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People v. Dorsey (July 2021)

RULING: Good conduct credit is a relevant factor in determining whether a juvenile's sentence constitutes a de facto life sentence.

People v. Dorsey (July 2021)

Derrell Dorsey was 14 when he was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Derrell received a 76-year aggregate sentence, which he challenged in 2000 arguing his sentence was excessive because his original sentence did not consider his age and rehabilitative potential. The appellate court upheld his sentence, concluding the trial court appropriately considered Derrell’s age.

After several more appeals over the course of 20 years, Derrell appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. He argued that because he committed his offense at 14 years old, his sentence is an unconstitutional de facto life sentence under Miller and Buffer. Further, Derrell argued his eligibility for sentencing credit is not part of his sentence and should not be considered when deciding whether to give him a post conviction petition.

The majority held good conduct credit is relevant when determining whether a juvenile’s sentence counts as a de facto life sentence. The court stated, “the Eighth Amendment allows juvenile offenders to be sentenced to life without parole as long as the sentence is not mandatory and the sentencing court had discretion to consider youth and its attendant characteristics.” The court explains the statutory scheme for good time credit “requires” that a person receive one day of credit for each day served, so it “allows a predictable, fairly accurate assessment at the time of sentencing of the ultimate length of imprisonment.” In Derrell’s case, he “has an opportunity to demonstrate maturity and rehabilitation so that he only needs to serve 38 years of his aggregate 76-year sentence.” Meaning, his sentence does not violate Buffer’s 40-year de facto sentence limitation, nor does it violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, Derrell’s motion to file a successive post conviction petition was denied.

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