APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Kankakee County; the Hon.
PATRICK M. BURNS, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE HEIPLE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
On December 17, 1979, an indictment was filed against the defendant, William Hudson, Jr., charging him with one count of murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 9-1(a)(1)) and six counts of attempt murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 8-4(a)). One of the attempt murder victims died as a result of her injuries, and the defendant was subsequently indicted for her murder.
The defendant was 16 years old on the date of the instant offenses. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the State's motion to try the defendant as an adult.
On April 11, 1980, the defendant, acting against the advice of his counsel, pleaded guilty to the two murder charges. The remaining attempt murder charges were dismissed. A sentencing hearing was held on May 16, 1980. At the hearing six witnesses testified in aggravation and one in mitigation. At the conclusion of the hearing, the defendant was sentenced to concurrent terms of natural life imprisonment on each murder conviction.
This appeal followed the denial of the defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas and to vacate the judgment against him. Several issues are raised by the defendant: (1) whether the trial court properly denied the defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas; (2) whether the trial judge properly exercised his discretion in determining that the murders committed by the defendant were accompanied by exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty; (3) whether the trial judge erred in not considering the possibility of consecutive sentences; (4) whether the statute authorizing natural life imprisonment, as applied in this case, denies the defendant equal protection of the law; (5) whether the statute authorizing natural life imprisonment contravenes the penal goal of rehabilitation as expressed in article I, section II of the Illinois Constitution of 1970; (6) whether the natural life imprisonment statute violates the equal protection and due process provisions of the State and Federal constitutions; and (7) whether, under all the circumstances of this case, the defendant's sentence constitutes an abuse of discretion.
Responding to the first issue raised, we affirm the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas and vacate the judgment against him. The defendant contends that his guilty pleas were not knowingly entered because the trial judge failed to adequately and accurately admonish him of the maximum sentence possible. The defendant further alleges that, as a result, he had no real understanding of the sentence of natural life imprisonment and was confused by the trial judge's references to the mandatory three-year supervised release term which follows a sentence of imprisonment for murder. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1(2)(d)(1).) He contends that these references led him to believe that a sentence of natural life, like every other sentence, contemplated the possibility of parole. In addition, fellow inmates of the defendant in the Kankakee County jail informed him that parole on a life sentence could come after 11 years and three months.
It is obvious that the defendant had information prior to his sentencing hearing which led him to believe that parole was a possibility when serving a sentence of life imprisonment. Such was indeed the case under the law prior to the Unified Code of Corrections. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 1003-3-3(a)(2).
The defendant is correct in his assertion that the trial judge never specifically indicated that natural life imprisonment under section 5-8-1(a) (1) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1(a)(1)) did not include the possibility of parole. However, the admonishments by the trial judge did include repeated references to the idea that the defendant might be sent to prison for his natural life:
"Do you understand that as I read the sentencing provisions that it would be possible for you to be sentenced to your natural life in prison, * * * [?] The statute says that for murder a term shall not, shall, shall be not less than 20 years nor more than 40 or if the court finds that the murder was accompanied by exceptionally brutal and heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty or that any of the aggravating factors listed in section (b) of section 19-1 [sic] [Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 9-1] are present the court may sentence the defendant to a term of natural life. * * * [I]t is possible under the double murder theory that you could be sentenced to your natural life in the penitentiary. * * *
* * * It seems to me that if you are taking a chance of spending the rest of your life in prison that I think you ought to wait a week or ten days more and at least get the reports [psychiatric evaluation]. Or at least think about it over the weekend. You don't want to delay this any more? You are shaking your head no. I don't — does that mean you don't want to plead guilty and you want to wait and think about it?
DEFENDANT HUDSON: I am pleading guilty.
THE COURT: You still want to plead guilty even knowing that there is a possibility you could, that you could fall under any of 3 sentences, take 20 to 40, 40 to 80, or natural life?