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People v. Smith

Supreme Court of Illinois

February 5, 2015


Appellate court judgment reversed. Circuit court judgment affirmed.


In 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court held that, if a mandatory sentence enhancement is called for by the factual basis of a plea agreement accepted by the trial court, that enhancement must be imposed even if not included in the plea agreement; but it was proper to summarily dismiss a postconviction petition challenging a sentence as void under this decision where it was not retroactive because it announced a new rule of law after the conviction at issue was final and was not a " watershed" ruling impacting the conviction's accuracy.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield, and James W. Glasgow, State's Attorney, of Joliet (Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitor General, and Michael M. Glick and Stephen M. Soltanzadeh, Assistant Attorneys General, of Chicago, and Patrick Delfino, Terry A. Mertel and Nadia L. Chaudhry, of the Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, of Ottawa, of counsel), for the People.

Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Peter A. Carusona, Deputy Defender, and Mario Kladis, Assistant Appellate Defender, of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, of Chicago, for appellee.

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


Page 336


[¶1] In People v. White, 2011 IL 109616, 953 N.E.2d 398, 352 Ill.Dec. 159, this court held that when the factual basis for a plea agreement which is accepted by the circuit court establishes that the defendant is subject to a mandatory sentencing enhancement, the court must impose it, even if the plea agreement between the State and the defendant included the condition that the State would not pursue the enhancement. At issue in this appeal is whether our holding in White applies retroactively to convictions which were final at the time White was decided. We conclude that it does not.


[¶3] The defendant, Mickey D. Smith, was charged in a three-count indictment with the first degree murder of Douglas White. Count I alleged that defendant, without lawful justification and with intent to cause great bodily harm, shot White in the back with a handgun thereby causing his death. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2010). Count II alleged that defendant shot White with a handgun without justification knowing such act created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm. See 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(2) (West 2010). Count III alleged that defendant was an armed habitual criminal. See 720 ILCS 5/24-1.7 (West 2010). Subsequently, the State filed a " Notice of Intent to Enhance Sentencing Upon Conviction" in which it indicated that it intended to seek a sentencing enhancement of 25 years to natural life imprisonment on the ground that defendant murdered White by discharging a firearm. See 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(a)(1)(d)(iii) (West 2010).

[¶4] As part of a negotiated plea agreement, defendant pleaded guilty to first degree murder under count II. In exchange, the State dismissed counts I and III, recommended a sentence of 30 years' imprisonment, and withdrew its notice of intent to seek the firearm sentencing enhancement. The factual basis presented by the State in support of the plea established that defendant, while armed with a handgun, entered a garage where White was found. Once inside the garage, defendant fired a single shot, killing White. During admonitions, the circuit court advised defendant that the State was withdrawing its notice of intent to seek the firearm enhancement and that defendant was therefore eligible for a sentence of 20 to 60 years. The circuit court accepted defendant's guilty plea and imposed a sentence of 30 years' imprisonment. Defendant did not file a direct appeal.

Page 337

[¶5] Defendant thereafter filed a pro se postconviction petition in which he alleged that his sentence and guilty plea were void under this court's decision in White, 2011 IL 109616, 953 N.E.2d 398, 352 Ill.Dec. 159, because his sentence did not include the statutory firearm enhancement. The circuit court of Will County summarily dismissed the petition as frivolous or patently without merit. Defendant appealed.

[¶6] The appellate court reversed and remanded. 2013 IL App. (3d) 110738, 993 N.E.2d 589, 373 Ill.Dec. 283. The appellate court concluded that defendant's sentence and plea were void under White because the factual basis for defendant's plea established that a firearm was used in the murder, thereby requiring the imposition of the firearm sentencing enhancement (730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(a)(1)(d)(iii) (West 2010)). The appellate court noted that the firearm enhancement statute required a 25-year prison term in addition to the minimum 20-year prison term for murder and, thus, the minimum required sentence for defendant's crime was 45 years' imprisonment. Defendant's 30-year term fell below that statutory minimum and, therefore, according to the appellate court, was unauthorized and void.

[¶7] In so holding, the appellate court rejected the State's argument that White did not apply to defendant's case under the rationale of Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334 (1989), which was adopted by this court in People v. Flowers, 138 Ill.2d 218, 561 N.E.2d 674, 149 Ill.Dec. 304 (1990). Teague provides that, with two exceptions, a new rule of criminal procedure does not apply to cases that are already final at the time the judicial decision establishing the new rule is entered. Defendant's conviction was final at the time White was decided, but the appellate court concluded that White did not establish a new rule of law. The appellate court determined that " White did not break new ground or impose a new obligation," but merely " relied upon existing precedent, which set out the long-standing rule that courts are not authorized to impose a sentence that does not conform to statutory guidelines, because a sentence not authorized by law is void." 2013 IL App. (3d) 110738, ¶ 12, 993 N.E.2d 589, 373 Ill.Dec. 283. Finding that White did not establish a new rule, the appellate court concluded that it applied to defendant's conviction. The appellate court ...

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