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People v. Parker

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

July 2, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LEONARD B. PARKER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Washington County. No. 00-CF-67 Honorable Daniel J. Emge, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant James E. Chadd, State Appellate Defender, Ellen J. Curry, Deputy Defender, Elizabeth M. Crotty, Assistant Appellate Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender.

          Attorneys for Appellee Hon. Daniel M. Bronke, State's Attorney, Washington County Courthouse, Nashville, IL 62263; Patrick Delfino, Director, David J. Robinson, Deputy Director, Luke McNeill, Staff Attorney.

          JUSTICE WELCH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Overstreet and Justice Chapman concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          WELCH, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The defendant, Leonard Parker, appeals the denial by the circuit court of Washington County of his motion for leave to file a successive petition for postconviction relief. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand.

         ¶ 2 On September 12, 2000, the State charged the defendant by amended information with four counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(3) (West 2000)) stemming from the stabbing of the victim, by a codefendant, during the course of a robbery and/or residential burglary. The defendant was charged under a theory of accountability. He was 16 years old at the time of his arrest.

         ¶ 3 On October 26, 2000, the defendant entered a negotiated plea of guilty to count II of the amended information, which charged him with first degree murder during the course of a robbery. In exchange for his guilty plea, the State agreed to ask for a sentence of imprisonment not to exceed 50 years and to dismiss the remaining three counts of first degree murder. [1] At the guilty plea hearing, the trial court admonished the defendant that the possible sentencing range was 20 to 60 years' imprisonment or, under certain circumstances, life imprisonment. The court accepted the defendant's guilty plea and found that it was knowingly and voluntarily made.

         ¶ 4 On December 14, 2000, the trial court held a sentencing hearing. During the hearing, the court advised the defendant that, absent the plea deal, he could have been sentenced to life imprisonment or 20 to 60 years' imprisonment. In announcing the sentence, the court, noting that the legislature had increased the penalties for first degree murder, explained that the increase in penalties was a fairly clear indication that, by allowing individuals of the defendant's age to be charged with first degree murder, everyone should be held responsible and accountable. The court further explained that the penalties should be increased with a view toward deterring the commission of the offense. Regarding the aggravating factors, the court considered the defendant's previous criminal history and the deterrent effect of a lengthy sentence. As for the factors in mitigation, the court considered the defendant's age, the fact that his conduct was induced or facilitated by his sister, who was older, that his conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur, and the fact that he had a child. The court also considered the fact that he was using marijuana on the day of the incident. The court then sentenced him to 35 years' imprisonment and ordered him to pay a $10, 000 fine and court costs.

         ¶ 5 Thereafter, on January 10, 2001, the defendant filed a motion for leave to withdraw his guilty plea, contending that he entered his guilty plea without sufficient understanding and contemplation of the serious nature of the consequences of entering a plea, that he felt pressured to enter his guilty plea by the advice that he received from his parents, and that his counsel briefly discussed the plea offer with him in the hallway of the courthouse while he was shackled and under guard, thus allowing him no privacy or sufficient time to discuss the offer. Counsel also filed a certificate of compliance with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (eff. Nov. 1, 2000). In addition, the defendant filed a motion to reconsider his sentence, arguing that his sentence was excessive. At the February 23, 2001, hearing on the motions, the defendant withdrew his motion to withdraw his guilty plea after being admonished by the trial court that withdrawing his guilty plea would result in him being tried on all four counts of first degree murder and that, if found guilty, he could receive anywhere from 20 to 80 years' imprisonment or life imprisonment.

         ¶ 6 Counsel then proceeded on the motion to reconsider the defendant's sentence. After hearing the defendant's testimony and the arguments of counsel, the trial court denied the motion to reconsider sentence. The defendant appealed his sentence, and this court dismissed the appeal because the defendant had abandoned his motion to withdraw his guilty plea and, thus, had failed to comply with the requirements of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (eff. Nov. 1, 2000), which instructs that a defendant who entered into a negotiated guilty plea could not challenge his sentence without filing a motion to withdraw the guilty plea. People v. Parker, No. 5-01-0129 (2001) (unpublished order under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23).

         ¶ 7 Almost nine years later, on October 28, 2010, the defendant filed a pro se petition for postconviction relief, raising four claims of error in the proceedings leading to his conviction. The petition addressed the delay in filing, seeking to justify it as not based on his own culpable negligence. In his pro se petition, the defendant contended that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on newly discovered evidence that the police had ignored his parents' request to not question him until his father could be present, that his counsel did not inquire as to whether he was questioned outside of his parents' presence, that he was coerced into entering a guilty plea by his counsel and parents where his plea was based on a misrepresentation of the possible sentencing range (counsel had allegedly told him that he could receive a 20-year sentence for each count of first degree murder and that the maximum was a death sentence), and that he was coerced by his counsel to withdraw his motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

         ¶ 8 On December 13, 2010, the trial court found that some of the defendant's claims were not frivolous and patently without merit and advanced the petition to the second stage of postconviction proceedings. See 725 ILCS 5/122-2.1(b) (West 2010). On March 31, 2011, the State filed a motion to dismiss the petition for postconviction relief for the reason that it was filed beyond the time allowed by section 122-1(c) of the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act), which sets time limits by which the petitions must be filed "unless the petitioner alleges facts showing that the delay was not due to his or her culpable negligence." Id. § 122-1(c). On July 14, 2011, the trial court dismissed the defendant's postconviction petition, as it was untimely. The defendant appealed the dismissal of his postconviction petition, and this court affirmed that dismissal. People v. Parker, 2013 IL App (5th) 110298-U.

         ¶ 9 On April 6, 2015, the defendant filed a pro se motion for leave to file a successive petition for postconviction relief. In the attached petition, he asserted, among other things, that his 35-year sentence, without consideration of his youth and its attendant characteristics, amounted to a de facto life sentence in violation of the eighth amendment of the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend. VIII) as set forth in the United States Supreme Court's decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012). On April 24, 2015, the trial court entered an order, denying the defendant leave to file a successive postconviction petition. With regard to the Miller claim, the court noted that Miller stood for the proposition that a mandatory life sentence for a juvenile, where a trial court had no discretion to consider mitigating factors, violated the eighth amendment. The court found that Miller was inapplicable because the defendant did not receive a mandatory life sentence. The court further concluded that the defendant's claim that his 35-year sentence amounted to a de facto life sentence was frivolous because Illinois courts had upheld life sentences for juveniles as constitutional where the trial court had ...


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