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People v. Hoover

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

June 12, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL D. HOOVER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Stephenson County. No. 93-CF-135, Honorable John F. Joyce, Judge, Presiding.

          ZENOFF JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McLaren and Hudson concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          ZENOFF JUSTICE.

         ¶ 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 happened."

         ¶ 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 defendant's idea.

         ¶ 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 ...


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