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People v. Travis

April 30, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DANNY TRAVIS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 86CF466 Honorable John K. Greanias, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cook

UNPUBLISHED

Defendant Danny Travis appeals the trial court's refusal to allow his request for DNA testing of certain evidence previously appearing in his criminal case. He also argues that certain of his sentences were unconstitutionally imposed. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

A full recitation of the facts of this case can be found in People v. Travis, 170 Ill. App. 3d 873, 525 N.E.2d 1137 (1988). On February 24, 1987, Travis was convicted of murder, home invasion, residential burglary, and aggravated criminal sexual assault in connection with the strangulation of an elderly woman in her home. The victim, found on October 30, 1985, had suffered severe injuries to her head; a bloodstained rubber mallet lay about one foot away. The victim had also suffered severe vaginal injury; a bloodstained flashlight was found at her feet. Among other damage to the victim's home, a telephone had been pulled off the wall.

Testimony at the trial indicated that, while under arrest for another murder, Travis confessed to the crimes for which he was eventually convicted. Travis directed police to the scene of the crime and described the method he and an accomplice used to gain entry into the home (through a basement window). He also described shoving a flashlight into the victim's vagina, although he claimed to have done so only after she was dead.

A semen stain had been present on the sheet where the victim was found. According to Travis, another semen stain was found on the victim's body, but this sample was too small to be tested in any manner. Hair was also found at the scene, as well as a fingerprint on the telephone. The evidence at trial established that the semen on the sheet did not come from Travis or his accomplice. The hair found at the scene did not come from Travis or his accomplice; nor did the fingerprints on the telephone match either those of Travis or his accomplice. Other than testimony regarding the nature of the victim's injuries and death, no other forensic evidence appears to have been introduced at the trial.

On February 26, the jury found defendant qualified for the death penalty, but it was unable to unanimously agree that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude imposition of the death penalty. Sentencing was continued to March 30, 1987. The trial court found the murder was accompanied by exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty, and it sentenced Travis to a term of natural-life imprisonment. The court also found his conduct qualified Travis for an extended-term sentence on the other convictions and sentenced him to 60 years' imprisonment on the aggravated criminal sexual assault and home invasion offenses, and 30 years' imprisonment on the residential burglary offense, with all 4 sentences to be served concurrently. On appeal, we reduced the sentence on the residential burglary offense to 15 years but otherwise affirmed all of Travis' convictions and sentences. Travis, 170 Ill. App. 3d at 893, 525 N.E.2d at 1149.

On March 22, 1999, Travis filed both a petition for post-conviction relief, asserting an Apprendi issue (see Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000)) and requesting the performance of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing. On the same date, Travis also filed a separate motion for DNA testing pursuant to section 116-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/116-3 (West 1998)). After a hearing and arguments of counsel, the trial court denied both motions.

I. TRAVIS' PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF

Because the Apprendi issue is without merit, we need not consider whether Travis' petition for post-conviction relief was timely filed. Travis' Apprendi challenge is without merit. Travis argues that his sentence of natural life for murder and the extended-term portion of his other sentences must be vacated because they were predicated upon the trial court's finding that the crime was accompanied by exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 1005-8-1(a)(1)(b), 1005-8-2(a), 1005-5-3.2(b)(2). The short answer is that this claim is not cognizable in post-conviction proceedings. People v. Helton, 321 Ill. App. 3d 420, 424, 749 N.E.2d 1007, 1010 (2001). As to Travis' request for DNA testing, this claim is fairly encompassed within his separate petition for the same, which we address next; therefore, we affirm the denial of his post-conviction petition.

II. TRAVIS' MOTION FOR DNA TESTING

Travis also moved in the trial court to have DNA testing done on previously untested evidence. Travis' motion is not specific as to the evidence he wishes to have tested; presumably (and as considered by the trial court) he would like to test the semen found ...


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