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People v. McClinton

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

May 10, 2018

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Respondent-Appellee,
v.
AISHA N. McCLINTON, Petitioner-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois. Appeal No. 3-16-0648 Circuit No. 10-CF-521 The Honorable Sarah-Marie Francis-Jones, Judge, presiding.

          JUSTICE McDADE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Carter and Justice Schmidt concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          MCDADE JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Petitioner Aisha N. McClinton was convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW) (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) (West 2010)). This court reversed McClinton's AUUW conviction because the statute under which she was prosecuted was declared unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court. See People v. McClinton, No. 3-11-0455 (Dec. 18, 2013) (unpublished summary order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23(c)). McClinton filed a petition for a certificate of innocence, which was denied by the trial court. McClinton appealed, arguing (1) the trial court abused its discretion when it denied the petition for a certificate of innocence, (2) she is entitled to a new judge on remand, and (3) her claim for statutory damages must be resolved in the trial court on remand. We vacate the trial court's judgment and remand this case for issuance of a certificate of innocence.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 McClinton was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, bringing a firearm into a penal institution, and bringing cannabis into a penal institution. At the bench trial, the parties stipulated to the following sequence of events. On March 14, 2010, Illinois Department of Corrections Lieutenant Robert Banks and Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Holly Vadbunker were assigned to perform field searches in the front drive of Stateville Correctional Center. Correctional Officer S. Jacobs told Banks that a driver, later identified as McClinton, refused to have her car searched. Banks obtained a stop order through the Illinois Department of Corrections and searched the vehicle while McClinton stood next to the vehicle. During the search, Banks found what appeared to be cannabis under the driver's seat.

         ¶ 4 Afterward, McClinton returned to the vehicle and sat in the driver's seat, and Banks ordered her to put her hands on the steering wheel. McClinton refused to comply, and Banks called Vadbunker and Jacobs for assistance in removing her from the vehicle. When Vadbunker approached the vehicle, she saw McClinton with both hands behind her back. Vadbunker told McClinton to put her hands where Vadbunker could see them, and she complied with Vadbunker's request. Vadbunker asked McClinton what she was hiding, and McClinton stated " 'a gun' " and that the gun was in her waistband. McClinton was removed from the vehicle, and a 9-millimeter firearm was retrieved from the driver's seat.

         ¶ 5 McClinton was found guilty of AUUW, and the parties agreed to a sentence of 24 months' probation. However, the court rejected the offer and sentenced McClinton to 24 months' probation and 120 days in jail. McClinton objected to the sentence, and the court agreed to stay the mittimus for two weeks. Thereafter, McClinton filed a motion to reconsider sentence, arguing that she did not have an opportunity to present evidence in mitigation, and the court granted the motion. After the court reviewed the mitigation evidence, it sentenced McClinton to 36 months' probation and 156 days in jail. McClinton received 78 days' credit for time served.

         ¶ 6 In December 2013, this court reversed McClinton's AUUW conviction on the grounds that her conviction was facially unconstitutional pursuant to People v. Aguilar, 2013 IL 112116. People v. McClinton, No. 3-11-0455 (Dec. 18, 2013) (unpublished summary order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23(c)). The State nol-prossed the remaining charges.

         ¶ 7 In February 2016, McClinton filed for a certificate of innocence. The State filed an objection to the certificate, arguing that McClinton failed to demonstrate factual innocence as required under section 2-702 of the Code of Civil Procedure. 735 ILCS 5/2-702 (West 2016). In a written order, the trial court denied McClinton's petition, stating:

"The Court, having reviewed petitioner's petition for a certificate of innocence, the People's replies to that pleading, applicable case law and the controlling statutes, hereby denies the petition for a certificate of innocence.
To be perfectly blunt, this defendant was, and is not, innocent of this offense on its facts, which all other procedural rulings (i.e. the statue [sic] being declared unconstitutional on appeal, and the People ultimately moving to nolle prosequi) aside, remains uncontroverted.
Petitioner and her trial counsel agreed to the truthfulness of the testimony of the witnesses from Stateville Correctional Center, namely that they would testify consistently with the information contained in their police reports. And it is factually accurate that Aisha McClinton had a gun on her person while present on the grounds of Stateville Correctional. Petitioner now wishes this Court to disregard the facts of the case, which she agreed to, and instead grant this petition on the appellate court's declaration of unconstitutionality of the statute alone.
Actual innocence means exactly that-that this petitioner, or any other petitioner for that matter, did not commit the offense and would be thus entitled to the certificate. Petitioner's argument that this certificate should issue because 'the Acts did not constitute a felony or misdemeanor against the State' after the Aguilar decision, is not correct. That is a basis for presentation of the certificate; it remains the law of this state that actual factual ...

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