from the Circuit Court of Woodford County No. 02CF26
Honorable John B. Huschen, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Harris and Justice Turner
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 In August 2003, a jury found defendant, David P. Stafford,
guilty of four counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS
5/9-1(a)(1), (2) (West 2002)) and one count of first degree
felony murder (residential burglary) (id.
§§ 9-1(a)(3), 19-3(a)). In October 2003, the trial
court sentenced defendant to natural life in prison
(id. § 9-1(b)(6)(a)-(c)). Defendant appealed,
arguing the trial court abused its discretion when it
sentenced him to natural life in prison. In February 2006, we
affirmed defendant's sentence. People v.
Stafford, No. 4-03-1011 (Feb. 23, 2006) (unpublished
order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23).
2 In June 2013, defendant filed a pro se
postconviction petition alleging his life sentence was
unconstitutional under the United States Supreme Court's
decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012),
because he was 17 years old when the crime was committed and
his life sentence violated the eighth amendment's ban on
cruel and unusual punishment (U.S. Const., amend. VIII). The
State filed a motion to dismiss defendant's
postconviction petition, which the trial court granted.
Defendant appealed, arguing (1) his natural life sentence was
void because it was not authorized by statute and (2) under
Miller, his discretionary life sentence was imposed
without individualized considerations of youth and all that
accompanies it. In September 2016, we affirmed the dismissal
of defendant's postconviction petition. People v.
Stafford, 2016 IL App (4th) 140309. Defendant filed a
petition for leave to appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court.
3 In November 2017, the supreme court denied defendant's
petition for leave to appeal but issued a supervisory order
(People v. Stafford, No. 121393 (Ill. Nov. 22, 2017)
(supervisory order)) directing us to vacate our prior
judgment and consider the effect of People v.
Holman, 2017 IL 120655, on the issue of whether
defendant's sentence violates the eighth amendment (U.S.
Const., amend. VIII) and determine whether a different result
4 Both defendant and the State have now filed supplemental
briefs with this court. Defendant has also supplemented the
record to include defense exhibits admitted into evidence at
his sentencing hearing, which were not part of the record at
the time of our original disposition. In accordance with the
supreme court's directive, we vacate our prior judgment
and reconsider in light of Holman. We again affirm
the dismissal of defendant's postconviction petition.
5 I. BACKGROUND
6 A. Trial
7 The evidence presented at trial showed Cherie Gillson was
murdered in the bedroom of her Eureka, Illinois, home on
March 6, 2002. The victim had at least 45 discrete stab
wounds in multiple locations, including her face, arms, legs,
and stomach. A doctor testified, based on several of the
wounds, "severe" force had been used. The
victim's nine-year-old son was asleep in the basement at
the time of the killing. The victim's son found his
mother later in the morning and called for help. On March 7,
2002, the victim's neighbors informed the police they
found a blue leather jacket, stained with blood and with dark
hair caught in the zipper, in their yard. Defendant's
father later identified the jacket as belonging to defendant.
8 On March 17, 2002, the police recorded defendant's
confessional statement. Defendant, then 17 years old, claimed
he went into the victim's home to steal videotapes.
Defendant stated he knew the victim, as she was a school bus
monitor, and she had previously let him borrow videotapes. He
thought he heard a sound coming from one of the bedrooms. He
grabbed a knife from the victim's kitchen in case he was
discovered. Defendant opened the door to the victim's
room and stabbed her in the stomach when she walked toward
the door. The victim hit defendant, which enraged him, and he
continued to stab her. Defendant lay down next to the victim
as she died. Defendant stated he held her and said,
"Good-bye bitch." After he determined the victim
was deceased, he went into the kitchen to wash his hands and
proceeded to steal videotapes from her entertainment center.
Defendant later said he did not know what he would have done
if the victim's son had walked into the room. After
defendant's confessional statement, the police conducted
a search of his bedroom. The police found two videotapes,
which matched the tapes defendant said he had taken from the
victim's home. Defendant's fingerprints also matched
the latent prints found on the victim's remaining videos.
9 The jury found defendant guilty of four counts of first
degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2002))
(counts I, II, III, and IV) and one count of first degree
felony murder (residential burglary) (id.
§§ 9-1(a)(3), 19-3(a)) (count V) for the stabbing
of Cherie Gillson.
10 B. Sentencing
11 On October 6, 2003, the trial court held a sentencing
hearing. The court received a presentence investigation
report (PSI) and its addendum. The State presented testimony
and a victim impact statement from the brother of the victim.
The State also presented a supplement to the PSI. The defense
presented testimony from the probation officer tasked with
preparing defendant's PSI and defendant's father. The
defense also presented five exhibits of documents previously
provided to the probation officer tasked with preparing the
12 In 1987, when defendant was two years old, his parents
divorced. Defendant's father was given custody, and he
later remarried. Defendant had a number of behavioral issues
while in his father's care. On one occasion, he was
caught playing with his penis on a school bus. On another
occasion, he took a knife from home onto the school bus. In
1993, when defendant was eight years old, a teacher reported
defendant had social and emotional problems: he liked to play
he was stabbing people, and he said when he grew up, he
wanted to be a murderer. That same year, defendant was
diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and
found to have a full-scale intelligence quotient (IQ) of 75.
13 In 1997, when defendant was 12 years old, a teacher noted
defendant spoke with great bravado regarding how he attacked
a peer and sent him to the hospital, cut an adult with a beer
bottle, and threatened another adult with a gun, and he
threatened a female student with a knife. That same year,
defendant's father sent defendant to live with his mother
in Iowa because he was having marital issues and living in a
car. Since her divorce with defendant's father,
defendant's mother remarried and had two additional
children. Shortly after defendant arrived in Iowa, he began
sexually assaulting his two younger brothers, ages 8 and 10.
Defendant was taken into care, and a petition for a child in
need of assistance was filed. While in care, defendant had
numerous sexual issues; for example, he was fixated on sexual
subjects, accused a roommate of sexually abusing him, and
complained to staff he masturbated to the point of soreness.
On May 9, 1997, defendant was adjudicated a child in need of
14 A May 13, 1997, psychological evaluation noted defendant
"came across in the interview as perhaps mildly mentally
limited *** because[, ] although he seemed alert, aware[, ]
and able to comprehend ***, his responses were at times a bit
inappropriate[, ] *** say[ing] exactly what was on his
mind-although at times it might have been better left
unsaid." Defendant tested at a full-scale IQ of 75,
which placed him in the lower fifth percentile compared to
other 12-year-olds. He had a fairly good fund of information
and an ability to learn by what he hears. He also had
reasonably good awareness of social situations, where he
learned by observation. Defendant, however, needed
improvement in areas reflecting abstract reasoning. His
abstract reasoning scores were "low enough to put [him]
into the profoundly limited range and this often means that
there is some brain dysfunction as a result of a drug
overdose quite probably from the time he was being carried
[in utero]." The evaluator found Defendant's IQ
"can be [a] fairly permanent limitation that will keep
him from making significant academic progress, but his
auditory learning skills should be good enough to help him
get through high school."
15 On June 10, 1997, defendant was ordered to go to a mental
health institute for an inpatient psychiatric evaluation due
to a strange discussion with his guardian ad litem
referencing Satan. Defendant was diagnosed with conduct
disorder and parent-child problems. The staff observed he had
an inflated self-esteem, bragged about sexual conquests, and
bragged about his knowledge of gangs.
16 From ages 12 to 17, defendant was placed in approximately
13 facilities and shelters in Iowa, which he claimed was due
to "anger and voices in [his] head." In July 1997,
defendant was placed in a psychiatric medical institute for
children, where he was hospitalized for two weeks due to a
major episode of aggression. In its evaluation, the institute
noted defendant was of above average intelligence and
diagnosed him with major depression, attention
deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and conduct disorder
(childhood onset type). Defendant was consistently unable to
comply with the rules, was caught in sexually inappropriate
situations, was prone to stealing, and showed no remorse for
sexually abusing his brothers. Defendant assaulted a female
staff member, which ultimately led to his unsuccessful
17 In May 1998, defendant began a court-ordered perpetrators
program. Defendant was diagnosed with attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder (childhood onset
type). In October 1999, defendant was discharged, and it was
the staff's opinion defendant would continue to commit
sexual crimes against those whom he saw as weaker than him
without close supervision.
18 In February 2000, defendant was placed in another
perpetrator program and was discharged after a month because
the staff was unable to provide protection to the community
and residents due to defendant's "violent
fantasies." He was then placed at a mental institution.
Once stabilized, he was discharged to a shelter, where there
were incidents of inappropriate touching.
19 From December 2000 to August 2001, defendant temporarily
lived with his father and attended a special education
program. In March 2001, defendant was diagnosed with having
mood swings with secondary anger and depression. In July
2001, defendant's father requested defendant be placed in
a shelter due to his inappropriate sexual and criminal
behavior. Defendant's father stated defendant was
stealing underwear from his stepmother and other people in
the community and stole videotapes from a local police
officer. Defendant also broke into a home, where he stole
money and expensive stereo equipment.
20 From August 2001 to December 2001, defendant was placed in
a shelter, where he received psychiatric treatment. The staff
noted he did very well controlling himself, no longer
appeared to be depressed, no longer had sexual fantasies, and
was meeting his anger management goals.
21 In December 2001, defendant's father stated he was not
employed and wanted defendant to return home, where he could
supervise him and arrange for his counseling. The temporary
home arrangement was successful, and his father stated
defendant was doing very well. Defendant's father noted
defendant began to act strangely in March 2002. He noted
defendant would leave the house in the middle of the night,
and one time he walked around the house with a baseball bat
for no reason. ...