Illinois Supreme Court Decision Spurs Review of Attempted Murder Cases

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Gordon

Lake County prosecutors are studying last week's decision by the Illinois Supreme Court striking down the "15-20-Life" sentencing enhancement in attempted murder cases to determine if any local sentences may be affected.

The Illinois Supreme Court found that the enhancement - which adds 15 years to an attempted murder sentence if the defendant had a gun, 20 years if he fired the gun and 25 years to life if a bullet fired did great bodily harm or caused permanent disfigurement - illegal because it violates the proportionate penalties clause of the state constitution.

With the sentencing enhancement in place, someone convicted of attempted murder using a gun that did great bodily harm or caused permanent disfigurement would face a minimum prison sentence of 31 years - the six-year minimum for attempted murder plus the minimum 25-year enhancement.

By contrast, a person convicted of killing someone with something other that a gun who could establish he acted under extreme provocation or while possessing an unreasonable belief his actions were necessary for defense would be guilty of second-degree murder and face a penalty no more severe than 20 years in prison.

Trying to do something should never be punished more severely than actually doing it, Chief Justice Mary Ann McMorrow wrote in the majority opinion.

"The defendant who possesses a gun with the intent to kill and takes a substantial step toward murder will be subject to a sentencing range where the minimum sentence is one year greater than the maximum sentence available if the same defendant actually fired the gun and caused the victim's death," she said. "Moreover, the irony is that the person who fails to kill his victim stands to be sentenced to a much greater sentence than the person who actually causes the death of his victim."

Deputy State's Attorney Jeff Pavletic said a review of attempted murder cases involving guns that were sentenced after the enhancement took effect on Jan. …