Justia Juvenile Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
People v. Buffer
A jury found defendant guilty of four counts of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2)), and specifically found that defendant, age 16 at the time of the crime, personally discharged a firearm that caused the victim’s death. Defendant was sentenced in 2010. Illinois law then prescribed a sentencing range of 20-60 years for first-degree murder (730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-20(a)) and mandated a minimum 25-year additional term for personally discharging a firearm that caused the victim’s death. The court stated that it “considered all of the relevant statutory requirements," merged the counts, and sentenced defendant to 25 years on the murder conviction and 25 years for the mandatory firearm add-on. While defendant’s appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court held (Miller v. Alabama) that imposing on a juvenile offender a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole, without consideration of the defendant’s youth and its attendant characteristics, violated the Eighth Amendment. The appellate court denied defendant leave to file a supplemental brief, then affirmed defendant’s conviction and sentence. The Illinois Supreme Court subsequently held that Miller applied retroactively to cases on collateral review. Defendant filed a pro se postconviction petition, which the circuit court summarily dismissed as frivolous. While defendant’s appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Miller applied retroactively to cases on collateral review; the Illinois Supreme Court extended Miller’s holding to mandatory de facto life sentences. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed a remand for resentencing. Defendant’s sentence was greater than 40 years and constituted a de facto life sentence. The circuit court failed to consider defendant’s youth and its attendant characteristics in imposing that sentence. View "People v. Buffer" on Justia Law
People v. Harris
Defendant was convicted of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and aggravated battery with a firearm. Defendant was 18 years and 3 months at the time of the offenses, and he was sentenced to 76 years in prison. The appellate court vacated defendant's sentences and remanded for resentencing, holding that the aggregate prison term violated the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution. The Supreme Court of Illinois held that the evidence was sufficient to prove that defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; defendant forfeited his as-applied challenge under the proportionate penalties clause because defendant did not raise his as-applied constitutional challenge in the trial court, an evidentiary hearing was not held on his constitutional claim, and the court declined to remand the matter for an evidentiary hearing; and defendant's facial challenge to his aggregate sentence under the Eighth Amendment failed because, for sentencing purposes, the age of 18 marks the present line between juveniles and adults. Accordingly, the court reversed the appellate court's judgment vacating defendant's sentences and remanded for resentencing. The court otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "People v. Harris" on Justia Law
People v. Hunter
In consolidated appeals concerning an amendment to the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/5-130), which eliminated armed robbery while armed with a firearm and aggravated vehicular hijacking while armed with a firearm from the list of automatic transfer offenses, and the new juvenile sentencing provisions codified in section 5-4.5-105 of the Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-105), which give the trial court discretion not to impose otherwise mandatory firearm sentencing enhancements, the appellate court rejected defendants’ arguments for retroactive application of these statutes to their cases that were pending on direct review when the statutes became effective and affirmed defendants’ convictions and sentences. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The amendment to section 5-130(1)(a) of the Act did not become effective until after trial court proceedings were concluded; no reversible error necessitated remand for further proceedings to which the amended statute could apply, so the amendment does not apply retroactively to the case at issue. Both defendants were sentenced well before the new juvenile sentencing provisions, including subsection (b), became effective and the defendants make no claim that error occurred in the trial court that would require vacatur of their sentences and remand for resentencing. View "People v. Hunter" on Justia Law
In re Jarquan B.
A 2015 petition for adjudication of wardship charged the minor, JB, with criminal trespass to a motor vehicle, a Class A misdemeanor (720 ILCS 5/21-2). JB pled guilty. The circuit court sentenced him to 12 months’ court supervision, 30 days’ stayed detention, and community service, informing him that under section 5-710(1)(b), if he violated the terms of his supervision, it could place him on probation or hold him in custody for up to 30 days or send him to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). At the time, the maximum sentence for a Class A misdemeanor was less than one year of incarceration. During the months that followed, JB repeatedly left his placement, had warrants issued for his arrest, served time in the juvenile temporary detention center, and was repeatedly warned that he could be sentenced to the DJJ. In February 2016, the court found it to be in JB’s best interest to commit him to the DJJ. JB argued that an amendment to section 5-710(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court Act, effective on January 1, 2016, precluded the court from committing him to the DJJ for his misdemeanor offense. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the commitment order. Section 5-720(4) focuses on the sentences available under section 5-710 at the time of a minor’s initial sentence. JB’s conduct of leaving his residential placement merely provided the grounds for revoking his probation; the court did not sentence him to the DJJ for a new offense. The commitment sentence constituted a resentencing for the original, underlying offense. View "In re Jarquan B." on Justia Law
In re Destiny P.
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
People v. Holman
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
People v. Fort
Defendant, age 16, was charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and tried in adult court under the “automatic transfer” provision of the Juvenile Court Act, 705 ILCS 405/5-130. He was convicted only of the uncharged offense of second-degree murder, 720 ILCS 5/9-2(a)(2). The court found that the state had proved the elements of first-degree murder but also found that “at the time of the killing [defendant] believed the circumstances to be such that if they existed would have justified or exonerated the killing under the said principles of self-defense, but his belief was unreasonable.” The state had not filed a written motion requesting that defendant be sentenced as an adult pursuant to 705 ILCS 405/5-130(1)(c)(ii), nor did defendant object or argue at the time of sentencing that he should have been sentenced as a juvenile. Instead, the trial court and the parties proceeded directly to sentencing. Defendant was sentenced, as an adult, to 18 years in prison. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in automatically sentencing defendant as an adult pursuant to section 5-130(1)(c)(i) because second-degree murder was not a “charge[ ] arising out of the same incident” as the first-degree murder charges. View "People v. Fort" on Justia Law
In re M.I.
In 2010, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services petitioned for wardship of M.I., a minor, 705 ILCS 405/2-3, alleging that M.I.’s mother had neglected her and that M.I.’s father had an extensive criminal history. The juvenile court granted the petition, finding M.I. to be neglected. The court ordered father to obtain a drug and alcohol assessment, submit to random drug testing twice monthly, undergo a psychological examination, and complete a parenting class. Until he dropped out of high school, father was enrolled in special education courses for learning disabilities. He had been unemployed since 2007. Father had been incarcerated on eight different occasions for approximately 18-19 years in total but had not been incarcerated since 2005. He suffers from bipolar disorder and admitted to regular marijuana use, indicating that he had been clean for two months. Father is functionally illiterate, and possesses an IQ of 58. The state asserted that he did not attend drug testing or participate in a drug and alcohol evaluation and refused to provide an address to his caseworker. The court found both parents unfit. Thereafter, at five different permanency hearings, the juvenile court found that father had failed to make reasonable efforts to achieve the service plan and permanency goal. The court appointed DCFS as guardian. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the termination of father’s rights. The statute, 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b), does not contain a willfulness requirement. The juvenile court considered father’s intellectual disability and other circumstances, such as his sporadic attendance at visitation, when it found him unfit under subsection (b). View "In re M.I." on Justia Law
In re M.M.
The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) sought wardship of 9-and-10-year-old children, 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b). The minors then lived with their father, Larry, who had a criminal history. Larry entered into an agreed order of protection, allowing the minors to reside with their paternal grandparents. Larry subsequently disclosed the name of the mother, who filed an answer. No information concerning mother was presented at the hearing. The court found that the minors were neglected and that mother did not contribute to the injurious environment. A subsequent report stated that mother had stable housing and had obtained a certified nursing assistant certificate. She was not addicted to alcohol or illegal substances, had passed a random drug screening, and had never been arrested. She takes prescription medication for bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. Mother completed a parenting class and a domestic violence class, had engaged in an intact family program and indicated a willingness to participate in services. The caseworker took no position as to who should be appointed guardian. The state and the guardian ad litem agreed that mother was fit, but argued that DCFS should be appointed guardian. Mother requested custody and guardianship. The court ordered DCFS appointed as guardian, found mother to be fit, and found that placement was necessary, “based on all that was presented in the materials for my review for this disposition and upon considering argument.” The appellate court concluded that the trial court violated 705 ILCS 405/2-27(1). The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed and remanded. The Act does not authorize placing a ward of the court with a third party absent a finding of parental unfitness, inability, or unwillingness to care for the minor. View "In re M.M." on Justia Law
Alvarez v. Howard
A grand jury indicted Montano, for 29 counts of first-degree murder, arising out of the 2013 shooting death of Solano, and 4 counts of attempted murder and 1 count of aggravated battery, arising out of the shooting of Maza. Montano was 15 years old at the time of the offenses. The charges were brought in criminal court, under section 5-130 of the Juvenile Court Act as then in effect. While the charges were pending, a statutory amendment raised the age for automatic adult prosecution for the enumerated offenses from 15 to 16. The prosecution objected to a transfer, arguing that because the implementation of the amendment was delayed until January 1, 2016, it was presumed to have a prospective effect. The court transferred the cause to juvenile court, reasoning that, because the legislature had not indicated the temporal reach of the amendment, the temporal reach was determined by section 4 of the Statute on Statutes. The court concluded that the juvenile transfer statute was procedural and would apply retroactively. The Illinois Supreme Court rejected the state’s petition for mandamus. The amendment was retroactive under the Statute on Statutes and belongs in juvenile court, unless it is transferred to criminal court pursuant to a discretionary transfer hearing. View "Alvarez v. Howard" on Justia Law