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People v. Generally

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

December 12, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
GARNELL GENERALLY, Defendant-Appellant.

          Rule 23 Order Filed: October 18, 2017

          Motion to Publish Granted: December 12, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County No. 85-CF-618 Honorable Neil T. Schroeder, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Jacqueline L. Bullard, Deputy Defender, John M. McCarthy, Assistant Appellate Defender, Fourth Judicial District

          Attorneys for Appellee Hon. Thomas D. Gibbons, State's Attorney, Madison County Courthouse, Patrick Delfino, Director, David J. Robinson, Acting Deputy Director, Sharon Shanahan, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, Fifth District Office,

          JUSTICE MOORE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Chapman and Overstreet concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          MOORE, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The defendant, Garnell Generally, appeals the order of the circuit court of Madison County that denied the defendant's request to file a successive postconviction petition. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 The facts necessary to our disposition of this appeal follow. The defendant was convicted of, inter alia, murder for his involvement in the 1985 beating death of Harold Wayne Staton. At the time he beat the victim to death, the defendant was 17 years old but already had a history of violent behavior. For his conviction of the offense of murder, the defendant was sentenced to natural life in prison with no possibility of parole. After he exhausted the direct appeal process, the defendant filed multiple postconviction petitions. He was unsuccessful in each of these attempts to challenge both his conviction and his life sentence. In April 2014, he filed a motion to file a successive postconviction petition, claiming his discretionary sentence of natural life in prison with no possibility of parole violated the decision issued by the United States Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012). In a four-page, typewritten order, the circuit court of Madison County denied the defendant's request to file a successive postconviction petition, finding the defendant failed to demonstrate the prejudice needed to qualify to file such a petition because, inter alia, his sentence was discretionary rather than mandatory and therefore did not violate Miller and because the sentencing judge "carefully considered the sentence in this matter, including the defendant's youth and aspects of his childhood." The court subsequently denied the defendant's motion for reconsideration. This timely appeal followed. Additional facts will be provided as necessary below.

         ¶ 4 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 5 On appeal, the defendant contends the trial court erred for two reasons: (1) the defendant demonstrated prejudice and (2) the defendant's natural life sentence is unconstitutional. The parties agree that our review of the circuit court's denial of a defendant's request to file a successive postconviction petition is de novo. See, e.g., People v. McDonald, 405 Ill.App.3d 131, 135 (2010). Moreover, "[w]hether a statute is unconstitutional is a question of law, which is reviewed de novo." People v. Davis, 2014 IL 115595, ¶ 26. With regard to the merits of the defendant's appeal, on September 21, 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court issued its decision in People v. Holman, 2017 IL 120655. Therein, the court held that a discretionary sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole that is rendered to a juvenile defendant is not unconstitutional if, at the juvenile defendant's original sentencing hearing, the trial judge, "after considering the defendant's youth and its attendant characteristics, " determined "that the defendant's conduct showed irretrievable depravity, permanent incorrigibility, or irreparable corruption beyond the possibility of rehabilitation." Id. ¶¶ 46-47. The Holman court explained that the "attendant characteristics" to which it was referring "include, but are not limited to, " the factors that follow:

"(1) the juvenile defendant's chronological age at the time of the offense and any evidence of his particular immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences; (2) the juvenile defendant's family and home environment; (3) the juvenile defendant's degree of participation in the homicide and any evidence of familial or peer pressures that may have affected him; (4) the juvenile defendant's incompetence, including his inability to deal with police officers or prosecutors ...

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