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08/14/89 the People of the State of v. Johnnie L. Colson Et Al.

August 14, 1989





543 N.E.2d 282, 187 Ill. App. 3d 423, 135 Ill. Dec. 47 1989.IL.1244

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas A. Hett, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE MANNING delivered the opinion of the court. QUINLAN and O'CONNOR, JJ., concur.


Defendants, Johnnie L. Colson and Johnny Brown, were charged by indictment with attempted murder, murder, aggravated battery, armed robbery and armed violence. Brown filed a motion to suppress his statements which was denied after an evidentiary hearing. Following a bench trial both defendants were convicted of murder. *fn1 The trial court imposed sentences of 30 years' and 25 years' imprisonment, respectively, against Brown and Colson. In this consolidated appeal, Brown asserts that his motion to suppress statements was improperly denied, and based thereon, that he should be granted a new trial. Additionally, both defendants contend that the evidence was insufficient to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, that their right to due process was denied when the trial court improperly shifted the burden of proof of self-defense to the defendants, and that they were denied effective assistance of counsel.

During the evidentiary hearing on Brown's motion to suppress, both Officers Michael Cronin and Robert Drozd testified. Officer Cronin testified that he advised Brown of his Miranda rights before he and Officer Drozd arrested Brown at 11:30 a.m., on May 18, 1984, at 8148 South Drexel in Chicago, and transported him to the police station. Both policemen denied that they threatened Brown or promised him leniency or that Brown stated that he wanted to remain silent.

Brown testified that at 11:30 a.m. on May 18, 1984, he was awakened by Officer Cronin, ordered from his bed, and advised that he was being arrested for murder. He further testified that four police officers were present at the arrest scene and none of them advised him of his Miranda rights. Brown testified that he was interrogated for 10 minutes before being permitted to dress, and when he was escorted to the squad car, his head was "bumped" into the roof of the car by one of the police officers. He stated that Officer Drozd then said "it would be easier" if Brown told them where the gun was and that if he did not he would be dragged outside the car to the police station or would be pushed down the "elevator shaft" at 2417 West Adams. He testified that he was driven past 2417 West Adams en route to the police station. Officer Cronin also urged Brown to confess. Shortly before 8 p.m. a detective and an assistant State's Attorney questioned Brown, but he refused to make a statement. After a uniformed policeman advised Brown of his Miranda rights, he was placed in a six-person lineup. During the lineup, while Brown observed that some conversation took place between a witness and a policeman, he was unable to discern what was being said. The witness and officer were only about five feet away from Brown.

Brown added that at 11 p.m., on May 18, 1984, he denied any knowledge of the shooting or that he had been at 2417 West Adams at the time of the incident. However, the policemen continued to question him and would not permit him to make a telephone call or leave. Detectives Thomas Blomstrand and James Griffin also testified. Detective Blomstrand stated that on the evening of May 16, 1984, he displayed a photograph array, which included Brown's picture, to Reginald Jett, Reuben Ivy and Steven Thomas. Each of them separately identified Brown.

Detective Griffin testified that at 8:55 p.m., on May 18, 1984, he conducted a lineup in which Brown participated, and two witnesses, who separately viewed the lineup, identified Brown. Detective Griffin denied that he spoke with either witness during the lineup. After the lineup, Detective Griffin advised Brown that he had been identified. When Detective Griffin and Assistant State's Attorney Frank Gaughan advised Brown of his Miranda rights, he continued to deny any knowledge of the crime.

At the trial, the testimony of Reginald Jett, James Williams, and Reuben Ivy was similar. Each stated that on May 16, 1984, he was a member of the Disciples street gang. At 4 p.m. on that date, Jett, Williams, Ivy, and the victim, Paul Jefferson, a non-gang member, as well as others, were "pitching pennies" and talking outside the apartment building located at 2417 West Adams in the Rockwell Gardens public housing complex. Willie Cason, another Disciple who was nearby, "yelled out." The victim and other Disciples, excluding Cason, then ran into the building. Jett, Williams and Ivy then observed defendants, who were members of the rival Vice Lord street gang, enter the building.

According to Jett, when the defendants entered the building Colson fired a shotgun into the first-floor ceiling, at which time Jett and his companions ran to the seventh-floor porch. The victim, who was carrying a radio, rested on a window sill while other Disciples conversed on the porch. Then when both defendants appeared on the seventh floor, James Williams hollered, "Look out, run, run." Brown then fired a pistol at the Disciples as they fled from the seventh-floor porch. Later, Jett returned to the porch and observed the victim lying on the floor but his radio was gone. Subsequently, Jett toured the area with policemen in their squad car. He identified Colson, who was brought to the squad car in which Jett was riding. Jett testified that two days later he identified Brown in a five-man lineup as the man who shot at the Disciples on the seventh floor. Jett indicated that he and his companions were unarmed at the time of the incident.

James Williams, a 17-year-old whose background included a conviction for burglary, testified that on May 16, 1984, while on the playground at 2417 West Adams, he and "others" were told by Willie Cason that the Vice Lords were coming. The Disciples ran into the 2417 West Adams building, but he did not see anything in either defendants' hands when they entered the building. However, when Williams reached the ramp on the fifth floor, he observed defendants remove their jackets and saw Colson pull out a shotgun and Brown a handgun. Williams ran up to the seventh floor where the victim and other Disciples had gathered. Williams then heard more gunshots and observed Brown coming up the stairs to the seventh floor with a gun, and Colson with a shotgun. Williams hollered "break," and he ran into a stairwell at which time he observed the victim seated on a window sill. Shortly thereafter, Williams returned to the seventh floor, where he observed the victim lying on the floor and his radio was gone.

Reuben Ivy testified that when he and the other Disciples fled into 2417 West Adams insults were exchanged between the defendants and Disciples. Ivy proceeded to the seventh floor where the victim sat with his radio on a window sill and other Disciples had gathered. Ivy then saw Brown coming up the middle staircase, enter the seventh floor, and put his hand into his pants, at which time the Disciples ran. Ivy heard several gunshots as he fled to the twelfth floor, ...

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