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People v. Foster

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Bloomberg Law

Brief Fact Summary.

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, James Foster (Defendant), was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery and sentenced to an extended term of six years imprisonment.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The Illinois conspiracy statute requires the actual agreement of at least two persons to support a conspiracy conviction.


On September 28, 1981, the Defendant approached John Ragsdale (Ragsdale) in a Rantoul bar and asked him if he was interested in making some money. The Defendant told Ragsdale about an elderly man named A.O. Hendrick (Hendrick) who was in possession of many valuables. Although Ragsdale told the defendant he was interested in making some money, Ragsdale did not initially believe that the Defendant was serious about the plan until the defendant returned to the bar the next day and discussed the plan in detail. In an effort to gather additional information, Ragsdale decided to feign agreement to the defendant’s plan. On October 1, the Defendant went to Ragsdale’s house to find out if Ragsdale was ready to carry out the plan. Since Ragsdale wanted to phone the police, Ragsdale told the Defendant that he was not yet ready to carry out the plan. Later, Ragsdale informed the police of the planned robbery on October 3. Subsequently, Ragsdale and defendant met at Hendrick’s residence an
d were arrested by the police.


Can a conspiracy conviction stand, under a unilateral theory of conspiracy that allows for only one of the alleged conspirators to need to agree to the commission of an offense?


Illinois Revised Statute, 1981, Chapter 38, Paragraph 8-2 encompasses a bilateral theory of conspiracy, requiring the actual agreement of at least two conspirators. As a result, the decision of the Appellate Court shall stand and the Defendant’s conviction in the lower court shall be reversed.


The court focused on the construction of the new, revised Illinois conspiracy statute. The court noted that the statute had previously been known as providing for unilateral conspiracy. However, the state argued that unilateral conspiracy had been substituted for bilateral with the amendment. But, as the court noted, they were doubtful that the drafters would have changed the law of conspiracy without making a notation in the comments to the relevant statutory section. Further, the court noted that the rules of statutory construction required resolution of statutory ambiguities in favor of criminal defendants.

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