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People v. Hommerson

Supreme Court of Illinois

January 24, 2014

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellee,
v.
PETER HOMMERSON, Appellant

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Second District.

Judgments reversed.

SYLLABUS

The absence of the statutorily required verification affidavit from a postconviction petition is a procedural defect not to be dealt with until the second stage of the proceeding; this defect does not support a first-stage dismissal of a petition as frivolous or patently without merit.

For Peter Hommerson, APPELLANT: Ms. Kathleen J. Hamill, Asst. State Appellate Defender, Elgin, IL.

For People State of Illinois, APPELLEE: Mr. Brian McLeish, Assistant Attorney General, Chicago, IL.; State's Attorney Lake County, Lake County Courthouse, Waukegan, IL.; State's Attorneys App. Pros. Elgin Second Judicial District, Elgin, IL.

JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

FREEMAN, JUSTICE

Page 59

Petitioner Peter Hommerson filed a postconviction petition pursuant to the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq . (West 2010)), alleging violations of his constitutional rights based on his trial counsel's deficient performance. The circuit court of Lake County summarily dismissed the petition because it did not contain a verification affidavit. A divided appellate panel affirmed the summary dismissal. 2013 IL App (2d) 110805, 983 N.E.2d 549, 368 Ill.Dec. 136.

This court allowed petitioner's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010). For the following reasons, we reverse the judgments of the circuit and appellate courts.

I. BACKGROUND

Following a jury trial in 2008, petitioner was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and sentenced to a term of natural life in prison. His convictions and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. People v. Hommerson, 399 Ill.App.3d 405, 927 N.E.2d 101, 339 Ill.Dec. 560 (2010). In 2011, petitioner filed a pro se postconviction petition alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The petition did not contain a verification affidavit pursuant to section 122-1(b) of the Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1(b) (West 2010)). The circuit court dismissed the petition solely on that basis. The appellate court affirmed the summary dismissal, concluding that a petition lacking a verification affidavit was frivolous and patently without merit and could be summarily dismissed. 2013 IL App (2d) 110805, ΒΆ 11. The dissenting justice characterized ...


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