People v. Harris

Decision Date24 January 2003
Docket NumberNo. 91392.,91392.
Citation203 Ill.2d 111,784 N.E.2d 792,271 Ill.Dec. 238
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee, v. Andre Timothy HARRIS, Appellant.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

Daniel Yuhas, Deputy Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Michael H. Vonnahmen, Springfield, for appellant.

James E. Ryan, Attorney General, Springfield (Joel D. Bertocchi, Solicitor General, William L. Browers, David H. Iskowich, Assistant Attorneys General, Chicago, of counsel), for the People.

Justice GARMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

In October 1999, a jury convicted defendant of four counts of attempt (first degree murder), two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, and obstruction of justice. The circuit court of Piatt County sentenced defendant to concurrent terms of 45 years for the counts of attempt and aggravated assault, and six years for obstruction of justice. The appellate court vacated the sentences for attempted murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault and remanded with directions to the trial court to impose consecutive sentences pursuant to section 5-8-4(a) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Code) (730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(a) (West 1998)). No. 4-99-1040 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We allowed defendant's petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill.2d R. 315.

BACKGROUND

Defendant lived with his girlfriend, Brandie Ann King, her son, and her mother at her mother's house. King testified that on February 15, 1999, she and defendant argued about defendant's leaving the bathroom dirty after taking a bath. The next morning, defendant pushed King onto her bed and straddled her, restraining her ability to move. He then ripped her shirt open and slapped her face. Defendant ordered her to remove her clothes. While brandishing a utility knife, defendant sexually assaulted her. Following forced intercourse, defendant continued to physically and verbally assault her. Defendant placed the blade of a utility knife against her throat, stabbed her in the chest with a utility knife, stabbed her in the abdomen with a steak knife, choked her repeatedly, beat her with an aluminum baseball bat, placed a pillow over her face, placed a shirt over her face and attempted to slit her throat, and used a syringe to inject household cleaning products into her leg and neck.

Defendant was found guilty of four counts of attempt (first degree murder) (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9-1(a)(1) (West 1998)), two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 1998)), and one count of obstructing justice (720 ILCS 5/31-4(a) (West 1998)). Attempt (first degree murder) and aggravated criminal sexual assault are Class X felonies. 720 ILCS 5/8-4(c), 12-14(d)(1) (West 1998). The trial court found that defendant had inflicted serious harm on King and sentenced him to concurrent prison terms of 45 years on each attempt and aggravated criminal sexual assault count, and a concurrent 6-year term of imprisonment for obstruction of justice.

The appellate court reversed the trial court's sentencing order because defendant's convictions for attempted first degree murder and aggravated criminal sexual assault trigger the consecutive sentencing provision of section 5-8-4(a) of the Code (730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(a) (West 1998)). The appellate court remanded with instructions to impose consecutive sentences pursuant to section 5-8-4(a). Because the appellate court found the concurrent sentences imposed by the trial court in violation of section 5-8-4(a) of the Code, the court did not reach defendant's due process arguments under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000). Defendant now appeals to this court, arguing the appellate court erred in vacating the concurrent sentences and ordering the imposition of consecutive sentencing. The appellate court's modification of defendant's sentence for obstruction of justice to a nonextended term is not at issue in this appeal.

ANALYSIS

We are asked to determine whether the appellate court erred by vacating the concurrent sentences imposed by the trial court and in ordering that defendant receive consecutive sentences pursuant to section 5-8-4(a) of the Code (730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(a) (West 1998)).

Section 5-8-4(a) of the Code provides in pertinent part:

"The court shall not impose consecutive sentences for offenses which were committed as part of a single course of conduct during which there was no substantial change in the nature of the criminal objective, unless, one of the offenses for which defendant was convicted was a Class X or Class 1 felony and the defendant inflicted severe bodily injury, or where the defendant was convicted of a violation of Section * * * 12-14 * * * of the Criminal Code of 1961, in which event the court shall enter sentences to run consecutively." 730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(a) (West 1998).

Section 5-8-4(a) of the Code provides two distinct exceptions to the general prohibition against consecutive sentences for offenses arising out of a single course of conduct. People v. Whitney, 188 Ill.2d 91, 99, 241 Ill.Dec. 770, 720 N.E.2d 225 (1999). Section 5-8-4(a) establishes that consecutive sentences are mandatory when the offenses were committed as part of a single course of conduct during which there was no substantial change in the nature of the criminal objective, and either (1) one of the offenses was a Class X or Class 1 felony and the defendant inflicted severe bodily injury, or (2) one of the offenses was a violation of section 12-13 (720 ILCS 5/12-13 (West 1998)), 12-14 (720 ILCS 5/12-14 (West 1998)), or 12-14.1 (720 ILCS 5/12-14.1 (West 1998)) of the Criminal Code of 1961. 730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(a) (West 1998); see also People v. Arna, 168 Ill.2d 107, 112, 212 Ill.Dec. 963, 658 N.E.2d 445 (1995). Once the initial determination of course of conduct is completed, the trial court's exercise of discretion is completed under subsection (a) (People ex rel. Waller v. McKoski, 195 Ill.2d 393, 401, 254 Ill.Dec. 729, 748 N.E.2d 175 (2001)) and consecutive sentencing is mandatory if the offenses are among the listed triggering offenses.

Likewise, section 5-8-4(b) of the Code establishes specific requirements with respect to the mandatory consecutive sentencing, and the trial court is responsible under the statute for enforcement of these sentencing requirements and imposing the appropriate sentence. McKoski, 195 Ill.2d at 400-01, 254 Ill.Dec. 729, 748 N.E.2d 175. Section 5-8-4(b) of the Code provides in pertinent part:

"The court shall not impose a consecutive sentence except as provided for in subsection (a) unless * * * multiple sentences of imprisonment are imposed on a defendant for offenses that were not committed as part of a single course of conduct during which there was no substantial change in the nature of the criminal objective, and one of the offenses for which the defendant was convicted was a Class X or Class 1 felony and the defendant inflicted severe bodily injury, or when the defendant was convicted of a violation of Section * * * 12-14 * * * of the Criminal Code of 1961 * * *." 730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(b) (West 1998).

The trial court is not required to find that the offenses were part of a single course of conduct for section 5-8-4(b) to apply. Subsection (b) provides that consecutive sentences must be imposed when the offense arose from separate courses of conduct and either (1) one of the offenses was a Class X or Class 1 felony and the defendant inflicted severe bodily injury, or (2) one of the offenses was a violation of section 12-13 (720 ILCS 5/12-13 (West 1998)), 12-14 (720 ILCS 5/12-14 (West 1998)), or 12-14.1 (720 ILCS 5/12-14.1 (West 1998)) of the Criminal Code.

While the determination of whether a defendant's actions constituted a single course of conduct is ordinarily a question of fact (see People v. Daniel, 311 Ill.App.3d 276, 287, 243 Ill.Dec. 678, 723 N.E.2d 1279 (2000)), we must first determine whether the trial court correctly applied section 5-8-4 of the Code to the facts of this case. It is well established that a sentencing judge "cannot impose a penalty not otherwise allowed by the sentencing statute in question." People v. Wooters, 188 Ill.2d 500, 506 n. 1, 243 Ill.Dec. 33, 722 N.E.2d 1102 (1999); People ex rel. Daley v. Strayhorn, 119 Ill.2d 331, 336, 116 Ill. Dec. 226, 518 N.E.2d 1047 (1988). Because the construction of a statute is a question of law, the standard of review is de novo. People v. Robinson, 172 Ill.2d 452, 457, 217 Ill.Dec. 729, 667 N.E.2d 1305 (1996).

The appellate court found the imposition of concurrent sentences violates section 5-8-4(a). Implicit in the appellate court's decision is a factual finding that defendant's actions arose from a single course of conduct. The appellate court does not discuss the record as it relates to course of conduct or make an express finding regarding the course of conduct question, other than to state that section 5-8-4(a) mandates consecutive sentences.

It is not necessary that we determine whether or not the trial court made a finding with respect to course of conduct or whether that finding was appropriate. Consecutive sentencing is mandatory in this case under section 5-8-4 of the Code whether the actions arose from separate courses of conduct or a single course of conduct. Defendant was convicted of attempted first degree murder, a Class X felony, and aggravated criminal sexual assault in violation of section 12-14(a)(1) of the Criminal Code. Defendant's convictions are among the triggering offenses listed in both subsections (a) and (b) of section 5-8-4.

We encountered a somewhat similar situation in McKoski. In that case, the record revealed that the trial court erred in imposing concurrent sentences under section 5-8-4. The defendant was convicted of three counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child. 720 ILCS 5/12-14.1 (West 1998). The trial court found the actions of defendant to be separate courses of...

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