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06/22/95 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. DOUGLAS COLEMAN

June 22, 1995

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT,
v.
DOUGLAS COLEMAN, APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE.



The Honorable Justice Miller delivered the opinion of the court: Justice Harrison, concurring in part and dissenting in part:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Miller

JUSTICE MILLER delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Douglas Coleman, pleaded guilty in the circuit court of Lake County to one count of first degree murder and to three counts of armed robbery. He wassentenced to an extended term of 85 years in prison for murder, and to extended terms of 50 years in prison for each armed robbery. The sentences for armed robbery were to be served concurrently to each other and consecutively to the sentence for murder. The appellate court held that the trial court erred in imposing extended terms for the armed robberies, and reduced each of those sentences from 50 to 30 years, the maximum authorized nonextended term. (255 Ill. App. 3d 569, 573-76.) It found no other abuse of discretion. (255 Ill. App. 3d at 570.) We granted the State's and defendant's petitions for leave to appeal (145 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)), and have consolidated them for review.

Four indictments were filed against the defendant. In cause No. 91-CF-2542, defendant and two codefendants, David Bryant and Tyrone Davidson, were charged in a nine-count indictment with various offenses, including first degree murder and aggravated arson. These charges arose from their participation in the fire bombing of the Lewis home in Waukegan on the night of December 7, 1991. Shaquita Lewis, a 17-year-old girl, died in this fire. Her father and two sisters escaped the blaze through a second-story window, suffering injuries in their flight. The house was destroyed. According to the record, codefendant Bryant believed that Steven Lewis, Shaquita's brother, had shot at Bryant on the evening of December 7, 1991, and the fire bombing was in retaliation for that alleged act. Defendant's and codefendants' cases were severed during pretrial proceedings for the purposes of further prosecution.

In three separate and unrelated indictments (cause nos. 91-CF-2543, 91-CF-2544, 91-CF-2662), defendant was also charged with committing the offense of armed robbery against three separate cab drivers at different locations in November and December 1991.

At a consolidated plea hearing on March 16, 1992, the State and defendant presented a negotiated plea agreement. According to the agreement, defendant would plead guilty to one count of first degree murder in connection with the fire bombing of the Lewis home, and to three separate counts of armed robbery in connection with the three armed robbery indictments. In exchange, the State agreed not to seek the death penalty in the murder prosecution. The State also agreed to dismiss the remaining counts resulting from the fire-bombing incident and various other charges resulting from incidents not related to the fire bombing or the armed robbery incidents. No other conditions were placed upon sentencing. The judge explained that if defendant chose not to plead guilty, defendant would have the right to separate trials on each of the four indictments. The judge admonished defendant that he could be sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, to an extended term for each offense charged, and to a consecutive sentence for each offense charged.

The State provided a factual basis for the guilty plea's. The State would have offered evidence to establish that defendant participated in the fire bombing, and that Shaquita Lewis died from smoke inhalation as a result of the fire. The only disputed issue was whether defendant actually threw the Molotov cocktail that started the fire. Further, the State would have called the three armed robbery victims to testify, and would have introduced defendant's admission to Waukegan police that he committed those robberies. The judge accepted defendant's guilty pleas. The cases then proceeded to a sentencing hearing.

A presentence investigation report was filed on April 8, 1992. According to this report, defendant's criminal history spanned 19 years. He was on parole when he committed the instant offenses, and reported a 10-year history of substance abuse.

At the sentencing hearing on April 14, 1992, the State presented testimony to corroborate its theory that defendant threw the Molotov cocktail. Defendant maintained that codefendant Bryant threw it. In mitigation, defendant called seven witnesses and made a statement in allocution.

The trial judge imposed an extended term of 85 years in prison for murder and an extended term of 50 years in prison for each of the three armed robberies. The sentences for armed robbery were to be served concurrently to each other and consecutively to the sentence for murder. After the denial of his motion to reconsider the sentences, defendant appealed.

The appellate court affirmed the imposition of consecutive sentences, but reduced the extended terms for the armed robberies from 50 to 30 years, the maximum authorized nonextended term. Citing People v. Jordan (1984), 103 Ill. 2d 192, 82 Ill. Dec. 925, 469 N.E.2d 569, which involved separate charges arising from the same course of conduct, the appellate court held that an extended term was only allowed "for the class of the most serious offense of which the offender was convicted." (255 Ill. App. 3d at 574.) It declined to follow People v. Lewis (1992), 228 Ill. App. 3d 654, 170 Ill. Dec. 235, 592 N.E.2d 671, which affirmed the imposition of an extended term for the lesser of two offenses arising from a course of conduct unrelated to the greater offense even though the sentences were imposed during a single sentencing hearing. (255 Ill. App. 3d at 575-76.) It also distinguished People v. Whitson (1984), 127 Ill. App. 3d 999, 83 Ill. Dec. 634, 470 N.E.2d 1054, which allowed the imposition of an extended term for a lesser offense arising from conduct unrelated to the greater offense, on the ground that, although the sentencing hearings were consolidated, the defendant had been prosecuted in separate trials. (255 Ill. App. 3d at 574-75.) In support of its decision to reduce the sentences, the appellate court cited People v. Stevenson (1990), 204 Ill. App. 3d 342, 149 Ill. Dec. 866, 562 N.E.2d 330, People v. Bivens (1987), 156 Ill. App. 3d 222, 108 Ill. Dec. 944, 509 N.E.2d 640, and People v. Akins (1984), 128 Ill. App. 3d 1009, 84 Ill. Dec. 237, 471 N.E.2d 1003. The appellate court believed the holding in Jordan was applied in each of those cases to invalidate extended terms for lesser offenses arising from courses of conduct unrelated to the greater offenses. 255 Ill. App. 3d at 575-76.

The State argues here that the trial court properly imposed extended terms for each of the three armed robbery offenses that arose from separate and unrelated courses of conduct, and that the sentences imposed were proper. Defendant argues that he should not have been sentenced to extended terms for the armed robbery offenses, and that the consecutive sentences were excessive, particularly where he was guilty of murder by accountability only.

We first address whether extended terms may be imposed for the armed robbery offenses that arose from courses of conduct unrelated to each other and the murder offense, but were joined with the murder case at a plea and sentencing hearing. The question presented is one of statutory construction. In construing a statute, we must ascertain and give effect to the legislative intent. ( People v. Bole (1993), 155 Ill. 2d 188, 195, 184 Ill. Dec. 423, 613 N.E.2d 740.) We must also assume that the legislature did not intend to ...


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