from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will
County, Illinois. Appeal No. 3-14-0723 Circuit No. 84-CF-190
Honorable Robert P. Livas, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justice Lytton concurred in the judgment and
opinion. Justice Wright concurring in part and dissenting in
part, with opinion.
1 In July 1984, a Will County jury convicted defendant, James
Walker, of felony murder (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38,
¶ 9-1). He was 17 years old at the time of the offense.
The court sentenced him to natural life imprisonment without
the possibility of parole. Defendant raised three issues,
including his sentence, on direct appeal; this court
affirmed. People v. Walker, 136 Ill.App.3d 177
(1985). The Illinois Supreme Court denied defendant's
petition for leave to appeal. People v. Walker, 111
Ill.2d 563 (1985).
2 In June 2013, defendant filed a postconviction petition.
Defendant argued that at his sentencing hearing, the trial
court did not consider his status as a juvenile and the
attendant characteristics of his youth at the time of the
offense. Citing Miller v. Alabama in support,
defendant alleges his constitutional rights were violated.
Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012) (hereinafter
Miller). Defendant also claimed his sentence
violated the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois
Constitution. Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11. Upon the
State's motion, the trial court dismissed defendant's
3 Defendant appeals the dismissal of his postconviction
petition, arguing his sentence (1) violates the United States
Constitution, (2) violates the proportionate penalties clause
of the Illinois Constitution, and (3) as it applies to
juveniles, Illinois's natural life sentencing scheme is
unconstitutional. In addition to countering defendant's
claims, the State asserts that defendant's postconviction
petition is untimely.
5 The defendant murdered Charles Davis during an attempted
armed robbery. Defendant and his codefendant, Xavier
Williams, are African American. In March 1984, defendant and
Williams were minors-17 and 16 years old,
respectively. They decided they needed money and in
order to get some, they should rob a cabdriver. Defendant
called Davis's taxi company specifically because he
thought they were known to employ "white drivers."
Walker, 136 Ill.App.3d at 178. Davis was, in fact,
6 Davis picked up defendant and Williams in his taxi cab.
Defendant sat directly behind Davis in the cab with a loaded,
sawed-off shotgun concealed under his coat. After a brief
drive, defendant produced the shotgun and demanded that Davis
stop the cab. Williams exited the rear passenger side of the
cab, intending to take over as the driver. Before Williams
reached the driver's side door, defendant fired the
shotgun. Upon seeing the carnage that resulted from defendant
shooting Davis in the back of the head with a shotgun at
point-blank range, Williams fled; defendant followed.
7 Defendant and Williams both went to the home of a mutual
friend where they encountered friends throughout the night.
Each separately told friends that defendant killed Davis.
Defendant and Williams were arrested a few days later. Each
provided the police with a confession that mirrored the
other's account of events in most respects. The
significant difference between their confessions was their
professed intent. Williams said he concealed his face with a
cap and scarf, intending merely to rob the driver. Defendant
said he was aware he had no means to conceal his face going
into the robbery, and killed Davis so that he could not later
8 Defendant and Williams were indicted for murder and felony
murder and tried jointly. A jury found them both guilty of
felony murder. At sentencing, the trial court discussed
defendant's criminal record-containing both adult
dispositions and juvenile records of adjudication-and the
fact that defendant received counseling "for a variety
of family, social, sexual and educational problems." The
trial court sentenced defendant to a discretionary natural
life imprisonment without parole and Williams to 35
9 On direct appeal, defendant contested, inter alia,
the imposition of his life sentence. Id. at 181-82.
Most notably, defendant argued that none of the statutory
requirements for imposing a life sentence were met in his
case. This court rejected all of defendant's arguments
and affirmed his conviction. Before concluding, this court
"Walker also suggests that this crime was not
'brutal or heinous' since death was instantaneous and
did not involve torture of the victim. He would have us
ignore the fact that the murder was casually undertaken, was
horribly mutilating to the body of the victim, and was
performed cold-bloodedly without any provocation, real or
imagined, on the part of the victim. No one can say what
mental and physical suffering the victim incurred during his
last few moments of life. We hold that the trial court did
not err in sentencing Walker to life imprisonment."
Id. at 182.
10 Defendant filed a petition for relief under the
Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et
seq. (West 2012)) in June 2013. He argued his life
sentence was unconstitutional under Miller and
violated the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois
Constitution. Miller, 567 U.S. 460. In August of
that year, the trial court advanced defendant's petition
to the second stage of postconviction proceedings. The State
filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted. The
trial court found that the original trial court had
considered defendant's youth and other relevant factors
before sentencing. In so doing, the trial court noted the
explicit discussion on the record of defendant's age and
life circumstances during defendant's sentencing hearing.
The trial court also declined to extend Miller to
defendant's case, reasoning that Miller applies
to mandatory life sentences, not discretionary ones.
11 Defendant appeals the dismissal of his postconviction
petition, arguing his sentence violates both the eighth
amendment to the United States Constitution, contrary to the
Supreme Court's ruling in Miller, and the
proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution.
Additionally, defendant argues that, as it applies to
juveniles, Illinois' natural life sentencing scheme is
per se unconstitutional. The State rebuts
defendant's arguments and further asserts that
defendant's postconviction petition is untimely. We
affirmed in an opinion filed on April 25, 2016. The supreme
court issued a supervisory order on November 22, 2017,
directing us to consider the effect of People v.
Holman, 2017 IL 120655, on defendant's
13 We review the trial court's dismissal of a
postconviction petition in the second stage de
novo. People v. Pendleton, 223 Ill.2d 458,
473 (2006). "[I]ssues that were raised and decided on
direct appeal are barred from consideration by the doctrine
of res judicata; issues that could have been raised,
but were not, are considered forfeited." People v.
Davis, 2014 IL 115595, ¶ 13 (citing People v.
Ortiz, 235 Ill.2d 319, 328 (2009)).
14 The Post-Conviction Hearing Act provides three stages to
adjudicate postconviction petitions. In the first stage, only
petitions that are "frivolous or *** patently without
merit" may be dismissed. 725 ILCS 5/122-2.1(a)(2) (West
2012). The State may file a motion to dismiss a
postconviction petition at the second stage. Id.
§ 122-5. In order to survive dismissal, the defendant