from the Circuit Court of Stephenson County. No. 93-CF-135,
Honorable John F. Joyce, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Justices McLaren and Hudson concurred in the judgment and
1 Defendant, Michael D. Hoover, appeals a judgment denying
him leave to file a successive petition under the
Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et
seq. (West 2016)). The proposed petition claimed that
defendant's life sentence for a murder that he committed
when he was 22 years old violated the eighth amendment to the
United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend. VIII) and the
Illinois Constitution's proportionate-penalties clause
(Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11). Defendant contends
that he satisfied the cause-and-prejudice threshold of
section 122-1(f) of the Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1(f) (West 2016))
for filing a successive petition. We affirm.
2 Defendant was charged with first-degree murder (Ill. Rev.
Stat. 1991, ch. 38, ¶ 9-1(a)) and armed robbery
(id. ¶ 18-2(a)), based on the events of
November 12, 1992, when he, William Keene, and Anthony Ehlers
entered a gun shop, killed the owner, and robbed the store.
Defendant was charged as an accomplice to the murder and as a
principal in the armed robbery. He initially entered a
negotiated guilty plea, a condition of which was that he
testify for the State at the trials of Keene and Ehlers.
Defendant testified at Keene's trial but refused to
testify against Ehlers. On December 22, 1993, the trial court
allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea and proceed to trial.
3 The jury trial was held over three days in July 1994. The
evidence established the following. On the morning of
November 12, 1992, Robert Peters Sr. was found dead inside
Bob's Gun Shop, in Freeport. He was lying faceup behind
the counter, with a knife protruding from his neck and two
gunshot wounds, to his head and his chest. According to Dr.
Larry Blum, who performed the autopsy, the knife cut across
Peters' esophagus and severed his jugular vein.
4 In a confession, defendant said the following. The three
men had formed a plan to rob the shop and shoot Peters. Two
weeks before they acted, defendant surveilled the store and
contacted Ehlers. A week after that, the three men settled on
their plan. On November 11, 1992, they checked into a hotel
near the shop. On the morning of November 12, defendant drove
them to the shop and they entered. Defendant asked Peters to
show him a knife. Peters did so. Ehlers then shot Peters in
the chest and the head. Keene and Ehlers took some guns and
knives. Defendant took Peters' wallet from his pocket,
then went to the safe. He heard one of the other men say that
Peters was still alive. He then saw Keene take a knife from a
cabinet and repeatedly stab Peters. Defendant took some cash
and other property from the safe, and the other men took some
more guns and knives. They fled.
5 In his confession, defendant stated that the three men had
intended to rob and shoot Peters. Asked whether he had known
that Peters would be killed, defendant replied that "it
was kind of like if that's what happened it
6 The jury found defendant guilty. At sentencing, the court
heard the following evidence. A woman testified that in 1984
or 1985, when she was 14 years old, defendant threatened her
with a knife. Another woman testified that in 1987 she had
moved because defendant had been harassing her for several
months. Defendant went to her new home and threatened to kill
the owner if he did not let defendant see her. After she
notified the police and a complaint was filed, she and her
mother relocated to another city.
7 James Harnish testified that he and defendant committed
numerous burglaries and vehicle thefts between 1982 or 1983
and 1989. They were convicted of three residential burglaries
and an armed burglary. All of these crimes had been
8 Laura Jones, at whose home defendant resided for about
eight months before the Peters murder and four months
afterward, testified that he had sold marijuana and cocaine
from the house. He abused her physically and psychologically
numerous times. In November 1992, he put a gun to her head
and forced her to kneel because she had not flushed the
toilet. Another time, he pinned her against a wall and choked
her; when he let her go and she dropped to the floor, he
kicked her several times. In January 1993, he held a gun to
her head and said that he would kill her. For three weeks in
August 1994, while incarcerated, he made numerous collect
calls daily to her at her workplace, threatening to kill her.
9 A police officer testified that he searched defendant's
storage locker in April 1993 and found a shotgun that had
been sawed off to three inches less than the legal minimum.
10 In mitigation, defendant noted that he had not been
involved in inflicting any of Peters' wounds, that he had
testified against Keene, and that he had confessed.
11 The court sentenced defendant to an extended term of life
imprisonment for first-degree murder, based on the finding
that the offense had been accompanied by exceptionally brutal
or heinous conduct indicative of wanton cruelty (see
id. ¶ 1005-8-1(a)(1)(b)). The court also
sentenced defendant to an extended term of 50 years'
imprisonment for armed robbery.
12 The court explained the sentences as follows. First, no
statutory factors in mitigation applied. In particular,
defendant had not led a law-abiding life for a substantial
period before the offenses. In October 1987, he was convicted
of battery, criminal trespass to land, and disorderly
conduct. In November 1987, he was convicted of retail theft.
In May 1988, he was convicted of two weapons offenses and two
counts of possessing cannabis. In July 1988, he was convicted
in Wisconsin of two burglaries and one armed burglary. In
October 1991, he was convicted of escaping from prison. Thus,
the court reasoned, defendant's character and attitude