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People v. Swift

November 21, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
AARON D. SWIFT, APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Freeman

UNPUBLISHED

Docket No. 91840-Agenda 13-September 2002.

In this appeal we are asked to review the constitutionality of defendant's 80-year extended-term sentence in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000). The central issue is one of construction of the Illinois sentencing statutes that establish the penalties for first degree murder. Specifically, we must determine, for purposes of Apprendi analysis, whether the Illinois "sentencing range" for that crime is 20 to 60 years' imprisonment, 20 years' to life imprisonment, or 20 years' imprisonment to death. We conclude that the sentencing range is 20 to 60 years' imprisonment. Because defendant's sentence exceeded this range, based on a factual finding made by the court, the sentence cannot stand. Accordingly, we vacate the sentence and remand the cause for resentencing.

BACKGROUND

In the circuit court of Winnebago County, a jury convicted defendant, Aaron Swift, of the first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(2) (West 1998)) of Karzell Anderson. Although a detailed recitation of the facts underlying the conviction is not necessary for our disposition of the case, we note that from the evidence and testimony adduced at trial, the jury could have found that in February 1998, defendant stabbed the victim 21 times, causing his death, as the end result of a drug-related altercation.

The State did not seek the death penalty for defendant. However, the State did request the court to impose an extended-term sentence. The court found that the offense was exceptionally brutal or heinous, and imposed an extended term sentence of 80 years' imprisonment based on that finding. See 730 ILCS 5/5-8-2(a), 5-5-3.2(b)(2) (West 1998). Defendant appealed.

The appellate court affirmed defendant's conviction, but vacated his extended-term sentence. In so doing, the court held that section 5-8-2 of the Unified Code of Corrections (Code) (730 ILCS 5/5-8-2 (West 1998))-the statute authorizing the extended-term sentence the circuit court imposed on defendant-was unconstitutional under Apprendi, which was decided while the appeal was pending. 322 Ill. App. 3d 127. This appeal of right followed. 177 Ill. 2d R. 612(b); 134 Ill. 2d R. 317. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the appellate court that the sentence imposed in this case cannot stand and remand for resentencing.

ANALYSIS

As previously noted, this case involves application of the rule of Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000). There, the defendant was convicted of possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, a "second-degree" offense (N.J. Stat. Ann. §2C:39-4(a) (West 1995)) normally punishable by a sentence of 5 to 10 years' imprisonment (N.J. Stat. Ann. §2C:43-6(a)(2) (West 1995)). However, a New Jersey "hate crime" statute increased the applicable sentence to 10 to 20 years' imprisonment, based on the trial judge's finding, by a preponderance of the evidence, regarding the defendant's motive for committing the crime. N.J. Stat. Ann. §2C:43-7(a)(3) (West 1995). The high court struck down the latter statute, framing the issue as "whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that a factual determination authorizing an increase in the maximum prison sentence for an offense from10 to 20 years be made by a jury on the basis of proof beyond a reasonable doubt." Apprendi, 530 U.S. at 469, 147 L. Ed. 2d at 442, 120 S. Ct. at 2351. The Court answered this question in the affirmative, concluding that "[o]ther than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed 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.

Defendant argues that Apprendi compels vacatur of his sentence in the instant case. He contends that based solely on the facts found by the jury, he was only exposed to a sentence of between 20 and 60 years' imprisonment for his conviction of first degree murder. See 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(a)(1)(a) (West 1998). He notes that his 80-year extended-term sentence, like the sentence imposed in Apprendi, was based on a factual finding by the trial judge by a preponderance of the evidence. See 730 ILCS 5/5-8-2(a), 5-5-3.2(b)(2) (West 1998). He argues that a straightforward application of Apprendi requires that his extended-term sentence be vacated and the cause remanded for resentencing.

The State disagrees. First, the State attempts to distinguish Apprendi on its facts, arguing that the Court never intended that sentences imposed under statutes such as the Illinois extended-term statute be judged according to the rule announced in Apprendi. In the alternative, the State contends that the statutory scheme in force in Illinois and the sentence imposed on the defendant in the instant case do not violate the Apprendi rule. We shall consider these arguments in turn.

Initially, the State attempts to limit Apprendi to its facts, proffering two distinctions between the New Jersey statute struck down in Apprendi and the extended-term statute under which defendant was sentenced in the instant case. First, the State notes that the statute at issue in Apprendi required the court to impose a longer sentence upon the requisite factual finding concerning the defendant's motive, whereas the Illinois extended-term statute merely permits the court to impose an extended-term sentence upon an appropriate finding. See 730 ILCS 5/5-8-2(a) (West 1998). Second, the State notes that in Apprendi the Court stated that the New Jersey statute essentially raised the classification of the underlying offense, from a second-degree offense to a first-degree offense. See Apprendi, 530 U.S. at 494, 147 L. Ed. 2d at 457, 120 S. Ct. at 2365. The State contends that the Court was only truly concerned with statutes which changed offense classifications and argues that the rule announced in Apprendi was never intended to apply to statutes that do not have such an effect.

Neither distinction is persuasive. Although the State correctly characterizes the statute at issue in Apprendi, the Court's analysis did not rely on the features by which the State seeks to distinguish the case. In other words, the State's distinctions make no difference.

As we have previously discussed, the rule established by the Court's decision in Apprendi admits of a relatively simple statement: Due process requires that all facts necessary to establish the statutory sentencing range within which the defendant's sentence falls must be proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. See People v. Jackson, 199 Ill. 2d 286, 296 (2002); People v. Ford, 198 Ill. 2d 68, 73 (2001), quoting Apprendi, 530 U.S. at 490, 147 L. Ed. 2d at 455, 120 S. Ct. at 2362-63. With respect to the State's first argument, the mandatory nature of the New Jersey sentence increase was not germane to the Court's analysis, as is evident in the Court's framing of the issue-"whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that a factual determination authorizing an increase in the maximum prison sentence for an offense from10 to 20 years be made by a jury on the basis of proof beyond a reasonable doubt." (Emphasis added.) Apprendi, 530 U.S. at 469, 147 L. Ed. 2d at 442, 120 S. Ct. at 2351. The Court did not rely on this feature of ...


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