People v. Reyes, No. 119271, 2016 WL 5239589 (Ill. Sept. 22, 2016) – Defendant, age 16 at the time of the crime, was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree murder and attempted murder. He received the mandatory minimum sentence of 45 years’ imprisonment for the first-degree murder conviction, to be served consecutively to sentences of 26 years’ imprisonment for each of the attempted murder convictions. This resulted in a mandatory minimum aggregate sentence of 97 years’ imprisonment; pursuant to the truth in sentencing statute, defendant would be required to serve a minimum of 89 years of the 97-year sentence before he would be eligible for release. Defendant challenged his sentence as a de facto mandatory life-without-parole sentence that violated the Eighth Amendment under Miller and its progeny. The State took the position that the Miller rationale applied, as here, to a mandatory term-of-years sentence that ‘indisputable amounts’ to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a single offense or for offenses committed in a single course of conduct. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed: “A mandatory term-of-years sentence that cannot be served in one lifetime has the same practical effect on a juvenile defendant’s life as would an actual mandatory sentence of life without parole—in either situation, the juvenile will die in prison. Miller makes clear that a juvenile may not be sentenced to a mandatory, unsurvivable term without first considering in mitigation his youth, immaturity, and potential for rehabilitation.”
Here, the defendant committed offenses in a single course of conduct that subjected him to a legislatively mandated sentence of 97 years, pursuant to which he would be in prison until at least age 105 – he would almost certainly not life long enough to ever become eligible for release. Such a sentence constituted a mandatory, de facto life-without-parole sentence. The Illinois Supreme Court held that sentencing a juvenile offender to a mandatory term of years that is the functional equivalent of life without the possibility of parole constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Accordingly, it vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing pursuant to the sentencing scheme court in section 5-4.5-105. (In applying the new scheme, the court would have the discretion not to apply firearm sentencing enhancements such that the defendant would be subject to a 32-year mandatory minimum sentence only; the Court explained that this mandatory term was not a de facto life sentence and, therefore, such a resentencing would be appropriate.) Reversed and remanded for resentencing.