People v. Morris, 012221 ILCA1, 1-17-1384

Docket Nº:1-17-1384
Opinion Judge:CONNORS JUSTICE
Party Name:THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RICHARD MORRIS, Defendant-Appellant.
Judge Panel:JUSTICE CONNORS delivered the judgment of the court. Presiding Justice Mikva and Justice Johnson concurred in the judgment.
Case Date:January 22, 2021
Court:Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District

2021 IL App (1st) 171384-U

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

RICHARD MORRIS, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 1-17-1384

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

January 22, 2021

This order was filed under Supreme Court Rule 23 and is not precedent except in the limited circumstances allowed under Rule 23(e)(1).

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. 96 CR 123 Honorable Erica L. Reddick, Judge Presiding.

JUSTICE CONNORS delivered the judgment of the court. Presiding Justice Mikva and Justice Johnson concurred in the judgment.

ORDER

CONNORS JUSTICE

¶ 1 Held: The first-stage summary dismissal of petitioner' spro se petition for postconviction relief is affirmed, where his claim that the 105-year sentence imposed for the offense he committed at age 22 violated the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution and the eighth amendment of the United States Constitution had no arguable basis in law or in fact.

¶ 2 Petitioner, Richard Morris, appeals from the first-stage dismissal of his pro se petition for postconviction relief. After a jury trial, petitioner, age 22, was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated vehicular hijacking, and aggravated kidnapping. He was sentenced to death. On direct appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, his convictions were reversed, and the matter was remanded for a new trial. People v. Morris, 209 Ill.2d 137 (2004). Petitioner was convicted again on retrial in 2006, and sentenced to consecutive terms of 60 years for first-degree murder, 30 years for aggravated vehicular hijacking, and 15 years for aggravated kidnapping. Petitioner claimed in his pro se petition that his 105-year sentence violated the eighth amendment to the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend VIII) and the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11). He claimed that pursuant to People v.

House, 2015 IL App (1st) 110580, the holdings in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Adams v. Alabama, 136 S.Ct. 1796 (2016), were "now applicable to 'y°un§ adults', 18 years of age to 25." The trial court summarily dismissed his petition. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court's summary dismissal of defendant's pro se postconviction petition.

¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 4 In 1998, petitioner was found guilty of the first-degree murder, aggravated vehicular hijacking, and aggravated kidnapping of Ervin Shorter. At the time of the offenses, petitioner was 22 years old. He was sentenced to death. On direct appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, his convictions were reversed and the matter was remanded for a new trial. People v. Morris, 209 Ill.2d 137 (2004).

¶ 5 Petitioner was convicted again on retrial in 2006 and sentenced to consecutive terms of 60 years for first-degree murder, 30 years for aggravated vehicular hijacking, and 15 years for aggravated kidnapping. As the trial evidence is not at issue, we summarize only those facts necessary to an understanding of the issues raised in this appeal.

¶ 6 In a handwritten statement, petitioner stated that he and his accomplices discussed robbing a bank the night before the murder to obtain money for petitioner to leave the area and live with his uncle in Atlanta. They targeted the victim because they thought he was a drug dealer. Petitioner stated that he was armed with a firearm, that he carjacked the victim and forced the victim into the trunk of the victim's car. Petitioner and his accomplices eventually pulled into an alley, ordered the victim out of the trunk, told him to get on the ground, and shot him twice in the head as he begged for his life.

¶ 7 At petitioner's sentencing hearing, the State argued that petitioner should receive the maximum sentence for each of the crimes he committed, resulting in an aggregate sentence of 105 years in prison. The State argued that petitioner's extensive criminal background warranted the requested sentence.

¶ 8 In mitigation, defense counsel stated that petitioner "wasn't a child" when he committed the crimes, but that he "never had a childhood." Defense counsel stated that the person that committed the crimes in 1995 was a different person, and that he wanted to go to college and law school.

¶ 9 The trial court then stated: "When I look at factors in aggravation, as in all cases, the facts of the case are always significant and loom high. And if I had to summarize this, what happened here, it would be fairly simple. [Petitioner] from the evidence was the moving force in a plan to rob or steal from banks, drug dealers or anybody. That plan mistakenly focused upon a regular guy, a working man, simply a citizen minding his own business on his way home, forced into his car at gun point, into the trunk of the vehicle, kidnapped, driven to the south side of the - north side of the city, removed from his own car, then shot to death by [petitioner]. I think the evidence clearly reflects that.

What this was clear and simple was an execution. There is a murder case pending. I'm not going to consider that in aggravation. There is other ample aggravation commented upon by the State within the presentence report. Experiences with the law at a younger age, a much younger age both in northern Illinois, Zion, and in Wisconsin, sawed-off shotgun, escape charges, misdemeanor charges as well. There is the factor of deterrence, [petitioner] as well as others similarly situated who might choose to emulate his conduct, follow in his footsteps.

I have read and listened to matters in mitigation now and some years ago. His formative years were not pleasant. He was raised by his mother. He was abandoned by his father at an early age. That we know. He lived in an unstable environment. Drugs. Violence, without the benefit of a nurturing home. His problems in school developed by adolescence; yet today he does have an equivalency, a GED for high school. And he enjoyed some sporadic employment over the years.

It appears from his testimony and from his presentence report that his major source of livelihood was illegal employment, drug selling. And there is evidence of abuse of alcohol, drugs.

I cannot say from this entire record that one could conclude that serious bodily harm or injury was neither intended nor caused. Obviously death is the ultimate form. And while that is implicit in all homicides, the manner of death may be a considered by the court and a factor.

Obviously the facts of this case are lacking any provocation, justification, excuse, any reasonable explanation. All the explanations are unreasonable. Nor could I say that the circumstances depicted by what occurred, albeit some years ago, would not recur if [petitioner] was again to be placed among civilized members of the society within the near and coming future.

The range of sentence as we know and has been highlighted is substantial. It could have been more given other circumstances. It will be the judgment of this court as to Count I, [petitioner] will be remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections for a determinate sentence of 60 years. Count XIV, aggravated vehicular hijacking, the court will impose a consecutive sentence of 30 years. Count XXVI, the charge of aggravated kidnapping, the court will impose a sentence of 15 years consecutive, a total of 105 years."

¶ 10 Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence to this court. People v. Morris, No. 1-06-3474 (March 27, 2009) (unpublished order pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23). On appeal, he argued that the trial court erred in allowing his prior trial testimony to be admitted at his second trial, that the prosecutor committed error during closing and rebuttal argument, and that the imposition of consecutive sentences was improper. This court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. Id.

¶ 11 On August 29, 2016, petitioner filed a motion to vacate his conviction as void. Because petitioner did not cite to any statutory authority for filing the motion, the trial court characterized petitioner's motion as a petition for relief from judgment pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2018)). In his motion, petitioner alleged the trial court improperly admitted his prior trial testimony at his retrial, and improperly imposed consecutive sentences. The trial court found that the claims were barred by res judicata because petitioner had raised these same claims on direct appeal.

¶ 12 On February 15, 2017, petitioner filed a pro se petition for postconviction relief. Defendant contended in his petition that his sentence was a de facto life sentence and unconstitutional pursuant to: People v. House, 2015 IL App (1st) 110580, Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), Adams v. Alabama, 136 S.Ct. 1796 (2016), the eighth and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amends VIII, XIV), and article 1 sections 2 and 11 of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §§ 2, 11). Petitioner claimed that the "basis of the claim was not available to him until People v. House was decided." Petitioner stated that as "a result of Miller and Montgomery, states must now ensure that prisoners serving sentences of life without the possibility of parole or recently 'de facto life' for offenses committed before the age of 18 have the benefit of an individualized sentencing procedure that considers their youth and immaturity at the time of the offense."

¶ 13 Petitioner contended in his petition that "all juvenile cases handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, specifically Roper, Miller, and Adams, are now...

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