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
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.
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.
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 ...