People v. Stoecker 2014 IL 115756



Appellate citation: 2013 IL App (3d)110300-U.


††††† JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

††††† Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

††††† Near Wyoming in Stark County, a 15-year-old girl from Peoria was left wounded in a field in 1996. She had been raped and her throat had been cut, but she survived for another month. Before she died, she described her attacker, his red car, and how she had accepted a ride with him. Earlier in the day, two people had seen the defendant driving a red car and wearing a knife in his belt. The next day, he purchased a plane ticket to Costa Rica with cash and left the country. His two brothers were seen tearing out and burning the interior of a red car, which they then took to a salvage yard. About a year and a half later, he was extradited from Costa Rica and charged in Illinois with first degree murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault.

††††† At trial, two forensic scientists gave unchallenged testimony as to a match between the defendantís DNA profile and a crime scene sample taken from the victimís clothing. A jury convicted him and he received concurrent terms of natural life for the murder and thirty years for the sexual assault. The appellate court affirmed in 1999.

††††† Stoecker has spent the intervening years filing unsuccessful motions and petitions. This appeal concerns his 2009 pro se motion for postconviction testing of forensic evidence using new DNA testing methods that were unavailable at the time of trial. There is a statute which speaks to this issue. The circuit court denied the motion, but the appellate court reversed. The State appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.

††††† Prior to 2007, evidence which was not previously tested forensically because the technology was not available at the time of trial could be the subject of a defense request for postconviction testing, but the statute did not distinguish between evidence which had undergone DNA testing before trial and evidence which had never been tested. The 2007 amendment requires a defendant seeking re-testing to show a reasonable likelihood of more probative results. After a prima facie case has thus been established, the circuit court then determines whether the testing is likely to produce new, noncumulative evidence materially relevant to the claim of actual innocence. These are two separate requirements.

††††† The supreme court said that the defendant had failed to plead, as required by the first requirement of the statute, that the new testing he requested has the potential to produce more probative results. Any DNA test has the potential to exclude, but he did not allege a greater potential to exclude than the testing already done.

††††† As to the second statutory requirement, the defendant requested Y-chromosome (Y-STR) testing, which he alleged had been unavailable at the time of trial. In this decision, the supreme court said that, in consideration of the strength of the trial evidence, there was nothing to support the claim that Y-STR testing has the scientific potential to produce new noncumulative evidence relevant to the defendantís claim of actual innocence. The circuit court properly denied the motion for additional testing, and the appellate court was reversed.