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April 18, 1994


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable John H. Hourihane, Presiding Judge.

Released for Publication June 7, 1994. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied October 6, 1994.

Manning, Buckley, O'Connor, Jr.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Manning

JUSTICE MANNING delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant Willie Gayfield was charged by indictment No. 88 CR 16825 with first degree murder and armed violence. 720 ILCS 5/9-1, 720 ILCS 5/33-2 (West 1992). Following a jury trial defendant was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 33 years in prison. Defendant appeals from his conviction and sentence.

Defendant raises one issue on the pleadings, contending that the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment on the grounds of judicial estoppel. He further argues that: (1) the trial court erred in allowing a State witness to testify that he was threatened not to testify at trial against defendant; (2) he was denied a fair trial where, during cross-examination, the State made repeated reference to alleged threats made towards a State witness; (3) he was denied a fair trial where comments were made by the prosecutor which implied that "Main" (defendant) was the shooter; (4) the cumulative impact of improper comments by the State deprived defendant of a fair trial; (5) the trial court erred in admitting evidence that the shooting was gang-related; and (6) the trial court erred when during the polling of a juror the court failed to fully inquire when that juror appeared to be ambivalent in his response to the court.

According to the record, on September 18, 1988, Officer Skorodynski was assigned to patrol the 11th district, which included the area of 2417 W. Adams, a Chicago Housing Authority project known as Rockwell Gardens. While on patrol, Skorodynski discovered a body, later identified as Eric Rodgers, lying in front of a building at 2417 W. Adams. He called for an ambulance, checked the body for vital signs, then called for a supervisor and detectives. Officer Skorodynski spoke with Katie Woods, a witness and resident of the housing project. After briefly speaking with Woods, Officer Skorodynski instructed Woods to talk with his supervisor, Sergeant Black, who had arrived at the scene.

Skorodynski testified that the building where the body of Rodgers was found was occupied and controlled by the Disciples street gang, while other buildings in the Rockwell Gardens project were occupied and controlled by the Vice Lords. He further testified that prior to September 18, 1988, there had been many gang related shootings within the housing project.

Katie Woods testified that she and defendant lived in the same building, and that she knew him by the names of Willie Gayfield and "Main." She stated that the day before the murder, she was at defendant's apartment where she saw a silver gun with a brown handle on the couch beside defendant.

Woods stated that about 6 p.m. on the day of the incident, she was inside her apartment, heard three or four shots, looked out of the window where she noticed a body lying on the ground. She then went outside to view the scene and recognized the dead man as Eric Rodgers. Woods testified that she returned to her apartment and defendant entered. She later went back outside, spoke with a police officer, then she and the officer went back inside the apartment. Woods testified that defendant was inside the apartment with two men she called "Country" and "Little Rob." After ordering the three men to place their hands on the table, the officer took the men out of the apartment to the station. Woods testified that the next morning defendant returned to her apartment about 4 a.m.

Officer Mizera testified for the State that on the night of the incident, he assisted Officer Skorodynski in protecting the crime scene at Rockwell Gardens. While performing his duties, he overheard persons in the crowd discuss the shooting and heard someone mention the name "Main," He later spoke with Officer Natualla and several other persons near the crime scene before going to the fifth floor of the building to look for the assailant. Officer Mizera testified that he knocked on several doors and spoke with one woman, but did not arrest any one. Officer Mizera stated that while knocking on the doors he was looking for someone called "Main." Defendant objected to this statement, and the court sustained his objection.

Detective Kato also testified for the State. Kato stated that as a gang specialist, he had identified and monitored gang activity in the area of the Rockwell Housing project, and knew the gang faction to be split into two factions: Folks and People. He testified that the Disciples fell under the Folks and the Vice Lords fell under the People. He asserted that the Disciples and Vice Lords were rival gangs. He further testified that the building located at 2417 West Adams was a building controlled by the Disciples, while the other buildings in the Rockwell Gardens project were all controlled by the Vice Lords.

Detective Kato testified that he had known defendant and his family for six years, and that defendant had admitted to being a Disciple. On September 18, 1988, Kato had a conversation with defendant at the Area 4 headquarters. Defendant was released that same day, but two days later Kato had a conversation with J.D. Mathis, a witness to the shooting, after which he arrested defendant.

J.D. Mathis testified that he was a member of the Disciples street gang, the gang to which defendant also belonged. He stated that about 6 p.m. on September 18, 1988, he went to 2417 West Adams to visit his son. Before entering the building he saw Eric Rodgers. Mathis testified that he had known Rodgers for 10 years, and knew Rodgers to be a member of the Vice Lords. Mathis testified that the building at 2417 West Adams was controlled by the Disciples, but that Rodgers was usually allowed to enter the building because his daughter lived there.

Mathis testified that he talked with Rodgers before entering the building. Mathis' back faced away from the building, while Rodgers' back faced toward the building as the two men spoke. Mathis testified that he saw defendant exit the building, and once defendant was within two feet of Rodgers, defendant shot Rodgers. Mathis testified that defendant had a .38 caliber gun in his hand, which he had seen defendant with prior to the shooting.

Mathis stated that after defendant shot the victim he reentered the building through the back entrance. Rodgers' body at that time lay on the ground. Mathis testified that he went into the building and called his father. Mathis did not call the police immediately, but did call them two days later.

Glen Rodgers testified that Eric Rodgers was his brother and that the two grew up in the 2417 West Adams building. He stated that Eric would visit with his daughter who lived in the building. Glen testified that he had known defendant and his family for about 18 years, and knew defendant to be a member of the Disciples. He stated that he worried about Eric entering the 2417 building because Eric was a member of the Vice Lords and the building was controlled by the Disciples.

Detective Hanrahan testified that he had been an Area 4 violent crimes detective for 12 years. He stated that on September 18, 1988, he was assigned to investigate the shooting of Eric Rodgers. Hanrahan stated that when he arrived at 2417 West Adams, Eric Rodgers' body was lying on the ground. Hanrahan stated that one of the tests he could have requested to be performed by the evidence technician was a gunshot residue test. He stated that he did not request that a test be performed on defendant because he has found the test to be unreliable.

Latero Jones testified on behalf of defendant. Jones was 15 years old at the time of trial, had pleaded guilty to the murder of Eric Rodgers, and was incarcerated in the Juvenile Department of Corrections. He testified that he had previously lied to the court when he pled guilty to the murder of Rodgers. Jones had earlier testified during his plea hearing that he assisted Richard Cooks in murdering Eric Rodgers by pointing Rodgers out to Cooks. He stated that his testimony to the court that he assisted Richard Cooks, his cousin, in murdering Rodgers was not true.

Jones also testified that he lied to the police when he was taken into custody because he was afraid that he might be killed when he was released. Jones stated at trial that he considered defendant a good friend, and because defendant had more seniority in the gang and was the older of the two, he believed it was his responsibility to take the blame in order to protect defendant.

Jones stated that about one hour prior to the murder of the victim, he was present with defendant and other gang members when a Discussion occurred about the pending murder and who would take the blame for it. Jones testified that at that time, it was decided that Richard Cooks would "take the fall" for the murder because he was the youngest member of the gang and would serve the least amount of time.

During trial, it was stipulated that if Cynthia Jones were called to testify, she would state that prior to the shooting, she saw Eric Rodgers talking to J.D. Mathis outside the front entrance of the building where Rodgers was murdered. The parties also stipulated that Cynthia would testify that she heard the gunshots, looked outside the building and saw a body lying on ...

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