The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rathje
Docket No. 86557-Agenda 29-May 2000.
A jury convicted defendant of three counts of murder. He waived a jury for sentencing, and the trial court sentenced defendant to death. Defendant appealed, and this court remanded the case. People v. Wiley, 156 Ill. 2d 464 (1993) (Wiley I). After the trial court upheld defendant's conviction, he again appealed, and this court affirmed his conviction and death sentence. People v. Wiley, 165 Ill. 2d 259 (1995) (Wiley II). Defendant then filed a post-conviction petition and now appeals the trial court's dismissal of that petition without an evidentiary hearing.
On approximately December 2, 1985, *fn1 Donna Rucks, Carla Williams, and Adrienne Parham were murdered in Rucks' apartment. All three deaths were the result of gunshot wounds to the head. Their bodies were discovered on December 3.
The testimony presented at trial was recounted by this court in Wiley II, 165 Ill. 2d at 267-71, and we will not repeat it here. The jury found defendant guilty of three counts of first degree murder and three counts of armed robbery.
Defendant waived a jury for sentencing. At the eligibility phase of the hearing, the State presented a certified copy of defendant's birth certificate as proof that defendant was over the age of 18, and the parties stipulated that defendant was born on June 7, 1946. The parties also stipulated to the trial testimony, the trial exhibits, and the special verdicts of the jury, which found that defendant was guilty of murder and of armed robbery and that defendant "performed the acts which caused the death" of each victim. No other evidence was introduced. The court found defendant eligible for the death penalty under section 9-1(b)(6) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 9-1(b)(6), now 720 ILCS 5/9-1(b)(6) (West 1998)) because he had committed the murders knowingly or intentionally and in the course of another felony. The court declined to find defendant eligible under any other factor.
At the aggravation and mitigation phase of the death penalty hearing, both sides presented evidence. In aggravation, the State presented witnesses who testified to defendant's criminal history between 1964 and 1976, which included seven convictions. The parties stipulated that petitioner received four disciplinary violations while awaiting trial on the current charges.
In mitigation, defendant presented the stipulated testimony of two witnesses. First, Robert Kelly, a Cook County correctional officer, would have testified that he knew defendant during the year before trial when defendant was housed at the jail. In that year, defendant worked at the commissary, faithfully performed his duties, and did not present a threat to jail staff or inmates. Second, Cheryl Winke, a psychologist with the Illinois Department of Corrections, would have testified that defendant has "betta IQ of 103" and appeared "spontaneously aggressive" rather than "criminally oriented."
Defendant also presented evidence of commendations that he received while incarcerated. In October 1981, an adjustment committee recommended defendant for meritorious good time for his work in the vegetable room at Stateville Correctional Center, and defendant ultimately received the maximum of meritorious good time during that six-month period. A prison memorandum indicated that defendant turned over some keys to prison authorities and was recommended to receive 90 days' good time, of which 15 days was granted. Additionally, defendant was awarded a weightlifting trophy while in the Department of Corrections.
Finally, defendant presented two witnesses. Harold Anderson, defendant's former co-worker, testified that defendant was well liked by his co-workers and was able to take orders from his boss. Anderson said that defendant was "a big-brother-type person" and that defendant did not have a problem with alcohol or drugs. On cross-examination, the State elicited testimony that Anderson, who had been convicted of "a rape charge," had met defendant while both were in prison.
Jerry Wiley, defendant's younger stepbrother, testified about defendant's childhood and family life. He said that defendant's mother had a drinking problem but that Jerry's father, who was defendant's stepfather, was a good father to defendant. Jerry also testified that defendant was a good brother but not his role model and that defendant's childhood friends were troublemakers. Jerry stated that defendant's relationship with his stepfather soured after defendant moved out of the house when he was around 20 years old. Jerry estimated that defendant had a problem with drugs for about seven or eight years. According to Jerry's testimony, while defendant was under the influence of drugs, he started fights with family members and even drew a knife on his family.
The trial court found that defendant failed to establish the existence of any mitigating factors but that the State had presented substantial aggravating factors. Accordingly, defendant was sentenced to death on the murder convictions and to three consecutive 30-year terms on the armed robbery convictions. He appealed his convictions and sentences. Wiley I, 156 Ill. 2d at 467-68, and Wiley II, 165 Ill. 2d at 271-303. This court remanded the cause for a hearing pursuant to the rule set forth in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69, 106 S. Ct. 1712 (1986), and, after the hearing, the trial court determined that the State had not violated the Batson rule. Wiley II, 165 Ill. 2d at 272. Defendant again appealed, and this court affirmed his conviction and sentence. Wiley II, 165 Ill. 2d 259 (1995). Defendant appealed to the United States Supreme Court but was denied certiorari. Wiley v. Illinois, 516 U.S. 923, 133 L. Ed. 2d 223, 116 S. Ct. 322 (1995).
Defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief. The petition was improperly denied, and this court reinstated defendant's petition. Defendant filed an amended post-conviction petition and later filed a supplement to that petition. The State then moved to dismiss.
The trial court dismissed defendant's post-conviction petition without a hearing, stating both that the petition was untimely and that the petition was patently without merit. Defendant appeals both findings, arguing that the petition was timely and that he presented three meritorious claims: (1) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that the death eligibility finding was constitutionally deficient; (2) defendant was denied the effective assistance of counsel at the death eligibility hearing; and (3) defendant was denied the effective assistance of counsel at the aggravation and mitigation stage of his death penalty sentencing hearing.
Timeliness of Post-Conviction Petition
Defendant first argues that the order dismissing his post-conviction petition as untimely should be reversed. The State agrees.
When defendant filed his post-conviction petition, section 122-1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provided that, for a post-conviction petition to be timely, it must be filed no later than
"6 months after the denial of a petition for leave to appeal or the date for filing such a petition if none is filed or issuance of the opinion from the Illinois Supreme Court or 6 months after the date of the order denying certiorari by the United States Supreme Court or the date for filing such a petition if none is filed or 3 years from the date of conviction, whichever is later ***." (Emphasis added.) 725 ILCS 5/122-1 (West 1994).
Here, defendant was convicted in 1990, this court filed Wiley II in March 1995, and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari on October 10, 1995 . Defendant filed his first post-conviction petition on June 28, 1995, 3½ months before the denial of certiorari. Thus, as both defendant and the State agree, ...