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The People of the State of Illinois, Appellant v. Corey D. Clemons

April 19, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
COREY D. CLEMONS, APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Theis

JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride specially concurred, with opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 At issue in this appeal is whether this court should overrule People v. Hauschild, 226 Ill. 2d 63 (2007), or, alternatively, abandon the "identical elements test" as a part of our proportionate penalties clause jurisprudence. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm the continuing validity of Hauschild, and decline to abandon the identical elements test. We thus affirm the judgment of the appellate court which followed Hauschild (No. 4-06-0823 (Nov. 26, 2008) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23)), and remand this matter to the trial court for resentencing.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On July 19, 2006, defendant Corey D. Clemons was convicted by a Champaign County jury of armed robbery while armed with a firearm (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a)(2) (West 2006)) and home invasion while armed with a firearm (720 ILCS 5/12-11(a)(3) (West 2006)), in connection with an incident that occurred earlier that year at a mobile home park in Urbana, Illinois. Each offense was a Class X felony, which carried a sentence of 6 to 30 years' imprisonment, plus a 15-year sentencing enhancement for use of a firearm. 720 ILCS 5/18-2(b), 12-11(c) (West 2006); 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(a)(3) (West 2006). Thus, the sentencing range was 21 to 45 years. The trial court sentenced defendant to a term of 25 years' imprisonment for each offense, to be served concurrently.

¶ 4 The appellate court affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences (People v. Clemons, No. 4-06-0823 (May 1, 2008) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23)), and defendant filed a petition for leave to appeal with this court. We denied defendant's petition, but directed the appellate court to vacate its judgment and reconsider in light of Hauschild. People v. Clemons, 229 Ill. 2d 634 (2008) (table). Hauschild, which was decided while defendant's direct appeal was pending, held that the penalty for armed robbery while armed with a firearm violates the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11). Hauschild, 226 Ill. 2d at 86-87. In accordance with Hauschild, the appellate court held that because defendant was sentenced under a statute which violated the proportionate penalties clause, the matter must be remanded to the trial court for resentencing in accordance with the armed robbery statute as it existed prior to the adoption of the sentencing enhancements for firearm use (see Pub. Act 91-404, § 5 (eff. Jan. 1, 2000) (amending, inter alia, 720 ILCS 5/18-2)). No. 4-06-0823 (Nov. 26, 2008) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). Thus, on remand to the trial court, defendant would be subject to a term of 6 to 30 years' imprisonment for his armed robbery conviction, rather than a term of 21 to 45 years' imprisonment. See 720 ILCS 5/18-2 (West 1998); 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(a)(3) (West 1998).

¶ 5 We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal (Ill. S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010); Ill. S. Ct. R. 612 (eff. Sept. 1, 2006)), and directed the parties to include in their briefs "a discussion of whether the identical elements test should be abandoned in proportional penalties analysis." People v. Clemons, 238 Ill. 2d 658 (2010) (supervisory order).

¶ 6 ANALYSIS

¶ 7 I

¶ 8 The State argues that Hauschild should be overruled because it misconstrued the armed violence statute and misapplied the identical elements test. The State argues in the alternative that the identical elements test should be abandoned because the test is not supported by the constitutional text, invades the power of the legislature, and has become unworkable in practice. Because these arguments raise purely legal issues, our review proceeds de novo. See People v. Caballes, 221 Ill. 2d 282, 289 (2006).

¶ 9 Preliminarily, we note that the State's arguments implicate the doctrine of stare decisis. This doctrine "expresses the policy of the courts to stand by precedents and not to disturb settled points." Neff v. George, 364 Ill. 306, 308-09 (1936), overruled on other grounds by Tuthill v. Rendelman, 387 Ill. 321, 330 (1944). Thus, a question once deliberately examined and decided should be closed to further argument, ensuring that the law will develop in a "principled, intelligent fashion," immune from erratic changes. People v. Colon, 225 Ill. 2d 125, 146 (2007). See also Moehle v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 93 Ill. 2d 299, 304 (1982) (stare decisis enables the people and the bar of this state "to rely upon our decisions with assurance that they will not be lightly overruled"). Although stare decisis is not an inexorable command, any departure from stare decisis " 'demands special justification.' " Chicago Bar Ass'n v. Illinois State Board of Elections, 161 Ill. 2d 502, 510 (1994) (quoting Arizona v. Rumsey, 467 U.S. 203, 212 (1984)). Accord Colon, 225 Ill. 2d at 146. Accordingly, prior decisions will not be overruled absent "good cause" or "compelling reasons." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Vitro v. Mihelcic, 209 Ill. 2d 76, 82 (2004) (quoting Moehle, 93 Ill. 2d at 304). Good cause exists where, for example, the decisions are unworkable or badly reasoned. People v. Sharpe, 216 Ill. 2d 481, 520 (2005).

¶ 10 With these principles in mind, we consider first whether, as the State argues, Hauschild should be overruled.

¶ 11 II

¶ 12 In Hauschild, we held that the sentence for armed robbery while armed with a firearm violates the proportionate penalties clause "because the penalty for that offense is more severe than the penalty for the identical offense of armed violence predicated on robbery with a category I or category II weapon." Hauschild, 226 Ill. 2d at 87. Whereas armed robbery while armed with a firearm is punishable by an enhanced sentence of 21 to 45 years' imprisonment (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a)(2), (b) (West 2000)), armed violence predicated on robbery with a category I or II weapon is punishable by a sentence of 15 to 30 years' imprisonment (720 ILCS 5/33A-3(a) (West 2000)). Id. at 86. Relying on the seminal case of People v. Christy, 139 Ill. 2d 172 (1990), which first applied what would later be called "the identical elements test," we held that common sense and sound logic dictate that the penalties for these identical offenses should be identical. Id.

¶ 13 In the course of our analysis in Hauschild, we considered the State's argument that armed robbery cannot serve as a predicate felony for armed violence and, thus, the two offenses cannot have identical elements. At the time of the offenses at issue in Hauschild, the armed violence statute provided in relevant part:

"A person commits armed violence when, while armed with a dangerous weapon, he commits any felony defined by Illinois Law, except first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, intentional homicide of an unborn child, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnaping, aggravated battery of a child, home invasion, armed robbery, or aggravated vehicular hijacking." (Emphasis added.) 720 ILCS 5/33A-2(a) (West 2000).

¶ 14 Although we agreed with the State that the armed violence statute expressly excluded armed robbery as a predicate offense for armed violence, we noted that the statute did not exclude the offense of robbery. Hauschild, 226 Ill. 2d at 85. We declined to depart from the statute's unambiguous language excluding only armed robbery "by creating exceptions, limitations, or conditions not expressed by the legislature." Id. at 85. Because robbery could serve as a predicate felony under the armed violence statute, armed violence could be compared with armed robbery to determine whether these offenses have identical elements but disparate sentences. Id. at 85.

¶ 15 Consistent with Hauschild, the State concedes that the legislature did not explicitly bar armed violence predicated on simple robbery. Notwithstanding this concession, the State argues that this court misconstrued the armed violence statute, as evinced by a subsequent statutory amendment. The State notes that shortly after Hauschild was decided, the legislature enacted Public Act 95-688, which, among other things, deleted the reference to armed robbery in the armed violence statute:

"A person commits armed violence when, while armed with a dangerous weapon, he commits any felony defined by Illinois Law, except first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, intentional homicide of an unborn child, second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnaping, aggravated battery of a child, home invasion, or any offense that makes the possession or use of a dangerous weapon either an element of the base offense, an aggravated or enhanced version of the offense, or a mandatory sentencing factor that increases the sentencing range armed robbery, or aggravated vehicular hijacking." (Underscores and strikeouts in original.) Pub. Act 95-688, §4 (eff. Oct. 23, 2007) (amending 720 ILCS 5/33A-2).

¶ 16 The State contends that the legislature's purpose in adopting Public Act 95-688 was to "correct" Hauschild and "clarify" what the legislature considered to be the statute's meaning all along, i.e., that robbery may not serve as a predicate felony for armed violence because armed robbery is an "enhanced" version of robbery with "possession or use of a dangerous weapon" as an element. See 95th Ill. Gen. Assem., House Proceedings, July 12, 2007, at 4 (statements of Representative Turner) (stating that amendment to the armed violence statute "clarified" the statute); 95th Ill. Gen. Assem., Senate Proceedings, July 26, 2007, at 8 (statements of Senator Cullerton) (stating that the bill underlying Public Act 95-688 addresses an Illinois Supreme Court decision that held the legislature violated the proportionate penalties clause and that the bill "corrects that"). The State continues that, pursuant to In re Detention of Lieberman, 201 Ill. 2d 300, 320 (2002), such a clarifying amendment is treated as a legislative declaration of the meaning of the prior statute, and that Hauschild is at odds with the legislative declaration set forth in Public Act 95-688. The State thus concludes that this court should overrule Hauschild.

¶ 17 We agree with the State that under the statute, as amended by Public Act 95-688, simple robbery may no longer serve as a predicate felony for armed violence. We disagree, however, that pursuant to Lieberman, we should overrule our interpretation of the armed violence statute that we adopted in Hauschild.

¶ 18 In Lieberman, we were called upon to construe a criminal statute which, prior to our review, had been the subject of a "cleanup" amendment. In that case, we agreed with the State that the amendment served to clarify the legislature's original intent and supported our construction of the preamended statute. Lieberman, 201 Ill. 2d at 320-23. Here, however, the amendment to the armed violence statute was adopted after this court's interpretation of that statute in Hauschild. In other words, our interpretation was a part of the armed violence statute at the time Public Act 95-688 was enacted. See Sanelli v. Glenview State Bank, 108 Ill. 2d 1, 14 (1985). Lieberman does not speak to this situation. We note, moreover, that "while the General Assembly can pass legislation to prospectively change a judicial construction of a statute if it believes that the judicial interpretation was at odds with legislative intent, it cannot effect a change in that construction by a later declaration of what it had originally intended." People v. Nitz, 173 Ill. 2d 151, 163 (1996), overruled on other grounds by People v. Mitchell, 189 Ill. 2d 312, 329 (2000); see also Roth v. Yackley, 77 Ill. 2d 423, 428-29 (1979).

ΒΆ 19 Hauschild remains the law as to the meaning of the armed violence statute prior to its ...


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