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09/19/95 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. EDROW PERKINS

September 19, 1995

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
EDROW PERKINS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 92-CF-499. Honorable J. Lawrence Keshner, Judge, presiding.

Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied January 31, 1996.

The Honorable Justice Chapman delivered the opinion of the court: Maag, P.j., and Welch, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chapman

JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Edrow Perkins was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of armed violence, and two counts of aggravated battery. He was convicted by a jury of all six offenses, but the court vacated all of the convictions except the two counts of attempted first-degree murder and sentenced Perkins to consecutive prison terms of 25 years and 20 years for those offenses. Defendant argues that the court erred because (1) it did not make the requisite findings to impose discretionary consecutive sentences, and (2) consecutive sentences were not mandatory. Defendant also argues that the jury instructions on attempted first-degree murder undermined the validity of the verdict. We affirm.

We first address defendant's argument that the trial court did not make the findings necessary for discretionary consecutive sentences. In order to preserve alleged errors, they must be objected to at trial and raised in a posttrial motion. ( People v. Enoch (1988), 122 Ill. 2d 176, 522 N.E.2d 1124, 119 Ill. Dec. 265.) Defendant did not object at sentencing, nor did he raise this issue in a posttrial motion. We will, therefore, move to the second issue on appeal: whether consecutive sentences were mandatory.

Consecutive sentences are mandatory where the defendant commits a Class X or Class 1 felony, inflicting severe bodily injury during a single course of conduct in which there was no substantial change in the nature of the defendant's criminal objective. (730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(a) (West 1994); People v. Bole (1993), 155 Ill. 2d 188, 197, 613 N.E.2d 740, 744, 184 Ill. Dec. 423.) Perkins attempted to kill his victims by stabbing them with a knife. He concedes that the attacks on Plunkett and Ashley involved serious bodily injury. The trial court determined that the attempted murders were the result of defendant's sole criminal objective - that of killing Plunkett and Ashley. Since the trial court found that the attempted murders occurred during a single course of conduct in which there was no substantial change in defendant's criminal objective, and since we can find no error in the trial court's determination (see People v. Strickland (1992), 154 Ill. 2d 489, 541, 609 N.E.2d 1366, 182 Ill. Dec. 551), the only question for our examination is whether the trial court correctly determined that attempted murder is a Class X felony for consecutive sentencing purposes.

Perkins argues that consecutive sentences were not mandatory because although a defendant convicted of attempted murder is sentenced as if convicted of a Class X felony, attempted murder is actually an unclassified felony which must be treated as a Class 4 felony for purposes other than sentencing. Therefore, defendant argues, attempted murder cannot be considered a Class X felony for consecutive sentencing purposes. At the time of defendant's offense section 8-4(c) of the Criminal Code of 1961 read:

"A person convicted of an attempt may be fined or imprisoned or both not to exceed the maximum provided for the offense attempted but ***

(1) the sentence for attempt to commit first degree murder is the sentence for a Class X felony." (720 ILCS 5/8-4(c) (1992).)

With the exception of the crimes of attempted murder of a peace officer, fireman, correctional center employee, inmate or visitor, or a medical technician, which are denominated Class X felonies (720 ILCS 5/8-4(c)(1) (West 1994)), the felony of attempted murder is unclassified. Section 5-5-2(a) of the Unified Code of Corrections reads as follows:

"The particular classification of each felony is specified in the law defining the felony. Any unclassified offense which is declared by law to be a felony or which provides a sentence to a term of imprisonment for one year or more shall be a Class 4 felony." (730 ILCS 5/5-5-2(a) (West 1994).)

This, defendant argues, supports his thesis that attempted murder is an unclassified offense and is a Class 4 felony. We disagree. A State has wide latitude in fixing the punishment for crimes to satisfy its penological interests and policies. ( Williams v. Illinois (1970), 399 U.S. 235, 242, 26 L. Ed. 2d 586, 90 S. Ct. 2018, 2022.) It is evident from the legislative scheme, which requires a sentence for a Class X felony to be imposed on those convicted of attempted murder, that as in the other inchoate offenses, the penalty for attempt is tied to the principal offense with appropriately specified maximums. (See 720 ILCS 5/8-4, Committee Comments -- 1961, at 438 (Smith-Hurd 1992).) It is apparent that the legislature wanted to make certain that those convicted of solicitation of murder, solicitation of murder for hire, and attempted murder of specified individuals would be sentenced as Class X offenders and would carry the label of Class x offenders.

The legislature's intent behind the sentencing statutes can be gleaned from the legislative debates. The debates on the Determinate Sentencing Bill of 1977, which, among other things, amended thestatutes we are concerned with - section 5-8-4 of the Unified Code of ...


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