The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Homer
IN THE APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS THIRD DISTRICT
Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit Peoria County, Illinois
Honorable Robert Barnes Judge Presiding
The defendant was convicted in a jury trial of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 1994)) and sentenced to a term of 40 years imprisonment. The defendant appeals, contending that the trial court erred in striking his affirmative defense of compulsion. He also challenges the constitutionality of the "truth-in-sentencing" statute. Although we decline to determine the constitutionality of the "truth-in-sentencing" law, we affirm the defendant's conviction. FACTSOn April 25, 1996, the defendant, a 17-year-old member of the Black Disciples street gang, drove a fellow gang member, Nikia Perry, to the Harrison Homes in Peoria, whereupon Perry shot and killed Marshall Dunnigan, Jr. The evidence at trial showed that a member of the Black Disciples, Anthony Metcalf, had been killed that same day by a rival gang, the Gangster Disciples, and the murder of Dunnigan was done in retaliation.
The defendant testified that he joined the Black Disciples at the age of fifteen because he feared for his own life, and the life of his mother. Once in the gang, he was forced to memorize their rules and obey their commands. If he did not do so, he would be "violated", or beaten by fellow gang members.
The defendant testified that he had in the past disobeyed the gang's rules and orders, and as a result he suffered serious beatings on at least two occasions. The evidence confirmed that the defendant had been briefly hospitalized because he was beaten on the head with a pistol, and suffered a back injury as a result of a beating.
The defendant also testified that he was supposed to be on watch when Metcalf was killed. Because the defendant failed to abide by this duty, Metcalf was killed.
As a result of the killing, the co-minister of the defendant's gang, Frank Tyler, ordered the defendant and Perry to participate in the killing of a Gangster Disciple. The defendant asserted that if he did not follow this order, he or his mother would have suffered a severe violation or even death.
Complying with Tyler's order, the defendant drove Perry to the Harrison Homes. Upon seeing a young African-American male walking alone, Perry ordered the defendant to stop the car. The defendant testified if he disobeyed, he was afraid that Perry, who had a gun in his lap, would kill him. Thus, the defendant stopped the car, and Perry got out of the car and shot and killed Dunnigan.
The defendant was convicted of first degree murder in a jury trial. He was sentenced to a term of 40 years imprisonment.
Before trial, the defendant attempted to assert the affirmative defense of compulsion. He wanted to introduce evidence to show that he had been compelled to participate in the murder because of the circumstances of his life, his forced membership in a gang, and threats of physical violence. The defendant also wanted to introduce the testimony of an expert who would have testified that the defendant had been particularly susceptible to gang recruitment, the gang carried cult-like powers, and the defendant was so fearful of his life that he did not have the intent to aid Perry in the murder.
However, on motion of the State, the defense of compulsion was stricken, and the expert was not allowed to testify. The defendant asserts that the refusal to allow the defense of compulsion denied him a fair trial because the jury was prevented from considering his theory of the case, from receiving expert ...