The Oddly Perverse Consequences of Mandatory Sentencing Enhancements
Falkoff, Marc D.
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In June, the Illinois 2nd District Appellate Court reversed the first-degree murder conviction of defendant Gareng Deng under rather unusual circumstances. Deng, who pleaded guilty to a killing in 2009 in exchange for 35 years in prison, argued that his conviction should be overturned because the sentencing judge had given him too lenient a sentence – and the appellate panel agreed. People v. Deng, 2013 IL App (2d) 111089 (2013). The counterintuitive ruling was in accord with Illinois decisional law, under which sentences falling outside of statutory maximums or minimums are deemed “void” from the outset. People v. White, 953 N.E.2d 398, 403 (Ill. 2011). This particular prison sentence was illegal because a mandatory sentencing enhancement (which would add at least 25 more years for using a firearm) was overlooked by the prosecution, defense and judge.