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High Court Juvenile Rulings Permit Conviction Relief Petiton to Move Forward

A convicted killer whose requests for relief of the 50-year stretch he earned in district court have fallen on deaf ears is getting another shot at lessening what Illinois law now labels the de facto life sentence he received at trial. This after appeals judges ruled the man’s case deserves to be heard in light of a pair of recent Illinois Supreme Court (ISC) decisions and despite limits placed on the number of petitions prisoners are permitted to file. They deemed such prison terms counterproductive to institutional goals given the capacity for reform of young offenders and declared their application in such cases unconstitutional.

Darione Ross was 19 when he killed a Bloomington man in an armed robbery in Chicago and saw appeals of both his 2012 conviction and sentencing fail. A judge in Cook County dismissed a petition for relief four years later and a subsequent appeal of that dismissal, in part because Ross failed to mention supporting cases on which the appeal was based in the initial petition. While the panel in the state’s 5th Division agreed that Judge Stanley Sacks was correct in those rulings, they said more recent ISC rulings allow a pro se petition filed by Ross, who overcame drug addiction and earned a high school equivalency degree while incarcerated, to move ahead. They include the 2018 Harris decision that centered on the role of still-developing cognition in crime and rehabilitiation of young offenders. And the Buffer verdict, rendered a year later, in which de facto life sentences were found to violate 8th Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

The appeals court ruling in this case doesn’t guarantee a sentence reduction. However, it offers hope to formerly youthful offenders that have exhausted their right to petition for relief of lengthy sentences under state law they might be grandfathered in thanks to recent ISC decisions. The DuPage County Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Chicagoland Law Firm represent clients in courts around the state, including in petitions for post-conviction relief. We offer prospective clients a free consultation, during which a member of our team of legal professionals will listen to the facts in your case. We can’t offer legal advice until you retain us. When you do, we will put our experience to work in devising and implementing the strategies that our DuPage County Criminal Defense Attorney will employ to achieve the best outcome possible given the facts in your case. We are your best defense