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People v. Land

August 9, 2006

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



Appeal from Circuit Court of County McLean No. 90CF647. Honorable Ronald C. Dozier, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

Published opinion

In June 2005, defendant, William Duncan Land, an Illinois Department of Corrections inmate, filed a petition to vacate judgment under section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2004)) and for habeas corpus relief. Later that month, the trial court sua sponte dismissed defendant's petition, upon determining that (1) defendant's sentence is not void and (2) defendant's claims had previously been rejected on direct appeal and in petitions for postconvic-tion relief.

Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court lacked the authority to summarily dismiss his habeas corpus petition and section 2- 1401 petition. We disagree and affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In July 1991, a jury convicted defendant of three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 12-14(b)(1)), for incidents involving his daughter, C.L., who was then seven years old. The trial court later sentenced him to 20 years in prison on each count, with those sentences to be served consecutively. In March 1993, this court affirmed defendant's convictions. People v. Land, 241 Ill. App. 3d 1066, 609 N.E.2d 1010 (1993).

In April 1994, defendant pro se filed a petition for relief under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 through 122-8 (West 1992)). The trial court later dismissed defendant's petition, upon finding it to be frivolous and patently without merit (725 ILCS 5/122- 2.1 (West 1994)), and in March 1996, this court affirmed the dismissal (People v. Land, No. 4-94-0980 (March 28, 1996) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23)).

In February 1998, defendant pro se filed a second post-conviction petition. In that petition, defendant claimed that his sentence is void because the trial court erroneously imposed consecutive sentences under the belief that it was required to do so under section 5-8-4(a) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 1005-8- 4(a) (now 730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(a) (West 1996))). The trial court (1) found that defendant had forfeited this claim by failing to raise it either on direct appeal or in his first post-conviction petition and (2) dismissed defendant's petition as frivolous and patently without merit (725 ILCS 5/122-2.1 (West 1996)). Defendant appealed, and this court affirmed the dismissal, upon concluding that defendant's sentence was not void. People v. Land, 304 Ill. App. 3d 169, 173-74, 710 N.E.2d 471, 473-74 (1999).

In June 2005, defendant filed his petition for relief from judgment and habeas corpus relief. In the petition, defendant argued that (1) his sentence is void, (2) this court's 1999 decision was erroneous, and (3) he is entitled to immediate release from prison (based on what he claims his sentence should have been, minus the good-time credit he accrued).

Later in June 2005, the trial court entered a written order sua sponte dismissing defendant's petition. Specifically, the court noted, in pertinent part, that (1) defendant's sentence is not void because it falls within the permissible statutory range and (2) defendant had the opportunity to raise this issue on direct appeal and in two previous post-conviction petitions.

This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

Defendant urges this court to (1) reconsider its prior holdings that trial courts have the authority to sua sponte dismiss meritless section 2-1401 petitions and (2) decline to follow the Fifth District's decision in People v. Tiller, 361 Ill. App. 3d 803, 805-06, 838 N.E.2d 969, 971-72 (2005), holding that trial courts may sua sponte dismiss meritless habeas corpus petitions. We adhere to our prior holdings and agree with the Fifth District.

In Mason v. Snyder, 332 Ill. App. 3d 834, 842, 774 N.E.2d 457, 464 (2002), this court held that a trial court has the authority to sua sponte dismiss a mandamus petition, upon finding it to be frivolous and patently without merit. In People v. Bramlett, 347 Ill. App. 3d 468, 472-73, 806 N.E.2d 1251, 1254-55 (2004), we held that trial courts also have authority to summarily dismiss frivolous section 2-1401 petitions, based on the same rationale. In People v. Ryburn, 362 Ill. App. 3d 870, ...


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