from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 09-CF-2414,
Honorable John R. Truitt, Judge, Presiding.
SCHOSTOK JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Zenoff and Jorgensen concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Defendant, Katie Lin Stockton, appeals from an order of the
circuit court of Winnebago County summarily dismissing her
petition under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725
ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 2016)) seeking relief
from her conviction of first-degree murder (720 ILCS
5/9-1(a)(2) (West 2004)). We affirm.
2 The victim of defendant's crime was her newborn
daughter. Defendant entered a nonnegotiated guilty plea and
was sentenced to a 50-year prison term. The body of
defendant's daughter was discovered in December 2004 on
property owned by defendant's mother and stepfather. The
child, who had been born alive, was wrapped in clothing and
had been placed in a plastic bag. Either hypothermia or
suffocation from the clothing or plastic had caused the
child's death. Evidence at defendant's sentencing
hearing established that she was questioned by police and
that she denied that the child was hers. It was not until
2009 that police obtained a DNA sample from defendant showing
that she was the child's mother. DNA testing showed that
John Craig was the father. In the course of the
investigation, police discovered the decomposed remains of
two infants in bags in the trunk of defendant's car.
Genetic testing established that defendant was the mother of
the two infants and that Craig was the father of one of them.
Both were full term at birth, but it could not be determined
whether they were born alive. Several witnesses testified
that the bags in which the infants were found contained
liquid from decomposition, as well as maggots and insects.
3 Winnebago County Coroner Elizabeth Fiduccia testified that
she and the sheriff of Winnebago County gave the child found
in 2004 the name Crystal. She explained that the child was
found near Christmas on a crystal-clear night. They took the
child's handprints and footprints so that, when the
child's family was identified, they would have
"something to hold onto because they knew this child was
real and it would make it more real if they saw it."
Craig testified that defendant told him that she was carrying
his child. She later told him that she had a miscarriage.
When Craig learned that the child had been born alive, he
named her Mariah Renee.
4 The State presented numerous photographs of (1) the child
at the site where her body was discovered in 2004, (2) the
child's autopsy, (3) the child in an open casket with
stuffed animals, (4) the child's headstone, and (5) the
decomposed remains of the infants later found in the trunk of
defendant's car. The State introduced evidence that there
were places such as hospitals, police stations, and fire
stations where defendant could have left a newborn without
fear of punishment.
5 According to the presentence investigation report,
defendant had been convicted of forgery in 2008 and was
sentenced to probation. In addition, the State presented
evidence that defendant had been dismissed from a job due to
suspicion that she was stealing money from her employer.
6 Defendant's mother, Lisa Landsee, testified for
defendant. According to Landsee, defendant had a son when she
was in her early twenties. In 2004 or 2005, Landsee suspected
that defendant was abusing drugs and alcohol. In 2008,
defendant was incarcerated. After her release, defendant
lived with Landsee. Defendant helped around the house, took
care of her son, and had three jobs. In her statement in
allocution, defendant apologized for what she had done and
asked for forgiveness.
7 In imposing sentence, the trial court noted that there was
no evidence that the children whose remains were found in the
trunk of defendant's car had been born alive.
Accordingly, the court stated that it would not consider the
remains as evidence of an uncharged crime. However, the court
indicated that concealing the remains in her car was arguably
the act of a "deranged individual." As noted, the
court sentenced defendant to a 50-year prison term.
8 Defendant moved to reconsider her sentence. The trial court
denied the motion, and defendant appealed. Because trial
counsel failed to properly comply with Illinois Supreme Court
Rule 604(d) (eff. Feb. 6, 2013), we remanded for proceedings
in compliance with that rule. On remand, the trial court
again denied defendant's motion to reconsider her
sentence. On appeal, defendant's attorney moved to
withdraw as counsel pursuant to Anders v.
California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), and People v.
Jones, 38 Ill.2d 384 (1967). We granted the motion and
affirmed the trial court's judgment, noting that
"there is no indication that, in any respect, the trial
court erred in what it did or did not consider" at
sentencing. People v. Stockton, No. 2-14-1259 (2015)
(unpublished summary order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule
23(c)). Defendant subsequently filed the pro se
postconviction petition giving rise to this appeal.
9 We begin our analysis with a brief summary of the general
principles governing proceedings under the Act. In People
v. Meeks, 2016 IL App (2d) 140509, ¶ 3, we observed
"Under the Act, a person imprisoned for a crime may
mount a collateral attack on his conviction and sentence
based on violations of his constitutional rights. [Citation.]
Within 90 days after a petition for relief under the Act is
filed and docketed, the trial court must examine the petition
and either summarily dismiss it or docket it for further
proceedings. [Citation.] If the trial court finds that the
petition is 'frivolous or is patently without merit,'
the petition will be summarily dismissed. [Citation.] Summary
dismissal is proper if the petition 'is based on an
indisputably meritless legal theory or a fanciful factual
claim of substantial denial of constitutional rights not
raised in the original or an amended petition is forfeited.
725 ILCS 5/122-3 (West 2016). We review a summary dismissal