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11/09/89 the People of the State of v. Cornelius Lewis

November 9, 1989





547 N.E.2d 599, 191 Ill. App. 3d 155, 138 Ill. Dec. 432 1989.IL.1762

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. Harold L. Jensen, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the opinion of the court. SPITZ and GREEN, JJ., concur.


The defendant brings this appeal from his resentencing in the circuit court of Macon County. The defendant's convictions are a result of his participation in the armed robbery of the Citizens National Bank of Decatur (bank) on December 14, 1978. The evidence presented at the original trial and the resentencing hearing indicates a conspiracy to rob the bank existed between Willie Sangster, Maurice Farris, Bernice Lewis, and the defendant. Sangster was the leader of the conspiracy and recruited Farris and the Lewises to participate in the robbery.

On December 10, 1978, Sangster took Farris to the bank and explained the planned robbery and proposed escape. On December 12, Farris was introduced to the defendant and his sister Bernice at Sangster's residence. At that point, he informed the Lewises of Sangster's plans for the robbery. Later Farris took the Lewises to the bank and had them observe the routine of the bank guard and tellers and showed them the escape route.

On the morning of December 14, 1978, Farris drove the Lewises around Decatur to steal a car for use in the robbery. They drove into the parking lot of a day care center and observed Mary Comerford park her car and take her child into the center. Farris testified the defendant got into the back seat of Comerford's car armed with a handgun. Comerford testified it was Farris in the back seat, and she was forced to drive away. She was later bound, gagged, and placed in the trunk of her car.

The Lewises then drove Comerford's car to the bank. Shortly before 8 a.m., five tellers and a bank guard were preparing to leave for a drive-in facility close to the bank. Each teller carried a black attache case with the cash required for that day's business. They had just entered the bank's van when the front passenger door of the van was opened by a tall, masked black male holding a handgun. The gunman leaned across the passenger seat and shot the guard. The guard died within a few minutes. The sliding passenger door of the van was opened by a second man. The gunman took the bank guard's gun, and the two men then proceeded to take three of the attache cases. They ran to Comerford's car and drove away.

The defendant and the other participants were arrested. The defendant was charged with armed robbery and aggravated kidnapping for his participation in the robbery. He was also accused of being the gunman who shot the bank guard and was additionally charged with murder. He and his sister were tried as codefendants. At their jury trial in 1979, he was found guilty of all three counts. The court ordered a presentence investigation for defendant's sister but not for the defendant. On June 22, 1979, he was sentenced to death for the murder conviction. No sentence was imposed on the armed robbery or aggravated kidnapping charges. The supreme court affirmed the circuit court's judgment and sentence on November 13, 1981. People v. Lewis (1981), 88 Ill. 2d 129, 430 N.E.2d 1346, cert. denied (1982), 456 U.S. 1011, 73 L. Ed. 2d 1308, 102 S. Ct. 2307.

On March 31, 1986, the defendant filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Federal district court. The district court issued a writ vacating the sentence of death and ordering a new sentencing hearing. (United States ex rel. Lewis v. Lane (C.D. Ill. 1987), 656 F. Supp. 181.) On appeal the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's issuance of the writ. Lewis v. Lane (7th Cir. 1987), 832 F.2d 1446, cert. denied (1988), 488 U.S. 829, 102 L. Ed. 2d 59, 109 S. Ct. 83.

In the resentencing before the circuit court, the State again requested a death penalty hearing be held. A sentencing hearing was held before a jury on May 11, 1988. In the first phase of the death penalty hearing, the jury found the defendant was eligible for the death penalty under section 9-1(b)(6) of the Criminal Code of 1961. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(6).) In the second phase of the hearing, the jury found the death penalty should not be imposed on the defendant.

On June 27, 1988, the defendant was sentenced to a term of natural life imprisonment for the murder conviction. The circuit court also imposed a 30-year term of imprisonment for armed robbery and a consecutive 15-year term for the aggravated kidnapping. On June 30, 1988, a notice of appeal was filed.

Plaintiff on appeal maintains the failure of the trial court to order a presentence report prior to his 1988 resentencing is reversible error which requires this court to remand for yet another resentencing. He relies on section 5-3-1 of the Unified Code of Corrections, which requires the court to order a presentence investigation before a ...

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