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People v. Taylor

OPINION FILED MAY 25, 1984.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,

v.

DOROTHY TAYLOR ET AL., APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; JUSTICE WARD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendants, Dorothy and Andre Taylor, were convicted of murder and armed violence following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County and were given sentences of natural life imprisonment under section 5-8-1(a)(1)(c) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1(a)(1)(c)). The appellate court affirmed the convictions but vacated the natural life sentences, and remanded the cause for resentencing. (115 Ill. App.3d 621.) We granted the State's petition for leave to appeal under Rule 315 (87 Ill.2d R. 315).

The facts are essentially undisputed. On January 12, 1981, Derrick Montgomery and Cedrick Maltbia were watching television at Patti Washington's apartment in Chicago. Patti Washington was not with them, but her eight-year-old daughter, Enicha, and a friend of Patti, Michael Simmons, were there.

At about 6 p.m. defendant Dorothy Taylor and her sister, Virgie Taylor, arrived at Washington's apartment to recover jewelry that Montgomery had apparently taken from Virgie. Upon entering the apartment Virgie went to a bedroom with Montgomery and asked for the return of the jewelry. Montgomery refused, and as they left the bedroom arguing, Montgomery, according to Dorothy, pushed and struck Virgie. Dorothy then took a pistol from her purse, opened the apartment door and admitted the other defendant, Andre Taylor, the son of Virgie Taylor. Andre was armed with a shotgun. Dorothy ordered Virgie to take her jewelry. Virgie did so and Dorothy then handed her the pistol and told her to kill Montgomery. Virgie shot Montgomery twice. Dorothy then ordered Andre to "kill everyone." Andre shot Maltbia twice at close range and then aimed the shotgun at Michael Simmons and Enicha. Dorothy intervened, however, and told him not to shoot Simmons and Enicha. Andre then shot Montgomery once with the shotgun. The record does not show whether Montgomery was alive at this time.

The defendants were later indicted and both waived their right to a jury trial. Virgie Taylor was also charged. It appears that she was a fugitive at the time of the trial involved here. Andre Taylor, who was 16 at the time of the crimes, was tried as an adult along with Dorothy Taylor, his aunt. The defendants were found guilty of the murders of Derrick Montgomery and Cedrick Maltbia and also guilty of armed violence. The trial court sentenced them to natural life imprisonment under section 5-8-1(a)(1)(c) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1(a)(1)(c)), which provides:

"Sentence of Imprisonment for Felony.

(a) A sentence of imprisonment for a felony shall be a determinate sentence set by the court under this Section, according to the following limitations:

(1) for murder * * * (c) if the defendant has previously been convicted of murder under any state or federal law or is found guilty of murdering more than one victim, the court shall sentence the defendant to a term of natural life imprisonment."

The trial court considered that, under the statute, the only sentence it could impose was one of natural life imprisonment.

The appellate court held that if the statute is read as requiring a mandatory sentence, a trial court could not take into account any mitigating or rehabilitative factors in the sentencing procedure. The section would, therefore, be unconstitutional as violating section 11, article I, of the Constitution of Illinois of 1970, which provides that "[a]ll penalties shall be determined both according to the seriousness of the offense and with the objective of restoring the offender to useful citizenship." The appellate court also held that if section 5-8-1(a)(1)(c) were a mandatory legislative direction, it would be an invasion of the inherent power of the judiciary to impose sentences and violate the separation of powers clause of the Constitution of Illinois (Ill. Const. 1970, art. II, sec. 1). Rather than declaring section 5-8-1(a)(1)(c) to be unconstitutional, the appellate court read the "shall" in the section as permissive. It affirmed the convictions and remanded for resentencing of the defendants. 115 Ill. App.3d 621, 630-31.

The People contend that the statute does mandate a natural life sentence, and that providing for it does not unduly infringe upon the judicial authority. Nor does it, the People say, violate the constitutionally stated objective of restoring offenders to useful citizenship.

The legislature has the power to declare and define conduct constituting a crime and to determine the nature and extent of punishment for it. (People v. La Pointe (1981), 88 Ill.2d 482, 500; People v. Williams (1977), 66 Ill.2d 179, 186.) Such legislation will not be nullified by courts> unless it violates a constitutionally assured right. People ex rel. Carey v. Bentivenga (1981), 83 Ill.2d 537, 542.

Article I, section 11, of the Constitution is applicable to the legislature as well as to courts>. Section 11 is directed to the legislature in its function of declaring what conduct is criminal and the penalties for the conduct. It is directed to the judiciary in that it requires courts> not to abuse discretion in imposing sentences within the framework set by the legislature. (3 Record of Proceedings, Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention 1393; People v. Moore (1973), 15 Ill. App.3d 691, 693.) Thus section 11 requires the legislature, in defining crimes and their penalties, to consider the constitutional goals of restoring an offender to useful citizenship and of providing a penalty according to the seriousness of the offense. This court has observed that there is no indication that the possibility of rehabilitating an offender was to be given greater weight and consideration than the seriousness of the offense in determining a proper penalty. People v. Waud (1977), 69 Ill.2d 588, 596.

There is a presumption of the validity of legislative classifications. (Scott v. Department of Commerce & Community Affairs (1981), 84 Ill.2d 42, 50; People v. Schwartz (1976), 64 Ill.2d 275, 280-81.) We conclude that the legislature considered the possible rehabilitation of an offender, as well as the seriousness of the offense of multiple murders, in determining that in the public interest there must be a mandatory minimum sentence of natural life imprisonment. The rehabilitative objective of article I, section 11, should not and does not prevent the legislature from fixing mandatory minimum penalties where it has been determined that no set of mitigating circumstances could allow a proper penalty of less than natural life for the crimes of two or more murders. It is within the legislative province to define offenses and determine the penalties required to protect the interests of our society. (People v. Williams (1977), 66 Ill.2d 179; People v. Breen (1976), 62 Ill.2d 323.) We cannot say that the penalty called for in section 5-8-1(a)(1)(c) violates article I of section 11.

It is appropriate to note that mandatory minimum sentences for crimes, including rape in People v. Moore (1973), 15 Ill. App.3d 691, armed robbery in People v. Oestringer (1974), 24 Ill. App.3d 185, and murder in People v. Cantrell (1973), 14 Ill. App.3d 1068, have been upheld against ...


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