People v. Pacheco

NJDC joins Juvenile Law Center, the Loyola Civitas Childlaw Center, and several other organizations, in filing an amicus brief at the Illinois Supreme Court challenging Illinois’s automatic transfer statute, and the consequent imposition of mandatory sentences on minors. Amici argued that the automatic exclusion from juvenile court of 15- and 16-year-olds charged with felony murder or murder by accountability, and the subsequent imposition of mandatory sentences on these minors, violates due process, the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the Illinois Constitution’s proportionate penalties clause.

In this case, Ms. Pachecho was convicted of first degree murder and robbery (by accountability—felony murder), and possession of a stolen vehicle; she was 16 at the time of the offenses.

Amici argued in support of the petition, citing heavily to Roper v. Simmons/Graham v. Florida/Miller v. Alabama and the adolescent development and brain research that underlie those decisions. Amici asserted that the Illinois statutory scheme at issue in this case is constitutionally infirm, because it fails to take defendant‘s youthfulness into account and denies the juvenile offender a chance to demonstrate growth and maturity. Amici argued that the United States Supreme Court’s reasoning about youth is not limited to a type of crime, sentence, or constitutional protection, but rather makes clear that the distinction between adolescents and adults is constitutionally relevant in a variety of contexts. This is particularly relevant as it relates to automatic transfer for felony murder (or murder by accountability as it is termed in Illinois), given adolescents’s lesser capability to foresee consequences in stressful circumstances. Amici also pointed out that Illinois is an outlier in that it is one of only 15 jurisdictions (14 states and D.C.) that do not provide juvenile defendants the opportunity for judicial review before being tried in adult court. Additionally, amici noted that the fact that several hundred organizations have denounced the automatic exclusion of youth from juvenile court jurisdiction and the subsequent mandatory adult sentencing implications, demonstrates the general importance of the question presented.

Court: Illinois Supreme Court
November 27, 2013 (download .pdf)
Amicus Brief Discusses: Automatic Transfer; Mandatory Sentencing

Oral Argument: Pending
: Pending