Judge questions constitutionality of resentencing law as prosecutors ask him to reconsider case of convicted burglar

“What’s changed? He’s done well in prison so far?” Judge Stanley Sacks asked prosecutors in court Thursday. “… When a person is in prison and he’s doing well, why is that a reward? He should do well.”

SHARE Judge questions constitutionality of resentencing law as prosecutors ask him to reconsider case of convicted burglar
Associate Cook County Judge Stanley Sacks.

Associate Cook County Judge Stanley Sacks.

Provided

A Cook County judge Thursday questioned why a convicted felon’s good behavior in prison should be “rewarded” by reducing his sentence — particularly when he’s already expected to be released next year — and whether it would even be constitutional for a judge to do so. 

Judge Stanley Sacks appeared skeptical on both points as prosecutors asked him to reconsider two prison terms he had personally handed down to convicted burglar Charles Miles a decade ago. 

“What’s changed? He’s done well in prison so far?” Sacks challenged prosecutors. “… When a person is in prison and he’s doing well, why is that a reward? He should do well.”

Last week, the state’s attorney’s office filed motions requesting resentencing hearings for Miles and two other men under a new state law that allows prosecutors to petition a judge to reconsider a sentence when prosecutors no longer believe it “advances the interests of justice.”

The law was signed last summer by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and states judges can consider a person’s record of rehabilitation while incarcerated, as well as other factors like their age and current physical condition to determine if justice is better served by their early release. 

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced last Friday that her office would use the new power to launch a “resentencing initiative” and partner with a California-based nonprofit to analyze state prison data to identify potential cases. 

Charles Miles

Charles Miles

Illinois Department of Corrections

Foxx argued resentencing inmates would address “the fact that many Black and Brown people are still incarcerated today under failed policies of the past, even though they have been rehabilitated and pose little threat to public safety,” and save the state money that could be used elsewhere.

But none of the three men prosecutors have motioned for resentencing are expected to be incarcerated past next year.

Larry Frazier, 63, who was convicted in 1995 of home invasion and sentenced to 60 years in prison, has the longest remaining sentence — but he’s expected to be released in November 2023, state prison records show.

During a hearing Wednesday at the Markham Courthouse, Judge Brian Flaherty indicated the process to reevaluate Frazier’s sentence could be a long one. Unlike Sacks, Flaherty wasn’t the judge who sentenced Frazier, and he requested prosecutors provide volumes of court records from the original case and its appeals for him to review. 

Prosecutors actually had to withdraw one of the three motions Thursday at a different hearing because the defendant will likely be released before the judge would make a ruling. 

Assistant State’s Attorney Nancy Adduci told Judge Timothy Joyce that prosecutors had since received “new information” that Roland Reyes was expected to get out of prison as early as next week after serving his full sentence for an aggravated robbery conviction.

It no longer seemed worth the court’s time to consider it, Adduci admitted.  

Though Miles will be incarcerated longer than Reyes, he only has a little more than a year left on his original sentence, according to state records. 

“He’s out in May next year, correct? ... I’m just curious why he needs a resentencing hearing,” the judge asked.

Sacks added that he wasn’t even sure that he had the authority to effectively commute Miles’ sentence even if he wanted to, since that power is solely held by the governor.

“Is it constitutional?” Sacks asked of the law. “Isn’t this something for the governor to do? Why do you think I can do that?”

Sacks told prosecutors he expected them to be able to make an argument for the constitutionality of the law at Miles’ resentencing hearing.

But at least in Miles’ case, Sacks appeared ready to move quickly, setting a hearing for May 5. The outcome, though, is up in the air.

“We’ll see,” the judge said dryly. 

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