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People v. Jones

April 30, 2002

THE PEOPLE 0F THE STATE OF ILLINOIS PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ANN M. JONES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County Nos. 98-CF-399, 98-CF-1701 Honorable Ann Brackley Jorgensen Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'malley

UNPUBLISHED

Defendant, Ann M. Jones, appeals from her sentence for a conviction of murder in case No. 2--00--1214 and from the order of the trial court denying her motion to dismiss in case No. 2--01--0177. We affirm in both cases.

In No. 2--00--1214, defendant waived trial by jury and pleaded guilty to one count of murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 1998)) in the August 1998 shooting death of her husband, Michael Jones. In exchange for this plea, the State agreed to forego seeking a sentence of death and to nol-pros the remaining alternate counts of murder. Immediately after the plea was entered, defendant and the State stipulated to the testimony and reports of several doctors, and the court found that defendant was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the offense. After a sentencing hearing, the court sentenced defendant to a term of natural life in prison on May 31, 2000. Defendant timely filed a motion to withdraw her plea of guilty and to vacate judgment. She subsequently changed attorneys and filed an amended motion to reconsider sentence in which she contended that she need not move to withdraw her plea before seeking the reconsideration of her sentence. The court granted the State's motion to dismiss defendant's motion. This appeal followed.

In case No. 2--01--0177, defendant was charged with attempted first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9--1(a)(1) (West, 1998)), aggravated battery with a firearm (720 ILCS 5/12-4.2(a)(1) (West 1998)), and aggravated discharge of a firearm (720 ILCS 5/24-1.2(a)(2) (West 1997)) for the February 1998 shooting of Michael Jones. The State moved to join the prosecutions of the murder and the attempted murder cases. The record does not contain any order clearly showing the court's decision on this motion. However, the attempted murder case was periodically continued for status along with the murder case. On December 12, 2000, defendant filed a motion to dismiss based on double jeopardy. The trial court denied the motion, and this interlocutory appeal followed.

Defendant first contends that her sentence of natural life in prison is unconstitutional pursuant to Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000). We disagree.

We first note that defendant failed to raise this issue in either her motion to withdraw her plea of guilty or her amended motion to reconsider sentence. Issues are waived on appeal unless they are raised at trial and in a posttrial motion. People v. Enoch, 122 Ill. 2d 176, 186 (1988); People v. Carroll, 195 Ill. App. 3d 445, 446-47 (1990). However, the constitutional dimension of this issue allows us to relax the waiver rule and address it. See People v. Wooters, 188 Ill. 2d 500, 510 (1999).

Defendant was sentenced pursuant to section 5-8-1 of the Unified Code of Corrections (the Code) (730 ILCS 5/5-8-1 (West 2000)), which provides in part:

"(a) Except as otherwise provided in the statute defining the offense, a sentence of imprisonment for a felony shall be a determinate sentence set by the court under this Section, according to the following limitations:

(1) for first degree murder,

(a) a term shall be not less than 20 years and not more than 60 years, or

(b) if a trier of fact finds *** that the murder was accompanied by exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty or, except as set forth in subsection (a)(1)(c) of this Section, that any of the aggravating factors listed in subsection (b) of Section 9--1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 are present, the court may sentence the defendant to a term of natural life imprisonment[.]" 730 ILCS 5/5--8--1(a)(1)(a), (a)(1)(b) (West 2000).

The sentencing order in this case states that the court "specifically finds that the murder was accompanied by exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior." The order also states that the court also found "that the Aggravating Factors listed in 720 ILCS 5/9--1(b) are present." Defendant argues that her life sentence is beyond the prescribed statutory maximum penalty for murder and, therefore, unconstitutional.

Apprendi held that, "[o]ther than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt." Apprendi, 530 U.S. at 490, 147 L. Ed. 2d at 455, 120 S. Ct. at 2362-63. We are faced, then, with the issue of the statutory maximum penalty for first-degree murder. In the past, this court has concluded that the maximum penalty is 60 years' imprisonment, pursuant to section 5--8--1(a)(1)(a) of the Code (730 ILCS 5/5--8--1(a)(1)(a) (West 2000)). ...


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