Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 99--CF--2058 Honorable Philip L. DiMarzio, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Byrne
Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Kane County, defendant, Willie C. McCoy, was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9--1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2000)), one count of attempted first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8--4(a), 9--1(a)(2) (West 2000)), and one count of aggravated battery with a firearm (720 ILCS 5/12--4.2(a)(1) (West 2000)) based upon accountability. Defendant received a mandatory sentence of natural life imprisonment under the multiple-murder provision of the Unified Code of Corrections (Unified Code) (730 ILCS 5/5--8--1(a)(1)(c)(ii) (West 2000)). On appeal, defendant argues that his mandatory sentence of natural life based upon accountability offends the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §11). We affirm.
The evidence at trial established the following. Willie "Bay-Bay" Fullilove, a 15-year-old member of the Black Disciples street gang, sold drugs from apartment No. 12, which was located in an Elgin apartment complex known as "the schoolhouse." Gangster Disciples' members, including Quanson "Guda" Carlisle and Anthony Cooper, also sold drugs at the schoolhouse, from apartment No. 23. The Gangster Disciples kept a safe containing drugs and handguns in schoolhouse apartment No. 28. Both gangs are affiliated under the same gang "nation" and coexisted at the schoolhouse without incident. One day, however, Fullilove lent his car to Carlisle and Cooper, and, when the two men were away, Fullilove stole the safe.
Fullilove was subsequently accused of stealing the safe. Fullilove informed a higher-ranking member of the Black Disciples, who, at a meeting to discuss the matter, told defendant and other members of the Black Disciples to "handle the situation." Allegedly, before resorting to violence, the Black Disciples were to talk to the Gangster Disciples and convince them to leave Fullilove alone. However, handguns were passed out to several of the Black Disciples' members who were present at the meeting. Defendant did not take a gun.
After the meeting, defendant and the other members of the Black Disciples proceeded to the schoolhouse where they met Fullilove at his apartment. One of the members stated, "Let's kill the mother-fuckers." Another said that he was "gonna kill 'em if they get out of line."
Defendant checked to make sure that apartment No. 23 was occupied and confirmed that people were present there. Defendant agreed when one of his compatriots stated that "we got these pussy mother-fuckers now." Those members who were armed inspected their weapons in defendant's presence. Defendant then called the apartment on his cellular phone and told Carlisle that they needed to talk.
The group of Black Disciples, except Fullilove, proceeded to apartment No. 23. Defendant knocked on the door, and, subsequently, Carlisle and Cooper entered the hallway. Carlisle talked with one Black Disciple who was armed. Their conversation deteriorated and Carlisle went back into apartment No. 23. Cooper was shot in the hallway. Armed Black Disciples then entered the apartment and "opened fire." Other Black Disciples, including defendant, fled the schoolhouse and waited outside in a "get-away van." Defendant called Fullilove and told him to get out of his apartment. As the group fled the scene in the van, defendant collected the weapons and placed them in a paper bag, which he stowed in a grassy area outside of town. The melee left three people dead, all of whom had been shot in the head. Another Gangster Disciple, Corey Boey, was injured by multiple gunshots.
The jury found defendant guilty, based on accountability, of one count each of aggravated battery with a firearm and attempted first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree murder. At the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, because defendant was found guilty of murdering more than one victim, the trial court sentenced defendant to mandatory life imprisonment pursuant to section 5--8--1(a)(1)(c)(ii) of the Unified Code. The trial court found that great bodily injury had been inflicted on Boey and sentenced defendant to 10 years' imprisonment for attempted first-degree murder. The conviction of aggravated battery with a firearm merged into the attempted first-degree murder conviction. Defendant timely appeals.
On appeal, defendant contends that the multiple-murder sentencing statute is unconstitutional as applied to an offender convicted under a theory of accountability. Although defendant did not raise this issue below, a constitutional issue may be raised at any time. People v. Wagener, 196 Ill. 2d 269, 279-80 (2001).
Our de novo review begins with the presumption that the statute is constitutional. People v. Miller, 202 Ill. 2d 328, 335 (2002). The party challenging the statute bears the burden of showing its invalidity. People v. Davis, 177 Ill. 2d 495, 501 (1997).
The multiple-murder sentencing statute provides, in relevant 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 ...