Alton man convicted of murder as teen may not file petition, appeals court rules

By Karen Kidd | Oct 26, 2017

MT. VERNON – An Alton man imprisoned more than 30 years after being sentenced as a teenager in 1986 in the brutal killing of another teen, will not be allowed to file another appeal of his conviction, according to an order handed down by the Fifth District Appellate Court last week.

The appeals court affirmed a Madison County Circuit Court's denial of Garnell Generally's request to file a successive postconviction petition, according to the appeals court order issued Oct. 18

"The defendant did not demonstrate the prejudice necessary to quality to file such a petition, because the defendant’s sentence is not unconstitutional pursuant to the test put forward by the Supreme Court of Illinois," the order said.

The appeals court ruling was unanimous.

Generally, now 50, is serving his life sentence without the possibility of parole at Menard Correctional Center for the 1986 robbery and murder convictions.  

Generally was convicted in the murder of Harold Wayne Staton of Grafton, who was 18 when he was killed Aug. 17, 1985. Generally was then 17.

Staton was chosen at random as a robbery victim by Generally and two others, according to the appeals court order, news reports and other documents. Staton was abducted in Rocks Spring Park in Alton and taken to a rural area along Woods Station Road near Alton, where he was robbed and then beaten to death with a car jack.

Generally was arrested about a week later, and a jury found him guilty the following February.

Madison County Chief Criminal Judge P.J. O'Neill handed down a sentence of natural life without parole on April 4, 1986, after calling the murder "exceptionally brutal" and telling Generally, by then 18, he had no "significant potential for rehabilitation," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the following day. The sentence meant Generally could be released only if he were pardoned or if his sentence was commuted by the governor.

Generally told the judge he had not killed Staton and that he'd been protecting someone else. 

"I'm sorry he's gone," Generally was quoted in the Post-Dispatch story. "But I didn't kill him."

Generally, who is black, also claimed at the time he'd not received a fair trial because no members of the jury that had convicted him had been black. Generally also claimed that the two witnesses against him, who'd participated in Staton's beating, were unreliable. Both were convicted and received lesser sentences.

His court-appointed attorney, James Hackett of Edwardsville, (who went on to become judge and then retired as judge) asked the court for a lesser sentence, saying Generally had suffered racially motivated attacks at the mostly white elementary school he attended and that he'd been sexually abused as a child, according to the Post-Dispatch story.

Following his conviction, Generally exhausted all of his direct appeal options and was likewise unsuccessful in his postconviction petitions challenging his conviction and life sentence. In an April 2014 postconviction petition, Generally claimed his sentence violated the U.S. Supreme Court 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama. In that case, the high court ruled that mandatory sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders and that such convictions violate the Eighth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The Madison County Circuit denied Generally's request for a successive postconviction petition, finding that he failed to demonstrate the required prejudice because his sentence was discretionary, not mandatory, and therefore did not violate Miller ruling. The Circuit Court also denied Generally's motion for reconsideration, and he then appealed to the Fifth District.

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