The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bilandic
Agenda 10-September 1999.
Defendant, Edward Alphons Moore, Jr., was convicted of seven counts of first degree murder, and one count each of home invasion, residential burglary, aggravated criminal sexual assault, robbery, and arson, after a jury trial in the circuit court of Grundy County. The same jury determined that defendant was eligible for the death penalty (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(6)(c) (murder committed in the course of a felony)), and that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death penalty. Accordingly, the circuit court sentenced defendant to death. On direct appeal, this court affirmed defendant's convictions and sentence. People v. Moore, 171 Ill. 2d 74 (1996).
Defendant subsequently filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief. The circuit court appointed counsel for defendant, and counsel filed an amended petition pursuant to the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 1994)). The State moved to dismiss the amended petition. The circuit court dismissed the amended petition without an evidentiary hearing. Defendant now appeals from the circuit court's dismissal of his amended post-conviction petition without an evidentiary hearing. This appeal was taken directly to this court because defendant was sentenced to death for the underlying murder conviction. See 134 Ill. 2d R. 651(a). We affirm the dismissal of defendant's amended post-conviction petition.
The facts relating to defendant's trial are set forth in detail in this court's opinion on direct appeal. See People v. Moore, 171 Ill. 2d 74 (1996). Consequently, we provide only a brief summary here. We discuss additional relevant facts in the context of the issues raised on appeal.
On July 7, 1991, between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m., defendant sexually assaulted and murdered Judy Zeman at her home in Grundy County. Judy had hired defendant to paint the Zeman home. At approximately 5:30 a.m. on July 7, 1991, a sheriff's deputy found Judy's car abandoned on a neighbor's property. The car was against a tree and the keys were in the ignition. Upon arriving at Judy's home, the deputy found Judy lying naked in the driveway near a wood pile that was still burning. Judy was moaning for help. She had duct tape stuck in her hair and her hands were tied behind her back with duct tape. Judy had second- and third-degree burns over 90% of her body but she was still alive and conscious. Judy was able to relate to the deputy that she had been sexually assaulted and lit on fire. She indicated that she had been home alone because her husband was on a fishing trip. While walking to her bathroom, a man jumped out with a knife. She could not describe her attacker because it was dark; however, she indicated that he wore dark clothing and gloves. He raped her, stole money and jewelry from the safe, and then told her that he had to "burn some evidence." At that point he took her to a nearby wood pile, poured gasoline over her and lit her on fire. She was later able to crawl from the wood pile to the driveway. Judy died that evening from thermal burns.
The evidence at trial also showed that later on July 7, 1991, defendant paid cash for a one-way plane ticket to Florida. He originally gave the ticketing agent a false name, but gave his real name after she insisted on some identification. While in Florida, defendant tried to sell rings belonging to Judy. These rings had been kept in the safe in Judy's home. Defendant was ultimately apprehended in New York City and placed in a holding cell where he made inculpatory statements to a fellow inmate.
Physical evidence was also introduced at trial. Defendant's business card was found in a neighbor's driveway near where Judy's car was abandoned. Two fingerprints found on the duct tape taken from Judy's hair and one fingerprint on the key tag found in Judy's abandoned car were identified as belonging to defendant. Human hairs, which were found in defendant's car, were consistent with Judy's hair and one strand of hair showed heat damage. Seminal material from Judy was consistent with defendant's blood type. Moreover, a DNA expert testified that defendant's blood and seminal fluid taken from Judy's vaginal swab "matched."
A jury found defendant guilty of first degree murder, home invasion, residential burglary, aggravated criminal sexual assault, robbery and arson. The same jury found defendant eligible for the death penalty because he committed murder in the course of another felony. At the second phase of the sentencing hearing, the State presented evidence in aggravation regarding defendant's extensive criminal history, which included imprisonment for committing forgery, theft, residential burglary, deceptive practices, and violations of probation and parole. The State also introduced evidence of two separate allegations of sexual assault committed by defendant on two 15-year-old girls. In mitigation, defendant introduced evidence that he has a mental and learning disability, and that he had been physically abused by his father as a child. The jury found that there were no mitigating circumstances sufficient to preclude the imposition of the death penalty.
Thus, the circuit court sentenced defendant to death for the murder of Judy Zeman.
Defendant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, which appointed counsel thereafter amended. In response, the State filed a motion to dismiss defendant's amended post-conviction petition. Defendant also filed various pro se motions concerning returning seized personal property of defendant, appointing an additional post-conviction investigator whose findings would be supplemented to the amended post-conviction petition, and supplementing the amended post-conviction petition. After briefing and argument, the circuit court granted the State's motion to dismiss all claims in the amended post-conviction petition without conducting an evidentiary hearing, and denied the pro se motions.
Defendant now appeals from the dismissal of his amended post-conviction petition. For the reasons set forth below, we hold that the circuit court properly dismissed defendant's amended post-conviction petition without an evidentiary hearing. We therefore affirm the judgment of the circuit court.
Initially, we note that defendant filed a pro se motion to allow a reply brief to be filed by his appellate attorney because defendant failed to obtain new counsel to represent him in this appeal. No objection was filed by the State. This motion was taken with the case and we allow it. The motion also requests that we review all of defendant's pro se motions filed in the post-conviction proceedings. As is customary, we consider the entire record on appeal in rendering a decision with the appropriate relief.
The Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 1994)) provides a remedy to criminal defendants who claim that a substantial violation of their federal or state constitutional rights occurred in their trial or sentencing hearing. People v. Towns, 182 Ill. 2d 491, 502 (1998). The scope of a post-conviction proceeding, which is a collateral proceeding on a prior judgment, is limited to inquiry into constitutional issues involved in the conviction and sentence that have not been, and could not have been, adjudicated previously on direct appeal. Towns, 182 Ill. 2d at 502.
An evidentiary hearing on a post-conviction petition is required where the allegations of the petition, supported where appropriate by the trial record or accompanying affidavits, make a substantial showing that the defendant's constitutional rights have been violated. People v. Hobley, 182 Ill. 2d 404, 428 (1998); Towns, 182 Ill. 2d at 503. In making a determination whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, all well-pleaded facts in the petition and in any accompanying affidavits are taken as true. Towns, 182 Ill. 2d at 503. Assertions that are nonfactual and nonspecific and that merely amount to conclusions are not sufficient to require an evidentiary hearing. People v. Coleman, 183 Ill. 2d 366, 381 (1998). A trial court's determination as to the sufficiency of the allegations contained in a post-conviction petition is reviewed de novo. Coleman, 183 Ill. 2d at 389.
In light of these principles, we review de novo the circuit court's dismissal of defendant's amended post-conviction ...