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People v. Brooks

March 05, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
WILLIAM BROOKS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit Peoria County, Illinois, No. 91-CF-144 Donald Courson, Honorable Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Slater

Released for publication March 12, 2002.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
WILLIAM BROOKS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit Peoria County, Illinois, No. 91-CF-144 Donald Courson, Honorable Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Slater

PUBLISHED

 The defendant, William Brooks, pled guilty to first degree murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 9--1(a)) and was sentenced to natural life in prison. He appeals from the dismissal of his second post-conviction petition, arguing that his sentence violates the constitutional rule set forth in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000). We find that the defendant's term of life in prison was constitutionally imposed and affirm his sentence.

FACTS

On July 17, 1991, the defendant pled guilty to one count of first degree murder. At the plea hearing, the trial court fully explained the nature of the charge. It advised the defendant that at trial the State would be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that "on or about February 16, 1991, you without lawful justification, while committing the forcible felony offense of Robbery, stabbed Rosine Saylor with a knife," causing her death. The court further informed the defendant that it could impose a term of natural life imprisonment without parole if the proper factors were found to exist. The defendant responded that he understood the charge and the possible sentence.

The State presented the factual basis for the defendant's plea. The victim's neighbor and his wife would testify that they found the victim early in the morning on Sunday, February 17. She was lying naked on her kitchen floor in a pool of blood. A large kitchen knife stained with blood was sitting on a nearby counter. The victim's purse was open and its contents had been dumped onto the kitchen table. An officer would testify that during his interview of the defendant, the defendant admitted that he knew the victim. He stopped at her house late in the evening of February 16 and asked if he could use her telephone. The defendant had done yard work for the victim in the past. The victim recognized him and quickly let him enter the home. Once inside, the defendant struck the victim, took $140 from her purse and stabbed her several times with a knife he found in the victim's kitchen. The defendant admitted that once he took the money, he decided to kill the victim.

The State concluded that the evidence would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offenses of robbery and murder. The defendant agreed that the evidence presented by the State would be substantially as stated. The court determined that there was a factual basis for the defendant's plea and scheduled the cause for sentencing.

At the sentencing hearing, the trial court found that the defendant qualified for a term of natural life because the crime was exceptionally brutal and heinous and it was committed in the course of another felony. The court noted that no mitigating factors applied and sentenced the defendant to natural life under section 5--8--1(a)(1)(b) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 1005--8--1(a)(1)(b)).

The defendant's direct appeal was dismissed for failure to prosecute. He subsequently filed a post-conviction petition on September 23, 1991. Counsel was appointed, but the petition was eventually dismissed without an evidentiary hearing.

On January 2, 2001, the defendant filed a second post-conviction petition, claiming that his sentence was unconstitutional in light of the recent United States Supreme Court decision in Apprendi, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348. The ...


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