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The People v. Bradford

AUGUST 3, 1971.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

HAROLD JUNIOR BRADFORD, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. RODNEY A. SCOTT, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SIMKINS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, Harold Junior Bradford, entered a plea of guilty to the crime of murder, and was sentenced to an indeterminate term of 30 to 60 years upon the recommendation of the Assistant State's Attorney.

The sole question before us is whether the minimum sentence is excessive.

The authority to entertain this appeal is contained in Supreme Court Rule 615 which provides:

"(b) Powers of the Reviewing Court. On appeal the reviewing court may:

(4) reduce the punishment imposed by the trial court;"

The imposition of sentence by the trial judge is an enormously complex one and the decisions involved have impact not only upon the defendant, but upon the legitimate interests and concern of the public. The imposition of sentence is an exercise in discretion and judgment on the part of the trial judge. (People v. Riley, 376 Ill. 364; 33 N.E.2d 872.) (People v. Spann, 20 Ill.2d 338; 169 N.E.2d 781.) The legislature has laid down, in general terms, guidelines to be followed. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, sec. 1-7(e) provides that all sentences to the penitentiary must be for an indeterminate term and that "The court in imposing a sentence of imprisonment in the penitentiary shall determine the minimum and maximum limits of imprisonment." (Emphasis supplied.) The expressed intention and concern of the legislature, with regard to sentencing is set forth in ch. 38, supra, in sec. 1-2(c) and (d), which provide:

"General Purposes. The provisions of this Code shall be construed in accordance with the general purposes hereof, to:

(c) Prescribe penalties which are proportionate to the seriousness of offenses and which permit recognition of differences in rehabilitation possibilities among individual offenders;

(d) Prevent arbitrary or oppressive treatment of persons accused or convicted of offenses."

The legislature has also bestowed upon the trial judge, in addition to the prescription for indeterminate sentences, a wide range of options which he may exercise after conviction. He may admit the defendant to probation with or without a sentence to a penal institution as a condition thereof, he may elect to couple this with a fine, and may impose such other conditions as seem to him to be appropriate. (Ch. 38, supra, sec. 117.) He may under certain conditions make the sentence imposed run consecutively to, or concurrently with other sentences, (ch. 38, supra, sec. 1-7(m)(n)), and in a case such as this he could have imposed a sentence of death (ch. 38, supra, sec. 1-7(2)). If the minimum sentence imposed is less than 20 years the trial judge also effectively controls parole eligibility Ch. 38, supra, sec. 123-2(3).

The range of dispositional alternatives made available to the trial judge, as well as the expressed intention of the legislature, make it clear that sentencing is intended to be individualized. In commenting upon the purpose for which evidence in aggravation and mitigation is received prior to imposition of sentence the court in People v. Spann, 20 Ill.2d 338, p. 342; 169 N.E.2d 781, said: "It should be noted, however, that the rule has as its purpose the protection of the accused and society alike and is aimed at permitting intelligent judicial discretion in the matter of imposing sentence, in derogation of the ancient belief that `every offense in a like legal category calls for an identical punishment.'" Our authority to review, and in appropriate instances to reduce, sentence is intended to secure the implementation of the legislative mandate and intent.

In this case there was no trial, and since the offense of murder is nonprobational no petition was filed. No statement was made into the record by the State's Attorney or by defense counsel. The People waived the right to offer evidence in aggravation and the defendant waived the right to offer evidence in mitigation. Hence the trial judge, at the time of imposing sentence, had before him the plea of guilty and the recitations contained in the indictment together with the recommendation of the Assistant State's Attorney.

Thus we are effectively precluded from the exercise of our authority and responsibility under Rule 615, supra, and this is so because there is no record before us upon which ...


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