Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed October 18, 2012


 

 

 

People v. Lara, 2012 IL 112370

Appellate citation: 408 Ill. App. 3d 732.

 

      CHIEF JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Justices Freeman, Garman, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Thomas specially concurred, with opinion.

 

      This Cook County defendant was charged with committing two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault on an eight-year-old girl on two separate dates in January of 2005, when he was 19. The location of the incidents was his mother’s apartment, where the girl was sleeping on the floor after having been brought overnight for babysitting by defendant’s mother. He gave a confession, which was admitted into evidence, and the girl gave statements and also testified at trial. The jury convicted him of both offenses and he received consecutive terms of 10 and 8 years.

      The confession admitted that he had penetrated the victim, an element of the offenses, but his testimony at trial denied any inappropriate behavior. On appeal, he argued that the confession should not have been admitted because it was not sufficiently corroborated by independent evidence as required by the rule of corpus delicti. The appellate court held that this rule required the State to produce independent evidence of the elements of penetration (which the girl’s descriptions did not), and that insufficient independent evidence was presented to support the convictions. It reduced them to the lesser-included offenses of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and remanded for resentencing.

      On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court did not agree with the appellate court on the interpretation of the corpus delicti rule, holding that the State need not present independent evidence corroborating every element of the charged offenses before a defendant’s statement may be used to prove the corpus delicti. Here, the supreme court found, the independent evidence was sufficient to permit the defendant’s confession to be presented at trial.

      However, there were two issues which the appellate court had not reached, namely, whether defendant’s request for a jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of aggravated criminal sexual abuse had been improperly denied and, if it was not required, whether his combined 18-year term for the two predatory criminal sexual assault convictions was excessive. The cause was remanded to the appellate court for its consideration of these issues.