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People v. Pickens

June 26, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JOHN PICKENS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 99-CF-8 Honorable Richard A. Aguirre, Judge, presiding.

Justices: Honorable Clyde L. Kuehn, J. Honorable Thomas M. Welch, J., and Honorable Richard P. Goldenhersh, J., Concur

 The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn

Not Released For Publication

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JOHN PICKENS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 99-CF-8 Honorable Richard A. Aguirre, Judge, presiding.

Attorneys for Appellant Daniel M. Kirwan, Deputy Defender, Rita K. Peterson, Assistant Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Fifth Judicial District, Route 15 East, P.O. Box 2430, Mt. Vernon, IL 62864-0047 Attorneys for Appellee Hon. Robert B. Haida, State's Attorney, St. Clair County Courthouse, 10 Public Square, Belleville, IL 62220; Norbert J. Goetten, Director, Stephen E. Norris, Deputy Director, Sharon Shanahan, Contract Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, Route 15 East, P.O. Box 2249, Mt. Vernon, IL 62864

Justices: Honorable Clyde L. Kuehn, J. Honorable Thomas M. Welch, J., and Honorable Richard P. Goldenhersh, J., Concur

 The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn

On December 31, 1998, defendant John Pickens and Bryon Madison entered a used-car dealership in Fairmont City, Illinois, tied up two employees, and took more than $3,000 in cash. Before they fled the crime scene in a stolen dealership car, they shot each of the captive employees two times. Both survived.

One of the victims freed himself, despite his condition. He reported the robbery and shooting. Soon thereafter, State police observed and pursued the getaway car. The chase ended when the defendant lost control of the stolen car and crashed. He and his partner were apprehended and searched. The police found the dealership's money on them.

A St. Clair County jury found the defendant guilty of armed robbery. It also found him guilty on two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and two counts of attempted murder. Thereafter, the trial judge decided that the defendant was a habitual criminal and, by virtue of that finding, imposed life's duration as punishment. On appeal, the defendant contends that his dual mandatory life sentences were imposed pursuant to an unconstitutional statutory sentencing scheme. He argues that the facts that mandated his punishment must be alleged in the charging instrument and submitted to the jury for determination.

The statutory provision that empowered the trial judge to impose life imprisonment in this case-section 33B-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Criminal Code)-reads as follows:

"(a) Every person who has been twice convicted in any state or federal court of an offense that contains the same elements as an offense now classified in Illinois as a Class X felony, criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnaping, or first degree murder[] and is thereafter convicted of a Class X felony, criminal sexual assault, or first degree ...


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