Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, February 17, 2020

Convicted murderer properly sentenced to natural life, appeals court affirms

State Court

By John Breslin | Oct 1, 2019


A convicted murderer, incarcerated for 37 years, has failed in a bid to have his natural life sentence declared void as an appeals court ruled he was properly sentenced.

Lorenzo Wilson, who killed two men in a "brutal and heinous" manner, argued that the trial judge sentenced him on the basis he committed two murders when the jury found one was involuntary manslaughter, the ruling indicates.

Wilson claimed this should have voided his natural life sentence, an argument rejected by the Fifth District Appellate Court in a Sept. 19 decision affirming one made by Randolph County Associate Judge Eugene Gross.

In a judgment authored by Justice Thomas Welch, with Justices David Overstreet and Mark Boie concurring, it was noted that the plaintiff "continues to argue that the circuit court exceeded its jurisdiction in sentencing him to natural life because the court incorrectly found he had committed two murders, as opposed to one murder and one manslaughter as the jury announced."

This argument, Welch wrote, is barred by res judicata, the principle that a court has properly decided the matter on its merits and where the parties are the same in both actions.

"Where the complaint was insufficient on its face to warrant habeas corpus relief and is barred by res judicata, the circuit court's dismissal of the plaintiff's habeas corpus complaint is affirmed," Welch concluded.

As an alternative to his claim that the sentence of natural life was void, Wilson also asked both the lower and appeals court to "treat the pleadings as a post conviction petition."

This was dismissed by the circuit court, and affirmed by the appeals panel, as well, because his complaint could not be treated as a postconviction petition because he filed it in Randolph County, where he was incarcerated, rather than in Cook County, the county of the original proceeding, as required by the Post Conviction Hearing Act.

Wilson was found guilty following a jury trial of first degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to natural life for the former and 14 years for the latter.

When sentencing, the trial judge found he had gone to a premises with the purpose of killing the pair and that "his actions showed exceptionally brutal and heinous conduct indicative of wanton cruelty."

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