Hill v. Cowan

Decision Date18 April 2002
Docket NumberNo. 90229.,90229.
Citation202 Ill.2d 151,269 Ill.Dec. 875,781 N.E.2d 1065
PartiesEugene HILL, Appellee, v. Roger COWAN, Warden, Menard Correctional Center, Appellant.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

James E. Ryan, Attorney General, Springfield (Joel D. Bertocchi, Solicitor General, William L. Browers, Assistant Attorney General, Chicago, of counsel), for appellant.

Daniel M. Kirwan, Deputy Defender, Edwin J. Anderson, Assistant Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Mt. Vernon, for appellee.

Justice FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

This is an appeal from a judgment of the circuit court of St. Clair County granting a petition for habeas corpus filed by Eugene Hill, an inmate at the Menard Correctional Center. In granting Hill's petition, the circuit court held that the extended-term sentencing provisions pursuant to which Hill was sentenced were unconstitutional under the United States Supreme Court's decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000). Because the circuit court's judgment declared the sentencing statute invalid, the appeal was taken directly to our court. 134 Ill.2d R. 302(a). We now reverse.


In May 1982, petitioner Eugene Hill pleaded guilty to the offenses of attempted murder, rape, and armed robbery. The trial court accepted his guilty pleas, convicted him of the offenses, and subsequently imposed concurrent 50-year extended-term sentences on each conviction. The court based the extended-term sentences on its finding that the offenses were accompanied by "exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty." See Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, par. 1005-5-3.2(b)(2).

Following imposition of sentence, petitioner moved to withdraw his pleas of guilty and to vacate the judgments, which motions were denied. The appellate court affirmed his convictions and sentences (People v. Hill, No. 5-83-0573 (1985) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23)), and this court denied his petition for leave to appeal. People v. Hill, 101 Ill.2d 591 (1985). His subsequent petition pursuant to the Post Conviction Hearing Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1989, ch. 38, par. 122-1 et seq.) was denied, and that denial was affirmed on appeal. People v. Hill, No. 5-91-0392 (1991) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

Subsequently, in August 2000, petitioner initiated the instant action under the Habeas Corpus Act (735 ILCS 5/10-101 et seq. (West 2000)). He contended that he is entitled to immediate release, because the extended-term portions of his sentences were unconstitutional, in light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000).

The circuit court granted the petition. The court declared the pertinent extended-term sentencing provisions to be unconstitutional under Apprendi. Because petitioner had already served three years more than the maximum nonextended term sentences to which he could have been subjected, the court ordered that he be discharged immediately. This appeal by the State followed.


In People v. Jackson, 199 Ill.2d 286, 263 Ill.Dec. 819, 769 N.E.2d 21 (2002), this court held that Apprendi-based sentencing challenges could not be raised on direct appeal from a guilty plea. Jackson, 199 Ill.2d at 295, 263 Ill.Dec. 819, 769 N.E.2d 21. Although the instant case presents a different procedural posture, we believe that the result we reach today is dictated by the reasoning in Jackson. We need not repeat the entire analysis set out in Jackson, but will briefly summarize the salient points that supported our conclusion that a guilty plea waives Apprendi concerns.

In Jackson, we noted that the Supreme Court did not fashion wholly new rights in Apprendi, but merely clarified the applicability of the long-standing, well-established rights to a trial by jury and to proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson, 199 Ill.2d at 302, 263 Ill.Dec. 819, 769 N.E.2d 21. The Court held that these rights extended to all facts necessary to establish the range of penalties potentially applicable to the defendant. Jackson, 199 Ill.2d at 295, 263 Ill.Dec. 819, 769 N.E.2d 21. In other words, a defendant can only receive a sentence within the range of penalties statutorily prescribed for the crime, all the elements of which he has been proven guilty. The defendant has the right to demand that he receive a trial by jury and that he be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of all elements of his crime.

But as we observed in Jackson, by pleading guilty, a defendant waives his rights to a jury trial and to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson, 199 Ill.2d at 296, 263 Ill.Dec. 819, 769 N.E.2d 21. A guilty plea is intrinsically a relinquishment of the right to a trial, at which the State would be put to its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no validity to the complaint that a defendant did not "know" that he was waiving the right to have the State prove enhancing factors beyond a reasonable doubt, because by pleading guilty the defendant releases the State from proving anything beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson, 199 Ill.2d at 296-97, 263 Ill.Dec. 819, 769 N.E.2d 21. We do not require the trial court to advise a defendant of all the elements of the crime of which he stands accused before accepting a guilty plea. See People v. Barker, 83 Ill.2d 319, 329-30, 47 Ill.Dec. 399, 415 N.E.2d 404 (1980). It is sufficient that the court advise him of the nature of the crime; the range of penalties to which he might subject himself by his plea; his right to plead not guilty, if he so chooses; and that a guilty plea would operate to waive his rights to a jury trial and to be confronted with the witnesses against him. 177 Ill.2d Rs. 402(a)(1) through (a)(4).

In the instant case, as in Jackson, the underlying convictions and sentences were based on a guilty plea. Unlike Jackson, in this case petitioner has exhausted not only his direct appeal, but also his post-conviction remedies. We find no reason to deviate in this case from the holding of Jackson, and we hold that petitioner's guilty plea forecloses him from raising an Apprendi challenge to his sentences.

Petitioner objects that such a holding would conflict with two established principles of law. First, he notes that this court has previously held that a defendant may challenge his sentence on appeal from a guilty plea where the challenge goes to the court's statutory authority to impose the sentence in question. Second, he notes the rules that the constitutionality of a statute may be challenged at any time and that unconstitutional statutes are said to be void ab initio. He contends that notwithstanding his guilty plea, his Apprendi-based arguments may be considered under either of these two rules. We shall address these arguments in turn.

It is true that a guilty plea does not waive an argument that the court imposed a sentence beyond its statutory authority. See People v. Wilson, 181 Ill.2d 409, 413, 229 Ill.Dec. 896, 692 N.E.2d 1107 (1998); People v. Williams, 179 Ill.2d 331, 333, 228 Ill.Dec. 176, 688 N.E.2d 1153 (1997); People v. Singleton, 103 Ill.2d 339, 346, 82 Ill.Dec. 666, 469 N.E.2d 200 (1984). But a lack of statutory authority is not truly defendant's argument in this case. If it were, it would be swiftly brushed aside because the statutory scheme clearly did permit the trial court to impose the sentences in question. See Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, par. 1005-5-3.2(b)(2) (permitting court to impose extended term upon finding that the offense was accompanied by exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty); par. 1005-8-2(2) (extended term for Class X felony is 30 to 60 years' imprisonment). It simply cannot be said that the trial court imposed sentences for which it lacked statutory authority.

Petitioner also argues that, although the statute did exist, it was unconstitutional. This is the same, he contends, as having no such statute at all, as unconstitutional statutes are void ab initio. But this line of reasoning also falls short, not because of procedural default (see People v. Wagener, 196 Ill.2d 269, 279, 256 Ill.Dec. 550, 752 N.E.2d 430 (2001) (constitutionality of a criminal statute may be assailed at any time); People v. Wright, 194 Ill.2d 1, 23-24, 251 Ill.Dec. 469, 740 N.E.2d 755 (2000) (same)), but on its merits.

The void ab initio doctrine only applies to statutes unconstitutional on their face. As we explained in Jackson, the statutes involved in this casesections 5-5-3.2 and 5-8-2 of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill.Rev.Stat.1981, ch. 38, pars. 1005-5-3.2, 1005-8-2, now codified at 730 ILCS 5/5-5-3.2, 5-8-2 (West 2000))—are not unconstitutional on their face.

In our initial disposition of this case, we disposed of the void ab initio argument by noting that we had upheld application of the statutes in question in People v. Ford, 198 Ill.2d 68, 260 Ill.Dec. 552, 761 N.E.2d 735 (2001). However, on rehearing, petitioner protests that this reasoning does not justify our result, because Ford involved section 5-8-2(a)(1) of the Unified Code of Corrections, while the instant case involves subsection (a)(2) of that statute. The point is valid. A statute need not necessarily stand or fall unitarily; some subsections may be constitutional and others not. See, e.g., McDougall v. Lueder, 389 Ill. 141, 155, 58 N.E.2d 899 (1945) (finding section 4(c) of the Community Currency Exchange Act facially unconstitutional but upholding the remainder of the statute). And the basis for our finding that there was no Apprendi violation in Ford—the defendant had already been found death-eligible at the time that the court imposed the extended-term sentence—can only exist with respect to section 5-8-2(a)(1), which governs extended—term sentences for first degree murder. A defendant cannot be found...

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