from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock
Island County, Illinois, Circuit No. 96-CF-1070Honorable
Thomas C. Berglund, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices McDade and O'Brien concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Defendant, James E. Harris, appeals from the trial
court's denial of his motion to reconsider sentence.
Defendant argues the court abused its discretion when it
denied his motion because defendant presented evidence of
severe health problems that warranted a reduction in his
sentence. We affirm.
3 In December 1996, the State charged defendant with two
counts of armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2 (West 1996)). Both
counts were Class X felonies. The evidence at defendant's
jury trial established that, on December 16, 1996, at 11
p.m., defendant robbed a Clark gas station in East Moline.
Defendant held a knife to the clerk's side and told the
clerk to open the cash register. Defendant absconded with $30
from the cash register. Two and a half hours later, at 1:30
a.m. on December 17, 1996, defendant robbed a Clark gas
station in Moline. Defendant held a knife to the gas station
clerk's chest and demanded money. The clerk gave
defendant $50 from the cash register. The jury found
defendant guilty of both offenses.
4 Defendant's presentence investigation report (PSI)
stated defendant was then 44 years of age. Defendant's
health was then "all right, " but defendant was
suffering from headaches and had previously undergone surgery
on his back.
5 The PSI also established that defendant had an extensive
criminal history. Defendant's criminal history included
three prior felony convictions, seven prior misdemeanor
convictions, and multiple traffic offenses. Defendant
committed the three prior felony convictions over the course
of three days, between December 16 and 18, 1990. During this
period, defendant obtained money from three different store
clerks by splashing gasoline on the store counter and
threatening to light it on fire. On April 10, 1991, defendant
pled guilty to the three armed robbery charges, and the court
sentenced defendant to 12 years' imprisonment. Defendant
was released from prison on June 17, 1996, and placed on
parole. Less than six months from his parole date, defendant
committed the two armed robberies at issue in this case.
6 On March 17, 1997, Judge Donald O'Shea conducted a
sentencing hearing. The State argued, from defendant's
PSI, that defendant's criminal history warranted a
lengthy sentence. Defense counsel argued that defendant would
be at an advanced age when he was released from prison.
Counsel estimated that defendant would be 50 years old upon
release if the court imposed a 10-year sentence, and if the
court imposed a 20-year sentence, defendant would be 60 years
old at the time of release. The court clarified that
defendant was then 44 years old.
7 In his ruling, Judge O'Shea found, in aggravation, that
defendant had an extensive criminal history, including his
three prior armed robbery convictions. Defendant's armed
robbery convictions made "protection of the public *** a
high priority." Defendant also demonstrated a lack of
rehabilitative potential and a complete lack of remorse.
Judge O'Shea sentenced defendant to two concurrent terms
of 50 years' imprisonment. Defense counsel did not file a
motion to reconsider the sentence imposed by the trial court.
8 On November 8, 2005, defendant filed a motion for leave to
file the successive postconviction petition that gave rise to
this appeal. The motion asserted that defendant received
ineffective assistance of trial counsel due to counsel's
failure to file a timely motion to reconsider sentence. The
court denied the motion. On appeal, we remanded the cause for
compliance with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 651(c) (eff. Dec.
1, 1984). People v. Harris, No. 3-06-0103 (2007)
(unpublished order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23).
9 On remand, defense counsel filed an amended motion for
leave to file a successive postconviction petition and a
compliant Rule 651(c) certificate. The amended motion once
again asserted that trial counsel was ineffective because
counsel did not file a timely motion to reconsider the
sentence imposed by Judge O'Shea.
10 Judge Walter Braud granted defendant leave to file a
successive postconviction petition. On May 11, 2015,
following defendant's filing of the successive petition,
Judge Braud granted postconviction relief and allowed
defendant to file a motion to reconsider the sentence.
11 In his 2015 motion to reconsider the sentence imposed in
1997, defendant claimed Judge O'Shea failed to consider
defendant's "relatively advanced age" of 44
years when determining his sentence. Defendant also requested
a reduction in the length of time remaining on his 50-year
sentence on the grounds that defendant was no ...