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The People of the State of Illinois v. Tarue Jackson

February 7, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
TARUE JACKSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County.No. 07 CR 1061 HonorableLawrence Edward Flood, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Quinn

PRESIDING JUSTICE QUINN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Connors and Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 This criminal appeal, in part, challenges the constitutionality of section 5-103 of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/5-130(1)(a) (West 2010)) which procedurally provides for an automatic transfer of a juvenile age 15 or over to criminal court to be prosecuted as an adult when charged with certain Class X felonies. Specifically, defendant argues that the automatic transfer provision: (1) violates his due process rights; (2) constitutes cruel and unusual punishment; and (3) violates the proportionality clause of our state constitution. For the reasons stated herein, we find defendant's constitutional challenges to the automatic transfer provision of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act to be without merit.

¶ 2 This appeal also challenges certain evidentiary rulings as creating an unfair trial and the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We reject these challenges.

¶ 3 BACKGROUND

¶ 4 The trial evidence established that the victim began visiting her paternal grandmother's home when she was four years old. The victim's grandmother lived with the defendant, the victim's "Uncle Buckie." The victim testified that every time she visited her grandmother's house, the defendant would come into bed with her and put his "thing" in her "front" and butt and put his finger in her "front" and butt. When she was five years old, defendant slapped her on her cheek while in bed and as he performed these sex acts on her. The victim's mother testified that the victim visited her paternal grandmother every other weekend from December 2005 to March 2007, when she stopped the visits after noticing a handprint on her daughter's cheek when she picked her up. It was then that her daughter related the stories of sexual assault. The emergency room (ER) nurse, Elizabeth Schoefeld, testified that the victim described the sexual assault by defendant and also told her the defendant smacked her on the cheek. The ER physician, Dr. Colbert, had examined the victim and testified that "without any question or reservation, this [referring to his physical findings] is by definition sexual abuse." The defendant's expert social worker, Susan Robbins, testified that in her opinion the investigation was geared "to validate what the child said" and that "it appears that every person who saw this child was looking to confirm what she said rather than to investigate what may have happened, if anything," even though there was no evidence of the mother claiming abuse but the child denying it, no evidence that the mother was "doctor shopping," and no evidence of the child repeatedly denying any abuse until placed in a situation where she would eventually cry out. In fact, there was no instance in the written record of the investigation where the victim ever denied being sexually assaulted. The defense's evidence consisted primarily of alibi witnesses who testified that the defendant was not staying at his home on the weekends the victim came to visit which contradicted the victim's mother and her friend's testimony that he was present. The jury found the defendant guilty of two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and one count of criminal sexual abuse and acquitted the defendant on two other counts of criminal sexual assault and one other count of criminal sexual abuse.

¶ 5 I. DEFENDANT'S CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGES TO AUTOMATIC TRANSFER

¶ 6 The defendant, Tarue Jackson was born on December 19, 1991. On May 14, 2007, he was 15 years old and was charged with several counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, (720 ILCS 5/12-14(b) (West 2006)) and one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, (720 ILCS 5/12-16(c)(2) (West 2006)). Pursuant to the automatic transfer provision of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act of 1987, (705 ILCS 405/5-130 et seq. (West 2006)), defendant's case proceeded in criminal court because he was statutorily excluded from the jurisdiction of juvenile court because he was at least 15 years old and was accused of aggravated criminal sexual assault. A jury found the defendant guilty of two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and one count of criminal sexual abuse on April 28, 2009. On September 24, 2009, the trial court sentenced defendant to seven years in prison for each count of aggravated criminal sexual assault and four years for the one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. The sentence imposed for each count was one year more than the minimum amount of incarceration defendant could receive for his convictions. 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(a)(3), (a)(5) (West 2006). Defendant appeals and argues that the automatic transfer provision is unconstitutional. Defendant acknowledges that the Illinois Supreme Court has previously found the automatic transfer provision to be constitutional (People v. J.S., 103 Ill. 2d 395 (1984); People v. M.A., 124 Ill. 2d 135 (1988); People v. Miller, 202 Ill. 2d 328 (2002)), but argues that the legal landscape has been altered enough by two United States Supreme Court cases to warrant a fresh look citing Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), and Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. __ ; 130 S. Ct. 2011 (2010). We address each of defendant's three constitutional challenges, seriatum.

¶ 7 A. Standard of Review

¶ 8 The constitutionality of any statute is a matter of law which is subject to de novo review on appeal. People v. Sharpe, 216 Ill. 2d 481, 486-87 (2005). This court has "a duty to construe a statute in a manner that upholds its validity and constitutionality" if it can reasonably be accomplished. People v. Graves, 207 Ill. 2d 478, 482 (2003). A statute also carries with it a strong presumption of constitutionality. People v. Sharpe, 216 Ill. 2d at 487. The party challenging a statute has the burden of clearly establishing that the statute violates the constitution. People v. Sharpe, 216 Ill. 2d at 487. It is against this backdrop that we analyze defendant's constitutional challenges to the automatic transfer provision contained in the Illinois Juvenile Court Act.

¶ 9 B. The United States Supreme Court Cases of Roper and Graham

¶ 10 The first United States Supreme Court case cited by defendant in support of his three constitutional arguments is Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005). In Roper, the defendant, a seventeen year old, committed murder. He did not fall within the jurisdiction of Missouri's juvenile court system. He was tried and convicted as an adult and sentenced to death. The issue before the Court was whether the 17-year-old's death penalty sentence violated the eighth amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court, by a vote of 5 to 4, held that the eighth and fourteenth amendments prohibit a sentence of death on defendants who were under the age of 18 at the time of the commission of their crime. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. at 578.

ΒΆ 11 The second United States Supreme Court case relied on by defendant is Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. __, 130 S. Ct. 2011 (2010). Defendant Graham was 16 years old when he was involved in an attempted robbery. Pursuant to Florida's automatic transfer provision, he was charged as an adult, and he pled guilty to armed burglary with assault and battery and attempted armed robbery. He was initially sentenced to concurrent three-year terms of probation, but when he violated his probation by committing a home-invasion robbery, possessing a firearm, associating with others engaged in criminal activity and attempting to avoid arrest, the court revoked his probation and sentenced Graham to what, in effect, was life in prison without parole. The Supreme Court held that the Constitution's eighth amendment does not permit a sentence of life without parole for a juvenile criminal who does not commit a homicide. Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. at __, 130 S. Ct. at 2030. The Court's decision contains no holding regarding whether automatic transfer provisions, such as the one in this case, are a violation of any constitutional rights. It merely took note of Florida's automatic ...


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