davis and, although it affirmed the circuit court’s denial of leave to file a successive petition, it vacated the defendant’s sentence, remanding for resentencing. That ruling by the appellate court is affirmed in this decision.
The Illinois Supreme Court said that the Miller case declared a new substantive rule which can be applied retroactively. It also said that the statute calling for a mandatory sentence of life without parole for those who commit multiple murders is not facially unconstitutional because it can be validly applied to adults. However, as applied to this juvenile, the statute invalidly made the challenged sentence mandatory by precluding the sentencing court from considering the offender’s young age and individual circumstances. The defendant can still be sentenced on remand to natural life without parole, but the sentencing court must exercise its discretion in so doing.