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The People of the State of Illinois v. Steven Steward

December 3, 2010

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
STEVEN STEWARD, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Dennis Porter, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Howse

FIFTH DIVISION

JUSTICE HOWSE delivered the opinion of the court: Defendant, Steven Steward, filed a petition for post-conviction relief on February 9, 2009, asserting his actual innocence. The trial court summarily dismissed defendant's petition, finding that it was frivolous and patently without merit. In doing so, the court determined that although defendant was detained under the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (725 ILCS 207/1 (West 2008)), he was no longer imprisoned within the meaning of the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 2008)) and therefore he lacked standing to seek relief. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment of the trial court but vacate certain fees.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Steven Steward was convicted by a jury on May 16, 1996, of attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/8-4, 12-14(a)(4) (West 1994)) and aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4(a) (West 1994)) and sentenced to 25 years plus 5 years, concurrently, in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Steward filed a direct appeal of his conviction claiming: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel at trial; (2) ineffective assistance of counsel during his posttrial motions, and (3) the trial court erred in granting the State's pretrial motion in limine to introduce evidence of his prior felony. We affirmed the defendant's conviction on March 31, 1998. People v. Steward, 295 Ill. App. 3d 735, 693 N.E.2d 436 (1998). Defendant's petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court was denied on October 6, 1998. People v. Steward, 179 Ill. 2d 611, 705 N.E.2d 447 (1998). Defendant subsequently filed a pro se writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court, which was denied.

Steward's Arrest and Conviction

The following facts are derived from the trial court's order on defendant's petition for post-conviction relief and a posttrial deposition of witness Patrice B. (Patrice).

On December 2, 1993, at approximately 4 a.m., the victim, Patrice, was walking in her neighborhood when she came across her friend, Fancy. Patrice stopped to talk when Steward approached and asked Patrice if he could talk to her. Patrice replied in the negative, at which point Steward grabbed her by the back of the neck and forced her into an apartment in a nearby building. Steward led Patrice into the bedroom and undressed.

"A *** violent game of cat and mouse ensued, Patrice retreating and [Steward] pursuing, until, ultimately, [Steward] struck Patrice in the head and legs with a hammer and she subsequently agreed to perform oral sex on him. Patrice knelt before [Steward] as he stood naked, overlooking her. She then proceeded to grab his groin, and with great force, wrench his scrotum downward."

Steward then dropped the hammer he was holding and Patrice was able to flee the apartment to the street. Fancy saw her and called an ambulance. At the hospital, Patrice was treated for a black eye, multiple cuts, puncture wounds, and bite marks on her hand and arm. While at the hospital, Patrice identified herself as "Lisa," admitted using heroin that night, and admitted she used various other names and birth dates in previous interactions with law enforcement. She also identified Steward's photograph from a group of five photographs shown to her. Steward's photograph had been taken at Cabrini Hospital where he was being treated for injuries to his scrotum, which had been lacerated severely enough to separate it into a front half and a back half.

Steward was arrested and convicted of aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/8-4, 12-14(a)(4) (West 1994)) and aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4(a) (West 1994)).

Steward was scheduled to be released from prison to serve a two-year period of mandatory supervised release on March 1, 2006. On February 28, 2006, the State filed a petition to have Steward committed pursuant to the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (SVPCA) (725 ILCS 207/1 (West 2004)). The petition alleged Steward was convicted of the offenses at issue here and was also convicted in 1990 of aggravated criminal sexual assault and sentenced to 10 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for that offense.

The State's petition also alleged that Steward was diagnosed by Dr. Jacqueline Buck with the following conditions: (1) paraphilia, a condition where he is sexually attracted to non-consenting females; (2) cannabis dependency; (3) he is subject to alcohol abuse; and (4) he has an antisocial personality disorder. According to the petition:

"These mental disorders are congenital or acquired conditions affecting the Respondent's emotional or volitional capacity which predisposes the Respondent to commit acts of sexual violence."

On March 30, 2006, the trial court conducted a hearing and found probable cause that Steward is a sexually violent person, pursuant to the SVPCA (725 ILCS 207/1 (West 2004)). The court ordered Stewart detained pending disposition of the petition.

After Steward was detained, his counsel deposed Patrice. Her testimony in the deposition was different in several respects from the testimony she gave at trial. Patrice testified that she knew Homer King, a/k/a Fancy. Patrice had in the past exchanged sex for money with Fancy. Patrice identified this practice as a "date."

On the day of the incident with Steward, she came upon Fancy in a nearby park and he asked her if she still dated. Patrice testified that Fancy said he had a friend who wanted to date her. Steward approached and Fancy said he was the friend who wanted "to get to know [her]."

Patrice testified that she walked with Steward to an apartment. Steward asked her if she dated and she replied in the affirmative. Patrice testified that she walked into the bedroom and removed her pants but did not remove the three shirts she was wearing. Patrice and Steward engaged in intercourse. Afterwards, she asked to be paid and Steward gave her a bag containing jewelry, clothes and a coat. Patrice testified that she voluntarily engaged in intercourse with Steward a second Shortly thereafter, Patrice was in the kitchen of the apartment and Steward grabbed her and a fight ensued. During the fight, Steward bit Patrice on her arm and hit her on the head with a hammer. Patrice testified:

"And then after that I say okay, I'm going to do what you want me to do, you know.

Just don't hit me."

Patrice testified that Steward asked her to have a drink and she declined. Testimony continued in the following manner:

"A. He poured him a drink. He unzipped his pants. He told me to suck his penis.

Q. [Defense attorney]: And what happened then?

A. I looked at his penis.

Q. And then what happened?

A. I wiped the blood off my hand -- my face. And I went down, you know, bend down like I'm in position to do what he asked me to do.

Q. And then what happened?

A. I snatched his groins.

Q. Can you describe that for us, please?

A. Okay. He's standing -- say that's the door and the doorknob is his groins. When I looked up at him, he's standing like this. His penis is active, and I just went and just did like this. When he did -- when I did that, he dropped the hammer. When he dropped the hammer, I went at him like this, and he dropped the keys.

When he dropped the keys, I unlocked the front door and went -- stood on the porch, not even a second, just stood and asked where can I run to, you know, just stay woke and see where you can run -- and I'm remembering Fancy mom live across the street, you know, because that's where I went when I used to, you know, date him, you know, to his mom house.

And so I knocked on the door, and I asked could she call an ambulance for me."

Patrice suffered a wound to the head and a bite mark on her arm while the defendant suffered a severe injury to his scrotum.

Patrice testified that Steward never grabbed her on the street and forced her into the apartment, as she had testified at trial.

On cross-examination, Patrice testified that Steward hit her on the head with a hammer because she would not suck his penis.

Steward filed a post-conviction petition on February 9, 2009, claiming Patrice recanted her trial testimony in the 2007 deposition and that he is innocent of attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault. Steward claimed his conviction should be vacated or he should be granted a new trial.

In the petition, Steward claims that Patrice's posttrial deposition is newly discovered evidence. Steward also claims that posttrial deposition testimony from Fancy corroborates the testimony of Patrice.

State of Illinois records show that Steward was discharged from mandatory supervised release on March 1, 2008. Approximately 11 months later, he filed his post-conviction petition.

In its order dismissing Steward's petition, the trial court found: (1) the issue of time limitations does not bar the petition because he is alleging actual innocence; (2) defendant does not have standing to bring his petition because he is not a person imprisoned in a penitentiary within the meaning of the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 (West 2008)); and

(3) his claim of actual innocence fails because it was not based on newly ...


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