Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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Moon was charged with domestic battery for causing bodily harm to a minor. Before jury selection, the court typically administers a voir dire oath to prospective jurors but the record does not establish whether the court administered a voir dire oath before or during jury selection. The circuit court asked each potential juror several questions. All the prospective jurors indicated that they would follow the court's instructions. After jury selection, the court asked the circuit clerk to swear the jury in. There is no verbatim record of the oath but the parties stipulated that the clerk incorrectly asked the already-selected jurors: “[D]o you solemnly swear or affirm you’ll truthfully answer all questions asked concerning your qualifications as jurors?” Before his conviction, Moon did not object to the unsworn status of the jury. Denying a post-trial motion, the circuit court concluded that the error was harmless. The appellate court concluded that Moon had forfeited and was not prejudiced by this “clear error.”The Illinois Supreme Court held that reversal of Moon’s conviction is required, regardless of the strength of the evidence or any showing of prejudice. Swearing the jury with a trial oath was essential to the common-law system of trial by jury; deprivation of this constitutional right amounts to structural error. A jury must be sworn with an oath that substantially incorporates specific elements. Because jeopardy never attached, the state is not precluded from retrying the defendant on remand. View "People v. Moon" on Justia Law

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Jones was a juvenile in 2000 when he pled guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 50 years in prison pursuant to a fully negotiated plea agreement. After unsuccessfully petitioning for postconviction relief, Jones sought leave to file a successive postconviction petition alleging his sentence violated the eighth amendment protections in the Supreme Court’s “Miller v. Alabama” decision.The appellate court affirmed the denial of his motion, finding that Jones’ claims did not invoke the protections provided to juveniles in Miller. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Miller’s additional protections for juvenile offenders apply only when a trial court lacks or refuses to use discretion in sentencing a juvenile offender to life, or to a de facto life, sentence. The mandatory sentencing scheme that applied in Illinois at the time he was sentenced was never applied to Jones. By entering a plea agreement, a defendant forecloses any claim of error. A voluntary guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional errors or irregularities, including constitutional ones. Jones has not claimed that the state engaged in any misrepresentation or committed any misconduct. View "People v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Chicago police officer Luzadder and his partner were on patrol at 11:36 p.m. when they received a dispatch stating that an anonymous person reported that two white females were walking with a white male wearing a black hoodie, who “was swinging at the females” and “has a gun” near a particular intersection. A second call reported that the group had moved north. Minutes later, at the second location, Luzadder saw Carter, a white male, wearing the described clothing, holding his waistband. Luzadder did not see two women nor did he see Carter violate any laws. Luzadder believed that Carter was attempting to conceal a firearm. Luzadder, with a hand on his service weapon, ordered Carter to raise his hands, patted down Carter over his clothes, and felt what he thought was the handle of a handgun. He lifted Carter’s shirt and recovered a revolver from Carter’s waistband. Luzadder arrested Carter, who was charged with being an armed habitual criminal, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and unlawful use or possession of a weapon by a felon.The circuit court denied his motion to suppress. The appellate court affirmed the denial of Carter’s motion and his nine-year sentence. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed in part. The officers had the necessary reasonable suspicion for an investigatory stop. The court otherwise vacated. The state failed to prove Carter guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of armed habitual criminal; the other convictions were merged into that conviction. View "People v. Carter" on Justia Law

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The Illinois State Police (ISP) revoked Brown’s Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card due to Brown's 2001 California conviction of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (MCDV). On his application, Brown had answered “no” to the question of whether he had ever been convicted of domestic battery or a substantially similar offense. A domestic violence conviction precludes possession of firearms under federal law, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9).The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated an order granting Brown’s petition and ordering ISP to issue Brown a FOID card. Under section 10(c) of the FOID Card Act, a circuit court may grant relief to a petitioner whose FOID card has been revoked if the petitioner has not been convicted of a forcible felony under the laws of any jurisdiction within 20 years of the application or at least 20 years have passed since the end of any period of imprisonment imposed in relation to that conviction; the circumstances regarding a criminal conviction, the applicant’s criminal history, and his reputation are such that the applicant will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety; granting relief would not be contrary to the public interest; and granting relief would not be contrary to federal law.Brown satisfied the federal law test for the “civil rights restored” exception because he lost his right to possess firearms under California law and those rights were subsequently automatically restored by virtue of California law 10 years after his conviction. View "Brown v. Illinois State Police" on Justia Law

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House was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated kidnapping based on his participation in 1993 abductions and shooting deaths of two teenagers. House was 19 at the time of the crimes. He claimed that he had no idea of the larger plan when the victims were driven to the deserted location and that the victims were killed after he left. The circuit court sentenced him to a mandatory natural life term for the murder convictions and 60 years for each aggravated kidnapping conviction, to run consecutively.In 2001, House’s sentence for the kidnappings was reduced to consecutive 30-year terms. House filed a post-conviction petition, asserting actual innocence based on a witness’s recantation of her trial testimony; newly discovered evidence of police misconduct; ineffective assistance of counsel; and that his mandatory sentence of natural life violated the Eighth Amendment and the Illinois constitution's proportionate penalties clause. The appellate court vacated House’s sentence, finding that his mandatory natural life sentence violated the Illinois proportionate penalties provision as applied because it precluded consideration of mitigating factors, specifically House’s age, level of culpability, and criminal history.The Illinois Supreme Court directed the appellate court to vacate its judgment and to reconsider the effect of its 2018 Harris opinion. On remand, the appellate court denied an agreed motion seeking remand and again vacated House’s sentence. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed in part. The appellate court erroneously held that House’s sentence violated the proportionate penalties clause without a developed evidentiary record or factual findings on the as-applied constitutional challenge. The court vacated the dismissal of the actual innocence claim. View "People v. House" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Yost was charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder in connection with the fatal stabbing of his former girlfriend, Randall. After Yost was convicted, he notified the court that he had just learned that his appointed counsel, Rau, had represented Randall in a past case; he requested a new trial. Rau also filed a motion for a new trial but did not reference Yost’s allegations of a conflict of interest. The court denied the motion and sentenced Yost to 75 years’ imprisonment. After conducting a preliminary inquiry on remand, the trial court concluded that the allegations had merit and appointed new counsel, Lookofsky, to investigate. Yost’s amended motion for a new trial alleged that Rau had represented Randall, on two prior occasions in an unrelated case. Yost waived any conflict of interest based on Lookofsky’s prior hiring of Rau on an unrelated civil matter and any conflict-of-interest claims based on the judge’s prior representation of Yost’s family members.The court concluded that there was no per se conflict of interest, which would have required automatic reversal of the conviction, absent a waiver. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Illinois now recognizes three per se conflicts of interest: when defense counsel has a contemporaneous association with the victim, the prosecution, or an entity assisting the prosecution; when defense counsel contemporaneously represents a prosecution witness; and when defense counsel was a former prosecutor who was personally involved in the defendant's prosecution. Yost did not claim an actual conflict of interest. View "People v. Yost" on Justia Law

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The Kankakee County State’s Attorney authorized the secret recording of a controlled drug purchase between a confidential informant and another individual. Davis was not the person to be recorded. When the informant went to the target’s home, he could not locate him. The informant walked to the porch of a different home and conducted a drug transaction with Davis, which was recorded by a hidden device. At the hearing on Davis’s motion to suppress, the parties agreed that the audio portion of the recording violated the eavesdropping statute. The circuit court granted the motion, finding that there was an illegal overhear conversation between Davis and the informant that took place before the drugs were seen in the video so that the video recording was the fruit of the poisonous tree that must be suppressed and the informant could not testify concerning the drug transaction.The Appellate Court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The informant was a participant in the conversation, so his knowledge of that conversation was not derived from the illegal audio recording; the video recording was made simultaneously with the audio recording and could not have been derived from the audio recording. Because neither the informant’s testimony nor the video recording was obtained as a result of the illegal audio recording, the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine does not apply. The evidence was admissible. View "People v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The 2012 Cook County Firearm Tax Ordinance imposed a $25 tax on the retail purchase of a firearm within Cook County. A 2015 amendment to the County Code included a tax on the retail purchase of firearm ammunition at the rate of $0.05 per cartridge for centerfire ammunition and $0.01 per cartridge for rimfire ammunition. The taxes levied on the retail purchaser are imposed in addition to all other taxes imposed by the County, Illinois, or any municipal corporation or political subdivision. The revenue generated from the tax on ammunition is directed to the Public Safety Fund; the revenue generated from the tax on firearms is not directed to any specified fund or program.Plaintiffs alleged that the taxes facially violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Illinois Constitution concerning the right to bear arms and the uniformity clause, and are preempted by the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act and the Firearm Concealed Carry Act. The trial court rejected the suit on summary judgment. The appellate court affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. To satisfy scrutiny under a uniformity challenge, where a tax classification directly bears on a fundamental right, the government must establish that the tax classification is substantially related to the object of the legislation. Under that level of scrutiny, the firearm and ammunition tax ordinances violate the uniformity clause. View "Guns Save Life, Inc. v. Ali" on Justia Law

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The Illinois State Police obtained warrants to search a personal computer owned by Peoria Police Officer McCavitt, for digital evidence of two unrelated incidents: an aggravated criminal sexual assault and the unauthorized video recording and live video transmission of an unnamed victim. McCavitt was tried and acquitted of the alleged sexual assault before the unauthorized video recording was investigated. Following his acquittal, without seeking a new warrant, the Peoria Police Department searched a copy of the computer’s hard drive, uncovering evidence of the unauthorized video recording. The digital search also uncovered child pornography, which was not mentioned in the warrant. Based on the images, McCavitt was convicted of several counts of child pornography.The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the denial of McCavitt’s motion to suppress. Under the unique facts of this case, the search that uncovered child pornography did not violate McCavitt’s Fourth Amendment rights. The warrant at issue diminished McCavitt’s reasonable expectation of privacy in the images and videos he stored on his computer. When he was acquitted of the sexual assault, his reasonable expectation of privacy in his data relating to that offense was restored. However, the acquittal did not resolve the portion of the warrant that authorized a search for digital evidence of the unauthorized video recording. The post-acquittal computer examination was reasonably directed at obtaining that evidence and the child pornography found during the search was admissible because it was found in plain view. View "People v. McCavitt" on Justia Law

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Taliani was convicted of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(2)) and aggravated battery with a firearm (12-4.2(a)(1)) in relation to the 1994 shooting death of his girlfriend and the shooting and injury of her mother. His direct appeal, two postconviction petitions, and a motion for relief from judgment were all unsuccessful. Taliani sought leave to file a second successive postconviction petition, in which he asserted that he has set forth a colorable claim of actual innocence based on “a change in the law that allows for a new affirmative defense [which] constitutes newly discovered evidence for purposes of an actual innocence claim.” An actual innocence claim must be supported by “newly discovered evidence” and evidence that Taliani took prescription medications that could cause serotonin syndrome was not “newly discovered.” Taliani argued that the affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication based on unwarned side effects from prescription medication was not recognized in Illinois until 2006 and that this newly available affirmative defense constituted “newly discovered evidence.”The circuit court, appellate court, and Illinois Supreme Court denied relief. A new defense is a new theory; it is not new evidence. Taliani presented no newly discovered evidence, such as witness affidavits or other contemporary documentation, that would persuasively show that, at the time of the shootings, he was involuntarily intoxicated and, therefore, lacked the substantial capacity to either appreciate the criminality of his conduct or conform his conduct to the law. View "People v. Taliani" on Justia Law