People v. Charleston

Citation138 N.E.3d 743,2018 IL App (1st) 161323,435 Ill.Dec. 129
Decision Date10 December 2018
Docket NumberNo. 1-16-1323,1-16-1323
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Caleb CHARLESTON, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

James E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, and Pamela Rubeo, of State Appellate Defender’s Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

Kimberly M. Foxx, State’s Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Annette Collins, and Marci Jacobs, Assistant State’s Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

JUSTICE GRIFFIN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Defendant Caleb Charleston was convicted of first degree murder ( 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2008) ) for his participation in a drive-by shooting and sentenced to a 75-year term of imprisonment. Defendant's conviction was affirmed on appeal. See People v. Charleston , 2015 IL App (1st) 130936-U, 2015 WL 5139182. Defendant's sentence, however, was vacated, and his case was remanded for a resentencing hearing because the trial court improperly considered as substantive evidence a witness's hearsay statement that the victim was killed because he cooperated with authorities. The trial court conducted a new sentencing hearing and sentencing him to a 60-year term of imprisonment, which represented a 15-year reduction from the previous sentence imposed.

¶ 2 Defendant appeals his sentence. He argues that it is excessive and violates the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution ( Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11 ) as applied to him. We affirm.

¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 4 Defendant Caleb Charleston was convicted of first degree murder ( 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2008) ) for his participation in a drive-by shooting. He was originally sentenced to a 75-year term of imprisonment. See 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-20 (West 2008) ; id. § 5-8-1(a)(1)(d)(i). The State presented the following evidence at his trial.

¶ 5 On June 7, 2009, defendant drove by a location in Chicago as his passenger, co-defendant Jeffrey Allen (Allen), fired 17 shots at victim Patrick Stribling (Stribling). Not all of the 17 shots were fired at the same time. When Stribling was first located, Allen fired four or five shots at him. Stribling was hit and fell to the ground. An eyewitness described Stribling as panicked and crawling to get away. Defendant pulled away, circled the block and returned. Allen fired a dozen more shots at Stribling. Stribling died. The car used in the shooting was found abandoned a short time later, and apparently, someone had attempted to set it on fire. The car turned out to have been stolen five days earlier.

¶ 6 This court affirmed defendant's conviction on appeal. See Charleston , 2015 IL App (1st) 130936-U. However, defendant was granted a new sentencing hearing because the trial court had improperly considered as substantive evidence a witness's hearsay statement that Stribling was killed because he cooperated with authorities in a separate murder case. On remand, the trial court was ordered to consider (1) the witness' hearsay statement "for what it is and determine what weight to give it, if any" and (2) defendant's age in light of recent "legal and psychological developments" regarding youthful offenders. Id. ¶¶ 37-38. Defendant was an adult (18 years old) when he committed the crime.

¶ 7 At the time of his resentencing, defendant was 25 years old. He presented no witnesses, and neither did the State. Instead, the parties relied on argument and both referenced evidence presented at defendant's initial sentencing hearing. Defendant gave a statement in allocution.

¶ 8 The State argued that defendant was an adult when he committed the offense. Before turning 18, he received probation for a residential burglary, went on to steal a car when he turned 18, and, while he was on probation for that offense, committed the instant offense of first degree murder ( 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2008) ). The State emphasized the manner in which Stribling was killed and argued that, given the nature of the offense, the sentence imposed was warranted.

¶ 9 Defendant argued that he received no infractions while in prison. He was raised without a father or proper role model and had a drug habit when he committed the offense. Defendant attended high school through the tenth grade and was on his school's basketball team. Throughout his time in prison, he kept his familial and community ties.

¶ 10 In allocution, defendant stated that he had matured mentally, physically, and spiritually while in prison. He mentioned wanting to "fight harder" for himself, but acknowledged that his offense affected his family. Defendant said he was "[t]ruly sorry for [Stribling's] family" and what his "loved one's have endured and [are] still enduring." He further stated that "[Stribling's] life was stolen from him," but mentioned that his life was "stolen from me in a way." Defendant told the trial court "I'll have another chance to prove my innocence," but emphasized that he was "not destined for a life of crime."

¶ 11 The trial court explained the basis for its sentencing determination. The trial court stated that it would "ignore" the previously relied upon hearsay statement and then turned to consider the evidence presented at defendant's trial. Stribling's killing, the trial court noted, was "as cold-blooded a killing I have ever seen in this courtroom I'll tell you that right now." The car used in the shooting was stolen and someone had attempted to set it on fire, which indicated to the trial court that there had been "prior planning." The trial court considered defendant's criminal history and stated, "the fact you had as much criminal history as you did at your young age is a damning statement to this court."

¶ 12 As for defendant's statement in allocution, the trial court found that defendant had asked for mercy, but had not expressed remorse. Defendant's statement and actions, overall, demonstrated "a lack of respect for the rights of strangers." The trial court resentenced defendant to a 60-year term of imprisonment, which represented a 15-year reduction from the previous sentence imposed. See Charleston , 2015 IL App (1st) 130936-U, ¶ 2.

¶ 13 Defendant filed a motion to reconsider his sentence, which was denied. This appeal followed. Defendant argues that the trial court focused too heavily on the retributive aspects of punishment and failed to consider his age and rehabilitative potential when it fashioned his sentence. He further claims that the trial court improperly considered his failure to admit guilt as a factor in aggravation. Defendant also contends that, in light of his age of 18 when he committed the offense, his sentence violates the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution ( Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11 ) as applied to him.

¶ 14 II. ANALYSIS

¶ 15 The issues on appeal are (1) whether the trial court's sentencing determination was an abuse of discretion and (2) whether the sentence imposed is unconstitutional as applied.

¶ 16 Criminal penalties must be determined according to the seriousness of the offense and with the objective of restoring the offender to useful citizenship. Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11 ("[a]ll penalties shall be determined both according to the seriousness of the offense and with the objective of restoring the offender to useful citizenship"). The legislature and judiciary play a dual role in achieving these objectives; the legislature prescribes the permissible sentencing ranges for criminal offenses, and the trial court fashions the appropriate sentence within the statutory range. People v. Taylor , 102 Ill. 2d 201, 206, 80 Ill.Dec. 76, 464 N.E.2d 1059 (1984) ; People v. Fern , 189 Ill. 2d 48, 53, 243 Ill.Dec. 175, 723 N.E.2d 207 (1999). A sentence imposed within the statutory range is presumed to be proper and will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. People v. Butler , 2013 IL App (1st) 120923, ¶¶ 30-31, 373 Ill.Dec. 604, 994 N.E.2d 89. An abuse of discretion is found when a sentence is greatly at variance with the spirit and purpose of the law or manifestly disproportionate to the nature of the offense. Id. ¶ 31.

¶ 17 The sentence imposed here was within the statutory range prescribed by the legislature. The applicable sentencing range for defendant's offense was 35 to 75 years because he committed first degree murder ( 720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2008) ) while armed with a firearm. See 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-20 (West 2008) (20 to 60-year sentencing range for first degree murder); see also id. § 5-8-1(a)(1)(d)(i) (mandatory 15-year enhancement). Accordingly, we presume the sentence is proper and review it for an abuse of discretion.

¶ 18 Defendant seeks first-prong plain error review because he failed to raise his arguments in a postsentencing motion. See People v. Herron , 215 Ill. 2d 167, 178, 294 Ill.Dec. 55, 830 N.E.2d 467 (2005) (plain error doctrine allows a reviewing court to reach a forfeited error affecting substantial rights where the evidence was so closely balanced that the jury's guilty verdict may have resulted from the error and not the evidence). We first determine whether an error occurred. See People v. Garner , 2016 IL App (1st) 141583, ¶ 28, 407 Ill.Dec. 731, 64 N.E.3d 109 (first step in the plain-error analysis is to determine whether an error occurred).

¶ 19 We hold that the trial court's sentencing determination was not an abuse of discretion. The trial court considered defendant's rehabilitative potential and determined that the seriousness of the offense and other aggravating factors warranted the sentence imposed. People v. Tye , 323 Ill. App. 3d 872, 890, 257 Ill.Dec. 129, 753 N.E.2d 324 (2001) (although the trial court is required to consider defendant's rehabilitative potential, it is not required to give greater weight to that factor than to the seriousness of the offense or other aggravating factors).

¶ 20 We first note that the trial court gave due consideration to the mitigating factors....

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6 cases
  • People v. Musgrave
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • June 10, 2019
    ...a reviewing court presumes that a sentence imposed within the statutory range provided by the legislature is proper. People v. Charleston , 2018 IL App (1st) 161323, ¶ 16, 435 Ill.Dec. 129, 138 N.E.3d 743. A trial court's sentence is an abuse of discretion if it is greatly at odds with the ......
  • People v. Palomera
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • February 16, 2022
    ...the defendant's 16-year sentence fell within the applicable sentencing range, we presume that the sentence is proper. People v. Charleston , 2018 IL App (1st) 161323, ¶ 16, 435 Ill.Dec. 129, 138 N.E.3d 743. This presumption will be rebutted only if the defendant makes an affirmative showing......
  • People v. Klein
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • April 6, 2022
    ...a reviewing court presumes that a sentence imposed within the statutory range provided by the legislature is proper. People v. Charleston , 2018 IL App (1st) 161323, ¶ 16, 435 Ill.Dec. 129, 138 N.E.3d 743. ¶ 38 A trial court's sentence is an abuse of discretion only if it is greatly at odds......
  • People v. Ferguson
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • September 7, 2021
    ...by adjudications of juvenile delinquency, adult convictions, and formal arrest. People v. Charleston , 2018 IL App (1st) 161323, ¶ 24, 435 Ill.Dec. 129, 138 N.E.3d 743. The legislature intended that, in considering previous bad behavior, the sentencing judge would rely solely on reliable in......
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