People v. Harris, 2018 IL 121932 (October). Episode 551 (Duration 14:08)
Illinois Supreme Court reveals the path 18-21 year olds should follow in order to have their their youthfulness considered as a factor at sentencing.
See Episode 281 – People v. Harris
People v. Harris, 2016 IL App (1st) 141744 (December) (Duration 12:32)
Defendant was charged with several offenses following a shooting at a Chicago gas station. One man was killed, another shot and injured and the third was fired at but the gun jammed.
Defendant shot and killed one person at a gas station.
He shot another person but that person survived. Then he pointed his gun at a third person and pulled the trigger. But he had run out of bullets. Defendant was 18 years old and this appeared to be some kind of dispute between defendant and the victims.
The aggregate sentence was 76 years: 45 years of imprisonment on the murder conviction (20 years for the offense plus 25 years for the mandatory firearm enhancement), 26 years for one attempt murder (6 years plus 20 years for the mandatory firearm enhancement); and 31 years for the other attempt murder (6 years plus 25 years enhancement).
The attempted murder counts were to run concurrently with each other, but consecutively to the murder sentence. See more Illinois sentencing cases.
Defendant alleges that this lengthy term is actually a “mandatory de facto life sentence,” and the interaction of these statutes prevented the trial court from exercising any discretion or taking into account his youth or rehabilitative potential. This statutory scheme, according to defendant, violates both the federal and state constitutions as applied to him. He challenges these statutes under both the eighth amendment of the federal constitution and the “proportionate penalties” clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11).
On appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, the State contends that the appellate court erred in holding defendant’s aggregate 76-year sentence unconstitutional under the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution.
Appellate Court Moral Sense Shocked
The appellate court rejected defendant’s claim that his aggregate sentence violated the eighth amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. 2016 IL App (1st) 141744, ¶¶ 55-56.
On the Illinois constitutional claim, however, the appellate court held defendant’s aggregate sentence was contrary to the “rehabilitation clause” of article I, section 11, providing that penalties must be determined with “the objective of restoring the offender to useful citizenship.” 2016 IL App (1st) 141744, ¶ 64 (quoting Ill. Const. 1970, art. 1, § 11).
The appellate court stated that “[w]hile we do not minimize the seriousness of [defendant’s] crimes, we believe that it shocks the moral sense of the community to send this young adult to prison for the remainder of his life, with no chance to rehabilitate himself into a useful member of society.” 2016 IL App (1st) 141744, ¶ 69.
Amicus Briefs Filed
We also allowed the Children and Family Justice Center, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Civitas ChildLaw Clinic, Criminal and Juvenile Justice Project Clinic, Juvenile Justice Initiative of Illinois, Juvenile Law Center, Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender, and the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy to file a joint amicus curiae brief. Ill. S. Ct. R. 345 (eff. Sept. 20, 2010).
Defendant argues that emerging scientific research on the neurological development of young adults supports extending Miller to adults under the age of 21. Defendant acknowledges that “this brain research is new.” The State contends the scientific research is inconclusive, citing various articles. The State asserts that “the neuroscientific and legal communities continue to debate the limitations of neuroimaging and its implications for criminal justice and other areas of the law.”
Summary Of The Arguments
On the merits, the State maintains that defendant’s mandatory minimum aggregate prison term does not violate the proportionate penalties clause because defendant has not demonstrated that, as applied to his circumstances, the sentence is so wholly disproportionate to his offenses that it shocks the moral sense of the community. Defendant responds that as applied to him, the statutory sentencing scheme, resulting in a mandatory de facto life sentence, “violates the rehabilitation clause of [article I, section 11,] of the Illinois Constitution.” Defendant contends that it shocks the moral sense of the community to impose a mandatory de facto life sentence given the facts of this case, including his youth and the other mitigating factors present.
Defendant contends that, as applied to his specific circumstances, the sentencing statutes resulting in a mandatory aggregate sentence of 76 years’ imprisonment violate the Illinois Constitution. In particular, defendant relies on the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 578-79 (2005) (the eighth and fourteenth amendments prohibit capital sentences for juveniles who commit murder), Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 82 (2010) (the eighth amendment prohibits mandatory life sentences for juveniles who commit nonhomicide offenses), and Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 489 (2012) (the eighth amendment prohibits mandatory life sentences for juveniles who commit murder), and claims the reasoning from those cases should be extended to his specific circumstances as an 18-year-old young adult.
Defendant’s claim is an as-applied challenge.
The distinction between facial and as-applied constitutional challenges is critical. People ex rel. Hartrich v. 2010 Harley-Davidson, 2018 IL 121636, ¶ 11. A party raising a facial challenge must establish that the statute is unconstitutional under any possible set of facts, while an as-applied challenge requires a showing that the statute is unconstitutional as it applies to the specific facts and circumstances of the challenging party. Hartrich, 2018 IL 121636, ¶ 12; People v. Rizzo, 2016 IL 118599, ¶ 24; Thompson, 2015 IL 118151, ¶ 36.
All as-applied constitutional challenges are, by definition, dependent on the specific facts and circumstances of the person raising the challenge. “ ‘Therefore, it is paramount that the record be sufficiently developed in terms of those facts and circumstances for purposes of appellate review.’ ” Hartrich, 2018 IL 121636, ¶ 31 (quoting Thompson, 2015 IL 118151, ¶ 37).
We have reiterated that: “A court is not capable of making an ‘as applied’ determination of unconstitutionality when there has been no evidentiary hearing and no findings of fact. Without an evidentiary record, any finding that a statute is unconstitutional ‘as applied’ is premature.” Rizzo, 2016 IL 118599, ¶ 26 (quoting People v. Mosley, 2015 IL 115872, ¶ 47, quoting In re Parentage of John M., 212 Ill. 2d 253, 268 (2004)).
No As-Applied Challenge Here
Here, defendant did not raise his as-applied constitutional challenge in the trial court.
Thus, an evidentiary hearing was not held on his constitutional claim, and the trial court did not make any findings of fact on defendant’s specific circumstances. The appellate court held defendant’s sentence violated the Illinois Constitution without a developed evidentiary record on the as-applied constitutional challenge.
The critical point is not whether the claim is raised on collateral review or direct review, but whether the record has been developed sufficiently to address the defendant’s constitutional claim.
As we have emphasized, a reviewing court is not capable of making an as-applied finding of unconstitutionality in the “factual vacuum” created by the absence of an evidentiary hearing and findings of fact by the trial court.
The Basic Research Is Not Enough
As we stated in Holman, “The defendant’s claim in Thompson illustrated that point. The defendant there maintained that the evolving science on juvenile maturity and brain development highlighted in Miller applied not only to juveniles but also to young adults like himself between the ages of 18 and 21. We rejected that claim because the record contained ‘nothing about how that science applies to the circumstances of defendant’s case, the key showing for an as-applied constitutional challenge.’ We stated the trial court was the most appropriate tribunal for such factual development.” Holman, 2017 IL 120655, ¶ 30.
Defendant contends that the record includes sufficient information about his personal history and the state of the research to determine whether the evolving science on juvenile maturity and brain development applies to him.
The record, however, includes only basic information about defendant, primarily from the presentence investigation report. An evidentiary hearing was not held, and the trial court did not make any findings on the critical facts needed to determine whether Miller applies to defendant as an adult. As in Thompson, the record here does not contain evidence about how the evolving science on juvenile maturity and brain development that helped form the basis for the Miller decision applies to defendant’s specific facts and circumstances.
Accordingly, defendant’s as-applied challenge is premature.
Defendant Wanted The Whole Enchilada
Defendant sought a categorical ruling extending Miller to all young adults under age 21.
Exactly How Are Juveniles Different?
In Roper and Graham, the Supreme Court established that “children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing” in several important ways. Miller, 567 U.S. at 471. First, children are less mature and have an underdeveloped sense of responsibility, leading to recklessness, impulsive behavior, and heedless risk-taking. Miller, 567 U.S. at 471 (citing Roper, 543 U.S. at 569).
Second, children are more vulnerable to negative influences and pressures, including from their family and peers. Miller, 567 U.S. at 471 (citing Roper, 543 U.S. at 569).
Third, a child’s character is less fixed, making his or her actions less likely to be indicative of irretrievable depravity. Miller, 567 U.S. at 471 (citing Roper, 543 U.S. at 570). Those differences between adults and juveniles diminish a juvenile’s moral culpability and result in increased prospects for reform. Miller, 567 U.S. at 471-73. The Miller Court, therefore, held that a sentencing scheme mandating life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders violates the eighth amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Miller, 567 U.S. at 479.
Youth Matters In Sentencing But A Line Has To Be Drawn
In Roper, Graham, and Miller, the Supreme Court “unmistakably instructed that youth matters in sentencing.” Holman, 2017 IL 120655, ¶ 33. The Miller Court “identified a foundational principle that ‘imposition of a State’s most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children.’ ” Holman, 2017 IL 120655, ¶ 35 (quoting Miller, 567 U.S. at 474).
But The Supreme Court has never extended its reasoning to young adults age 18 or over.
“Drawing the line at 18 years of age is subject, of course, to the objections always raised against categorical rules. The qualities that distinguish juveniles from adults do not disappear when an individual turns 18. By the same token, some under 18 have already attained a level of maturity some adults will never reach. For the reasons we have discussed, however, a line must be drawn. *** The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest.” Roper, 543 U.S. at 574.
The Supreme Court has clearly and consistently drawn the line between juveniles and adults for the purpose of sentencing at the age of 18.
True, the line drawn by the Supreme Court at age 18 was not based primarily on scientific research. The Supreme Court acknowledged its line at age 18 was an imprecise “categorical rule[ ]” but emphasized that “a line must be drawn.” Roper, 543 U.S. at 574. The Court drew the line at age 18 because that “is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood.” Roper, 543 U.S. at 574.
New research findings do not necessarily alter that traditional line between adults and juveniles.
We agree with those decisions and our appellate court that, for sentencing purposes, the age of 18 marks the present line between juveniles and adults. As an 18-year-old, defendant falls on the adult side of that line. Defendant in this case was 18 years old at the time of his offenses. Because defendant was an adult, Miller does not apply directly to his circumstances.
We believe defendant’s claim is also more appropriately raised in another proceeding like a postconviction petition. Accordingly, we decline to remand this matter for an evidentiary hearing.
Accordingly, defendant’s facial challenge to his aggregate sentence under the eighth amendment necessarily fails. The record must be developed sufficiently to address defendant’s claim that Miller applies to his particular circumstances.
For the above reasons, we reverse the appellate court’s judgment vacating defendant’s sentences and remanding for resentencing. The original sentence stands.
Episode 413 (Duration 10:27) – Discretionary Life Sentence For Youngsters, De Facto Life Sentences, And More Fun With Young Violent Offenders
Episode 525 (Duration 7:56) – People v. Coty – Intellectually Disabled Defendant’s Should Be Treated Like Minors When It Comes To Sentencing
Episode 457 (Duration 6:24) – People v. Rodriguez – An Extension Of De Facto Life Sentences