Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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Johnathan was adjudicated a delinquent minor under 705 ILCS 405/5-701 after he was found guilty of 10 counts of the offense of aggravated criminal sexual assault against a seven-year-old victim. During his sex offender evaluation, Johnathan stated that his lawyer did not return calls, that they “didn’t talk” and that he was never prepared for the stand. On appeal, Jonathan argued that the circuit court erred because it did not conduct a “Krankel” preliminary inquiry regarding his pro se claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.The Illinois Supreme Court held that the circuit court erred in not conducting a “Krankel” hearing. The Krankel procedure applies in juvenile proceedings and is triggered when a defendant raises a pro se posttrial claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. A pro se defendant only has to bring his claim to the trial court’s attention and is not required to file a written motion. The procedure applies even though the defendant has retained counsel. Johnathan clearly stated that his attorney was not doing something that he should have been doing. A juvenile in a juvenile delinquency proceeding need do nothing more than bring his pro se claim to the attention of the court. View "In re Johnathan T." on Justia Law

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Jones was a juvenile in 2000 when he pled guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 50 years in prison pursuant to a fully negotiated plea agreement. After unsuccessfully petitioning for postconviction relief, Jones sought leave to file a successive postconviction petition alleging his sentence violated the eighth amendment protections in the Supreme Court’s “Miller v. Alabama” decision.The appellate court affirmed the denial of his motion, finding that Jones’ claims did not invoke the protections provided to juveniles in Miller. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Miller’s additional protections for juvenile offenders apply only when a trial court lacks or refuses to use discretion in sentencing a juvenile offender to life, or to a de facto life, sentence. The mandatory sentencing scheme that applied in Illinois at the time he was sentenced was never applied to Jones. By entering a plea agreement, a defendant forecloses any claim of error. A voluntary guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional errors or irregularities, including constitutional ones. Jones has not claimed that the state engaged in any misrepresentation or committed any misconduct. View "People v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The circuit court of Cook County adjudicated Z.L. and Z.L.’s siblings abused and neglected minors under the Juvenile Court Act (705 ILCS 405/2-3) and made the minors wards of the court. The appellate court reversed the findings of abuse and neglect and remanded for compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, 25 U.S.C. 1912(a).The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the judgment of the circuit court, rejecting arguments that the state failed to prove Z.L. was a victim of abusive head trauma and that the court’s finding that Z.L. was physically abused was against the manifest weight of the evidence. The trial court’s conclusion that the mother was unable, at that time, to parent the children was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. The court remanded for a determination of whether there was compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. Although the record disclosed that the state sent notification to the Bureau of Indian Affairs on December 20, 2019, there is no evidence as to what has transpired in connection with this notice since that time. View "In re Z.L." on Justia Law

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In 1996, Dorsey (age 14) kicked open a door to a Chicago takeout restaurant and began firing a gun at customers, killing a 16-year-old and severely injuring 13-year-old Williams and 16-year-old Sims. At the hospital, Williams told police that Dorsey, whom she knew from school, was the shooter. The juvenile court allowed Dorsey’s prosecution to proceed in adult criminal court. Dorsey was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. A presentence report detailed Dorsey’s troubled home life, gang involvement, and previous encounters with the law. While awaiting trial, Dorsey obtained an eleventh-grade education with “very good grades.” The court heard extensive evidence in aggravation and in mitigation then sentenced Dorsey to consecutive terms, resulting in an aggregate sentence of 76 years’ imprisonment.In 2014, Dorsey sought leave to file a successive petition for postconviction relief, arguing that his aggregate sentence violated the Eighth Amendment and the Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama holding, which forbids “a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.” He argued that, although his sentence is not technically a natural life sentence, such a lengthy sentence imposed on a juvenile is sufficient to trigger Miller-type protections.The Illinois Supreme Court held that good-conduct credit is relevant and that a sentence imposed pursuant to a statutory scheme that affords a juvenile an opportunity to be released from prison after serving 40 years or less of the term imposed does not constitute a de facto life sentence. View "People v. Dorsey" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Lusby was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and home invasion and sentenced to 130 years’ imprisonment. Though he was 23 years old at the time of the trial, he was only 16 years old at the time of the offenses. After an unsuccessful direct appeal and post-conviction proceedings, he sought leave to file a successive post-conviction petition, asserting that his sentencing hearing was constitutionally inadequate under the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision, Miller v. Alabama. The Will County Circuit Court denied that motion. The appellate court reversed.The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court’s decision, denying relief. Lusby failed to show cause and prejudice such that the trial court should have granted leave to file a successive post-conviction petition. Lusby had every opportunity to present mitigating evidence but chose not to offer any. The trial court considered his youth and its attendant characteristics before concluding that his future should be spent in prison. The de facto discretionary life sentence passes constitutional muster under Miller; Lusby has not shown prejudice under 725 ILCS 5/122-1(a)(1). Miller does not require a court to use “magic words” before sentencing a juvenile defendant to life imprisonment but only requires consideration of “youth-related factors.” View "People v. Lusby" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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