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People v. Peacock

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division

August 1, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
TAKI PEACOCK, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 95 CR 26400 (01) Honorable Frank Zelezinski, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: James E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, and Manuela Hernandez, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg and Miles J. Keleher, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE McBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Reyes and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          McBRIDE PRESIDING JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Taki Peacock, is currently serving concurrent respective sentences of 80 years, 30 years, 30 years, and 30 years of imprisonment for his convictions for the 1995 first degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated vehicular hijacking, and armed robbery of the victim, Rufus Taylor. The evidence at defendant's bench trial, which is more fully set out in the opinion arising out of defendant's direct appeal (see People v. Peacock, 324 Ill.App.3d 749 (2001)), showed that defendant and a co-offender, Lawrence Wallace, planned to take the victim's car and defendant obtained a gun from his sister-in-law. The next day, Wallace put a gun to the victim's head and held him at gunpoint in the backseat of the victim's vehicle, while defendant drove to a secluded location. Thereafter, Wallace shot the victim twice, and defendant fired at the victim once but missed. Wallace and defendant left in the victim's car and were apprehended in that vehicle in Indiana. The victim later died from his injuries. Defendant was 17 years old at the time of the offense.

         ¶ 2 This appeal concerns defendant's September 12, 2016, successive postconviction petition, in which he argued that his 80-year sentence was an unconstitutional de facto life sentence pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012). The circuit court denied defendant leave to file his successive postconviction petition on October 12, 2016, finding that the petition was untimely and that defendant had failed to file a motion for leave to file the petition.

         ¶ 3 In this court, defendant contends that he should have been permitted to file his successive postconviction petition because the 80-year sentence imposed on his conviction for a crime committed while he was a juvenile constitutes a de facto life sentence and violates the eighth amendment of the United States Constitution and the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution. Defendant acknowledges that he may qualify for day-for-day credit, and accordingly, he will be required to serve at least 50%, or 40 years, of his 80-year sentence. Defendant contends that his sentence is a de facto life sentence, triggering the protections of Miller and requiring a sentencing court to consider defendant's youth and attendant characteristics in fashioning a sentence. Defendant further contends that the circuit court did not consider such factors, and accordingly, this court should remand his case for a new sentencing hearing.

         ¶ 4 The State responds that the circuit court properly denied defendant leave to file his successive postconviction petition because his 80-year sentence, for which he will "likely serve 40 years," does not constitute a de facto life sentence. The State points out that a review of defendant's Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) inmate status record reveals a projected discharge date of August 31, 2035, exactly 40 years after he went into IDOC custody, on August 31, 1995.[1]

         ¶ 5 We note that this court previously stayed this case, without objection from either party, because the singular issue in this case would be controlled by the supreme court's forthcoming decision in People v. Buffer, 2019 IL 122327. The supreme court has since issued its decision in Buffer, and accordingly, this court lifted the stay for ruling on this case.

         ¶ 6 In Buffer, the supreme court reviewed the circuit court's denial of the defendant's postconviction petition, in which the defendant argued that his 50-year prison sentence, imposed for a crime he committed when he was 16 years old, violated the eighth amendment because it was a de facto life sentence.

         ¶ 7 After reviewing the history of Miller and its progeny, the court in Buffer noted that to prevail on such a claim, "a defendant sentenced for an offense committed while a juvenile must show that (1) the defendant was subject to a life sentence, mandatory or discretionary, natural or de facto, and (2) the sentencing court failed to consider youth and its attendant characteristics in imposing the sentence." Id. ¶ 27 (citing People v. Holman, 2017 IL 120655, ¶ 40, and People v. Reyes, 2016 IL 119271, ¶ 9).

         ¶ 8 The supreme court then considered where the line should be drawn at which a sentence constitutes a de facto life sentence. In its analysis, the supreme court looked to section 5-4.5- 105(c) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Code), which provides that where a juvenile defendant is convicted of the first degree murder of a victim belonging to certain categories of persons, including police officers and IDOC employees," 'the court shall impose a ...


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