ALA’s Cases Pending Previews Illinois Supreme Court’s May Term

May 03, 2017 5:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Cases Pending, edited by Hon. Clare J. Quish (pictured left) and Gretchen Sperry, has been updated to discuss the Illinois Supreme Court’s May Term, which begins Tuesday, May 9, 2017, with oral arguments scheduled for May 9, 10, 11, 16 and 17, 2017. A total of 15 cases will be heard – 9 criminal and 6 civil.

The following civil cases are scheduled for argument this Term:

People ex rel. Lisa Madigan v. Wildermuth—No.120763—May 10

Rozsavolgyi v. The City of Aurora—No. 121048—May 11

Manago v. The County of Cook—No. 121078—May 11

Cochran v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc.—No. 121200—May 16

Aspen American Insurance Co. v. Interstate Warehousing, Inc.—No. 121281— May 17

Illinois Landowners Alliance v. Illinois Commerce Commission—Nos. 121302, 121304, 121305, 121308 (cons.)—May 17

The following criminal cases are scheduled for argument this Term:

In re Linda B.—No. 119392—May 9

People v. Willis Reese—No. 120011—May 9

In re Destiny P.—No. 120796—May 9

People v. Matthew Gray—No. 120958—May 9

People v. Richard Holman—No. 120655—May 10

People v. Dennis Bailey—No. 121450—May 10

In re Jarquan B.—No. 121483—May 10

People v. Fernando Casas, Jr.—No. 120797—May 16

People v. Byron Boykins—No. 121365—May 16

Below is a summary for one civil case, Cochran v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., and one criminal case, People v. Richard Holman. Summaries for these cases and others pending with the Illinois Supreme Court can be found in our Cases Pendingpublication, accessible to ALA members on the ALA's website.

Cochran v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc.

This case raises the question of whether Illinois should recognize a cause of action for negligent interference with the possession of a corpse. In a published opinion, the Fourth District Appellate Court recognized such a cause of action, departing from prior decisions of the First, Second, and Third Appellate Districts which held that willful and wanton conduct by the defendant was a prerequisite to such a claim.

Plaintiff, the mother of the decedent, filed suit against Defendant, claiming that they negligently mishandled her son’s remains such that they were switched with those of another decedent, resulting in an unwanted cremation. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant violated its duty not to interfere with her right to possession of her son’s remains by failing to follow certain procedures with respect to the handling and transferring of decedents’ remains. Plaintiff did not allege that the defendant acted willfully or wantonly. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that plaintiff failed to state a cause of action. The trial court agreed, dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice, and finding that Plaintiff could not allege any facts which would give rise to a duty owed on the part of the Defendant. Plaintiff appealed.

Reversing, the Fourth District Appellate Court disagreed, holding that requiring a plaintiff to plead willful and wanton conduct is no longer consistent with the current state of the law. In so holding, the Court departed from prior rulings of the First, Second, and Third District Appellate Court, which uniformly have held that a cause of action for negligent interference with possession of a corpse is not recognized under law. The Fourth District Appellate Court held that the rationale for requiring such a heightened pleading standard had been eroded, as evidenced by the decisions of several other states providing for a cause of action based upon the negligent mishandling of a corpse. It therefore held that “the more modem view supports the position taken by plaintiff in the instant case and recognizes an ordinary negligence cause of action arising out of the next of kin’s right to possession of a decedent’s remains,” and that the cases relied upon by the trial court “do not take into account the evolution of the law in this area and fail to persuade us to accept defendant's argument that circumstances of aggravation are necessary.”

People v. Richard Holman

In Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012), the Supreme Court held that mandatory-life-without-parole sentences for juveniles (under the age of 18) violated the Eighth Amendment.  Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), held that Miller had adopted a substantive rule that applied retroactively.  Drawing a line between children whose crimes reflected transient immaturity and those reflecting permanent incorrigibility, the Court explained that an individualized hearing about the juvenile's youth and attendant considerations was required to separate out those who could be sentenced to life-without-parole and those who could not.  In Illinois, a criminal defendant can file a successive postconviction (PC) petition only with leave of court, 725 ILCS 5/122-1(f), which the court may grant if defendant demonstrates cause for failing to bring the claim(s) in the initial PC petition and prejudice resulting from that failure.

In July 1979, weeks shy of his 18th birthday, Richard Holman and a codefendant burglarized a farmhouse in Southern Illinois and murdered its 83-year-old resident.  Holman confessed to committing seven murders with his codefendant (of which he was later convicted of three, including this case).  For the instant case, Holman and his codefendant were tried and convicted for first degree murder in 1981; because of his age he was ineligible for the death penalty and faced a 20-to-40-year sentencing range (for which he could earn day for day credit) and the judge, in his discretion, could impose a natural life sentence if Holman was convicted of multiple murders (as he was here).  The trial judge received a detailed pre-sentencing investigation (PSI) report regarding Holman's age, background, delinquency record, and family circumstances; statutory-required mitigating factors at the time did not mention youth.  The trial judge acknowledged considering the PSI, found no mitigating factors were present, and commented that this defendant could not be rehabilitated before imposing a natural life sentence. Neither Holman's direct appeal nor his initial PC petition challenged his sentence on Eighth Amendment grounds.

In October 2010 (before Miller), Holman sought leave to file a successive PC petition, challenging the statute under which he was sentenced as unconstitutional under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments; on appeal from denial of leave to file (before Miller), Holman argued that the sentencing statute was void ab initio under the Eighth Amendment; the post-Miller PLA argued that the sentencing statute violated the Eighth Amendment.  In January 2015, the Illinois Supreme Court denied leave to appeal but remanded to the appellate court to reconsider in light of People v. Davis, 2014 IL 105595 (rejecting Eighth Amendment facial challenge to sentencing statute mandating natural life sentence, but holding Miller was retroactively applicable and satisfied cause-and-prejudice for juvenile defendant sentenced to mandatory natural life raising as-applied Eighth Amendment challenge).

On remand, the appellate court excused Holman's forfeiture and upheld Holman's discretionary natural life sentence imposed in April 1981.  The court held that Miller provided an illustrative list of factors related to a juvenile defendant's youth without requiring courts to consider any set list of factors.  The court held that the sentencing hearing comported with Miller because Holman's age and other mitigating factors were known by the court and because Miller/Montgomery did not prohibit a natural life sentence for all juvenile offenders.

Before the Illinois Supreme Court, Holman argues that he is entitled to a new sentencing hearing because sentencing courts must consider the Miller factors, and the trial court did not do so in his case.  Alternatively, Holman argues he is entitled to a new sentencing hearing because the sentencing court did not even consider youth and its attendant circumstances as a mitigating factor.  The State argues that the as-applied Eighth Amendment claim is forfeited because it was not presented in any level of review prior to this court's supervisory order.  Forfeiture aside, the State asserts that the Rehabilitation Clause of article 1, section 11 of the Illinois Constitution and decades of Illinois precedent on juvenile justice reflect that the Illinois sentencing scheme pre-Miller comported with Miller's requirements. Additionally, the sentencing judge's comment that Holman cannot be rehabilitated (and the record of his extensive delinquency record and multiple murders) is precisely the finding of permanent incorrigibility justifying a natural life sentence under Miller/Montgomery.  Finally, the State argues that rather than grant a new sentencing hearing as Holman requests, the Court should remand for additional PC proceedings solely regarding whether Holman qualifies as the rare juvenile offender who is permanently incorrigible because only if he is not is there an Eighth Amendment violation warranting a new, full sentencing hearing.  An amicus brief in support of Holman filed by the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern School of Law asserted, among other things, that the Court should flatly ban natural life sentence for juvenile offenders.

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