Illinois Appellate Court Issues Major Decision for Intellectually Disabled Adult

Illinois Appellate Court Issues Major Decision for Intellectually Disabled Adult

Yesterday, the First District Illinois Appellate Court issued a major decision in People of the State of Illinois v. William Coty, 2018 IL App (1st) 162383, https://,  that sentencing an intellectually disabled adult with an IQ score between 55 and 65 to 50 years in the penitentiary for predatory criminal sexual assault of a minor constituted a de facto natural life sentence and was unconstitutional.

The Appellate Court, relying on evolving jurisprudence which prohibits the imposition of de jure and de facto mandatory and discretionary sentences for juveniles when the court fails to consider the attendant characteristics of youth, extended that prohibition to intellectually disabled adults.

In Coty, the defendant was first sentenced to natural life. The Appellate Court remanded for resentencing believing that the sentence was too harsh in light of the defendant’s actions and intellectual abilities. Coty was then resentenced to 50 years with no new evidence presented with the exception of an updated presentence report. Coty appealed, stating that his sentence amounted to another life sentence.

The Court agreed, stating that intellectually disabled individuals, just like juveniles are less culpable where the deficiencies may diminish that culpability. It stated that although such persons may understand the difference between right and wrong, the deficiencies by nature entail diminished capacities to understand, communicate, learn from mistakes and engage in logical reasoning. The Court also acknowledged that such individuals may unwittingly falsely confess to crimes they did not commit.

In its decision, the Court vacated the defendant’s sentence, remanded the matter to a different judge and suggested that the defendant’s counsel have the defendant’s mental health evaluated as to the defendant’s progress or lack thereof in custody. The Court further directed the trial court to “give serious consideration to the attendant characteristics of the defendant’s intellectual disability and the fact that this disability ‘diminish(es) both (his) culpability and the need for retribution’ particularly in the context of this, a nonhomicide offense.”  Additionally, the Court reminded the trial court that if the defendant’s fitness to be sentenced is at issue, an evaluation and hearing should take place.

The Court acknowledged that the Illinois Supreme Court has not decided this issue but outlined Illinois and United States Supreme Court cases which illustrate the evolving jurisprudence treating juveniles and intellectually disabled as less culpable for their actions.

Lori G. Levin

Attorney at Law

180 N. LaSalle, Suite 3700

Chicago, IL 60601


[email protected]


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