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The People of the State of Illinois v. Dwayne T. Croom

May 21, 2012


Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 05CF1023 Honorable Thomas J. Difanis, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Mccullough

JUSTICE MCCULLOUGH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Turner and Justice Cook concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 In May 2005, the State charged defendant, Dwayne T. Croom, with first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(2) (West 2004)), alleging he struck three-year old Altravius Bolden in the abdomen, causing Altravius's death in June 2004. Defendant was 16 years old on the date of the alleged offense.

¶ 2 Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to suppress oral statements he made to Detective Robert Rea while in a van. Defendant alleged the statements were made during a custodial interrogation where he "did not, and was not afforded the opportunity to knowingly waive his constitutional rights" to remain silent, consult an attorney, have an attorney present during the interrogation, and terminate the interrogation at any time, nor was he informed that any statements he made could be used against him in court. Further, defendant alleged "no effort was made *** to discover whether he was mentally or psychologically capable of making a voluntary statement." After hearing the evidence and listening to the parties' arguments, the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress, finding defendant's statements while in the van were voluntary and that defendant was not in custody for purposes of Miranda. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966).

¶ 3 In September 2005, defendant was found unfit to stand trial, based on Dr. Lawrence Jeckel's medical opinion "that although [defendant] knows the function of the various participants in the court of law, there is significant doubt as to whether he can assist his attorney in his own defense." Jeckel based his opinion on the fact that defendant was "defensive and concrete" and "stubbornly refused to consider that a plea agreement might net him less prison time." Thus, Jeckel concluded, defendant "seemed to be unable to differentiate between a decision in the criminal justice system and the truth about the crime." In March 2006, defendant was restored to fitness.

¶ 4 In September 2006, defendant's jury trial commenced. The jury found defendant guilty of first degree murder. In October 2006, defendant filed a motion for a new trial, alleging in part that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. The court denied defendant's motion and sentenced him to 50 years in prison.

¶ 5 On direct appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress statements he made to Detective Rea while in the van (statements that Detective Rea testified to during trial), asserting the statements were made during a custodial interrogation and were inadmissible because he was not informed of his Miranda rights. This court affirmed defendant's convictions in February 2008. People v. Croom, 379 Ill. App. 3d 341, 352, 883 N.E.2d 681, 690 (2008).

¶ 6 In November 2008, defendant filed a post-conviction petition challenging appellate counsel's effectiveness for failing to raise several claims on direct appeal. In December 2008, the trial court summarily dismissed defendant's petition, finding it frivolous and patently without merit. On appeal from the summary dismissal, defendant argued that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the sufficiency of the State's evidence. This court affirmed the summary dismissal of the petition. People v. Croom, No. 4-09-0047 (Feb. 16, 2010) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

¶ 7 On October 4, 2010, defendant filed a motion seeking leave to file a successive post-conviction petition, which the trial court denied on October 26, 2010.

¶ 8 This appeal followed.

¶ 9 The first issue on appeal is whether the automatic transfer provision of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Juvenile Act) (705 ILCS 405/5-130 (West 2004)) violates federal and state due process because it subjects 15- and 16-year-old juveniles charged with certain enumerated crimes to be automatically transferred to adult court without a hearing.

¶ 10 The constitutionality of a criminal statute may be raised at any time. In re J.W., 204 Ill. 2d 50, 61, 787 N.E.2d 747, 754 (2003). Whether a statute violates due process is reviewed de novo. Miller v. Rosenberg, 196 Ill. 2d 50, 57, 749 N.E.2d 946, 951 (2001). Statutes are presumed constitutional, and a party challenging the constitutionally bears the burden of establishing its invalidity. People v. Wright, 194 Ill. 2d 1, 24, 740 N.E.2d 755, 766 (2000). "[T]he legislature has wide discretion to establish penalties for criminal offenses, but this discretion is limited by the constitutional guarantee that a person may not be deprived of liberty without due process of law." Wright, 194 Ill. 2d at 24, 740 N.E.2d at 766-67.

ΒΆ 11 Before turning to the substance of defendant's petition, we first dispose of the State's contention that defendant has forfeited his due process argument by failing to provide notice of it to the Attorney General ...

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