Case of Justin DeRyke May Be Headed Back to Court


Published on April 25 2014 4:53 pm
Written by Wayne Moran

The case of Justin DeRyke, who pled guilty to murdering his niece, 7-year old Willow Long, may be headed back to court.

DeRyke's court-appointed attorney Scott Schmidt filed a motion recently to reconsider DeRyke's life sentence. DeRyke pled guilty to the crime and was sentenced on March 18, but his attorney says the sentence could be unconstitutional under a Public Act for natural life imprisonment. (full text of the statute is available here)

We spoke with Assistant State's Attorney Scott Ealy Friday afternoon, who told us, "this really comes down to legislative science," and that when the legislature passed the act that's in question, the Illinois Supreme Court then struck down the statute, saying the legislature violated the "single-subject rule". The legislature then republished the act (and has several times according to Ealy), and the argument comes down to whether or not the legislature corrected itself after the earlier "single-subject rule" violation.

The single subject rule is explained in this text from Southern Illinois University Law Journal: "The Illinois single subject rule, like versions in most states, limits legislation to one subject. In other words, a piece of legislation that covers more than one subject violates the single subject rule of the Illinois Constitution and is, therefore, unconstitutional."

Judge Kim Koester will review the case, and if the argument is found to be valid, DeRyke could have the option of choosing whether to be re-sentenced, or he could withdraw his guilty plea. If he were to withdraw his plea, the murder case could potentially go back to court for a jury trial. If the sentence is found to be Constitutional, DeRyke's original natural-life sentence would remain as is.

Ealy added that State's Attorney Bryan Kibler says his office, "will continue to seek nothing less than a life sentence for Justin DeRyke."