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People v. Croft

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

February 20, 2018

CURTIS CROFT, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 86 CR 9932 (02) The Honorable Lawrence E. Flood, Judge Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE PIERCE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Harris and Simon concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Defendant Curtis Croft appeals from the second-stage dismissal of his successive petition for postconviction relief under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 2014)). His petition asserted that his discretionary sentence of natural life in prison without parole was imposed without consideration of the factors cited in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012). The circuit court concluded that defendant's claims were barred by res judicata in light of our opinion in People v. Croft, 2013 IL App (1st) 121473, in which we rejected defendant's first Miller challenge to his discretionary life sentence. The circuit court therefore dismissed defendant's successive petition.

         ¶ 2 On appeal, defendant contends that the law has changed since our previous opinion and that res judicata does not apply. He further argues that he is entitled to a new sentencing hearing at which the sentencing court can consider the "hallmark features" of youth. The State concedes that res judicata does not bar defendant's Miller claim but argues that defendant is not entitled to a new sentencing hearing because the circuit court considered defendant's youth as well as defendant's role in the offense in reaching its discretionary sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

         ¶ 3 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 At the age of 17, defendant participated in the gang rape, kidnapping, and murder of 16-year-old Kim Boyd. An autopsy revealed that Boyd had been stabbed over 40 times in the head, face, neck, hands, abdomen, back, and buttocks. She had bruises on her face, elbow, and back, along with a broken thigh bone and several fractured ribs. She further sustained injuries consistent with coming into contact with the underside of a car. The cause of death was attributed to the stab wounds.

         ¶ 5 A thorough recitation of the facts can be found in our opinion affirming defendant's convictions. People v. Croft, 211 Ill.App.3d 496 (1991). We set forth here only those facts necessary to understand our disposition. Defendant waived his right to a jury trial. The testimony at trial showed that a number of people, including defendant and Boyd, were drinking at defendant's home in the early morning of July 13, 1986. There was testimony that Demetrius Henderson struck Boyd and forced her to have sexual intercourse with him. While Henderson was having sex with Boyd, defendant forced Boyd to perform oral sex on him. Henderson and defendant then forced Kevin Campbell and Alonzo Woodard to have sex with Boyd. After the sexual assault, Boyd was blindfolded and placed in the trunk of Henderson's car.

         ¶ 6 Detective Lawrence Tuider testified that he interviewed defendant and that defendant denied having sex with Boyd. Defendant told Tuider that he acted as the lookout while Boyd was taken to the car, and that he was a passenger when Henderson drove off with Boyd in the trunk. Defendant claimed to have told Henderson that they should feed Boyd and let her go home but Henderson refused. They drove to an alley where they removed Boyd from the trunk and got back in the car. Defendant was a passenger when Henderson ran Boyd over with the car five times. Henderson got out of the car and stabbed Boyd repeatedly, returned to the car, and the two then drove back to defendant's home and went to sleep.

         ¶ 7 Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) Bernard Murray testified that he interviewed defendant, who stated that Henderson struck Boyd and forced her to have sex with him, and then Woodard had sex with her. Henderson stated that they would either have to kill Boyd or that she would go to the police, but defendant did not agree. Defendant said that Henderson blindfolded Boyd and put her in the trunk of his car. Defendant claimed to have said they should feed Boyd and take her home, but Henderson refused. Defendant got in Henderson's car and the two drove to an alley. Defendant claimed to have stayed in the car while Henderson took Boyd out of the trunk, ran over her with the car four to five times, and then stabbed her repeatedly. Henderson then drove back to defendant's home.

         ¶ 8 Defendant testified that he did not have sexual intercourse with Boyd but was present in the room while the others did. He testified that at about 4 a.m., he was in the car with Henderson and Boyd. He denied that Boyd was blindfolded or in the trunk of the car. They stopped at defendant's girlfriend's house, and defendant knocked on her door but there was no answer. When he tried to return to the car, Henderson had driven away. Defendant stated that he told police and ASA Murray this sequence of events and denied making any statements inconsistent with his trial testimony.

         ¶ 9 The circuit court found defendant guilty of murder, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated criminal sexual assault. The trial judge, Judge Richard E. Neville, sentenced defendant to life in prison for murder, 45 years for aggravated criminal sexual assault, and 10 years for aggravated kidnapping, with the sentences to run concurrently. On direct appeal, defendant did not challenge his convictions but instead argued that the circuit court improperly relied on his codefendants' statements during sentencing. We affirmed defendant's convictions but remanded for resentencing before a different judge. Croft, 211 Ill.App.3d 496. On remand, circuit court Judge James N. Schrier presided over the resentencing hearing held on May 7, 1992. The circuit court heard mitigation testimony from defendant's father, grandfather, grandmother, and girlfriend with whom he had a child, as well as from Reverend Gordon McLean, a minister of 43 years who had actively counseled prisoners who might be released. The circuit court also considered defendant's high school records from Statesville, a letter from a teacher from the university that taught at Statesville, defendant's statement in allocution, and arguments from counsel in aggravation and mitigation. At the end of the hearing, Judge Schrier stated:

" 'The defendant talks about mistake in judgment. This is not a case of passive presence, negative acquiescence, mistaken judgment, none [sic] participation. It is not a situation of not using good judgment to associate with certain people, in effect then being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is a case of the defendant's participation in the series of events which properly resulted in guilty findings as to murder and aggravated kidnapping and aggravated criminal sexual assault.
The evidence in this case seems to me to be about a person who was really cold hearted, almost inhuman in his participation in this brutal, heinous, evil doing. One of the most brutal crimes I have ever seen in all the years I've spent in this building.
About 40 stab wounds, gang rape, driving over this young girl in a car, after having her in the trunk. One can almost not imagine any worst [sic] facts. Nightmarish is almost ...

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