Is Court Authorized to Summarily Dismiss a Post-Conviction Petitions In Capital Cases ?

In People v. Kitchen, 189 Ill. 2d 424, (November 18, 1999), defendant filed a postconviction petition and issued several subpoenas on the Chicago police department. Both the State and the police department moved in court to quash the subpoenas because they were overly broad. Defendant agreed that the subpoenas were too broad and stated he would narrow his request. Defendant then filed a motion for discovery and requested the court to issue five subpoenas. The State objected to the motion, and the court set a date to rule on the discovery motion. On that date, the court did not rule on the discovery motion but sua sponte dismissed defendant's postconviction petition even though the State never filed a motion to dismiss. On direct appeal, the supreme court noted that in capital cases the Post-Conviction Hearing Act ( 725 ILCS 5/122-5 (West 1994)) does not authorize the trial court to summarily dismiss a postconviction petition, but requires the State to answer or move to dismiss the petition once it is docketed. Kitchen, slip op. at 9. The court concluded that the trial court's failure to give defendant notice that it intended to make a substantive ruling on the petition and its failure to follow the statute denied defendant procedural due process and required reversal of the dismissal order. Kitchen, slip. op. at 8-9.