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02/11/97 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. CHRISTOPHER

February 11, 1997

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CHRISTOPHER BABBINGTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Bertina Lampkin, Judge Presiding.

As Corrected March 11, 1997. Rehearing Denied March 13, 1997. Released for Publication March 31, 1997.

The Honorable Justice McNULTY delivered the opinion of the court. Rakowski and Tully, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcnulty

JUSTICE McNULTY delivered the opinion of the court:

After a jury trial, defendant Christopher Babbington was found guilty of second degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm and sentenced to two 14-year terms, to run concurrently. Defendant appeals, contending that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to rebut his claim of self-defense; (2) he was improperly convicted by a panel of 13 jurors when an alternate juror participated in deliberations; (3) the trial court erred in excluding defendant's prior consistent statement describing the decedent's gun; (4) the trial court erred in excluding evidence that the decedent's gun was not registered in Illinois; (5) the trial court violated defendant's right to a public trial when it excluded an acquitted defendant from the courtroom; (6) the trial court improperly admitted information about the decedent's background into evidence; and (7) the trial court admitted inadmissible hearsay statements made by the decedent. We reverse and remand.

Qadree El-Amin testified that he was the assistant road manager of the singing group Boyz II Men. El-Amin was in charge of security for the group. Roderick Khalil Roundtree, the decedent, was the group's road manager. From May 23 to May 25, 1992, Boys II Men and their entourage and other musical groups and their entourages were staying at the Guest Quarters Hotel in Chicago.

At 5 a.m. on May 25, 1992, El-Amin and his girlfriend, Alisa Watson, were asleep in a room on the twenty-sixth floor of the hotel, one floor below the decedent's suite, when they were awakened by the deceased screaming El-Amin's name. El-Amin testified that the decedent sounded scared. El-Amin told Watson to call security as well as two friends employed as security for the band. El-Amin quickly dressed and ran into the hallway. When El-Amin entered the hallway, he saw the decedent standing half on and half off one of the elevators. El-Amin saw defendant, Kenneth Copeland and Christopher Foley inside the elevator. El-Amin testified that defendant was wearing an expression like "nothing is happening." The decedent appeared to be scared and said, "These guys was [sic] trying to break in my room, what do you all want, what do you all want?" El-Amin said, "Let's take 'em downstairs to security." El-Amin stepped into the elevator. As the doors closed, defendant's expression changed "to more of a suspicious-type person." El-Amin testified that the defendant and the other two men charged at him and the decedent. During the ensuing scuffle, El-Amin saw sparks fly from defendant's direction and heard three gunshots, but did not see a gun. The elevator door opened on the twenty-sixth floor, and defendant and the two other men ran out. El-Amin saw what appeared to be burn marks on the decedent's forehead and bare chest. El-Amin then went to his room and told his girlfriend to call security. El-Amin then headed for the lobby, taking a different elevator. El-Amin then noticed that he had been shot in the knee.

El-Amin picked defendant, Copeland and Foley out of a line up. He indicated that the gunshots came from the left side of the elevator, where defendant was standing.

El-Amin's girlfriend, Alisa Watson, testified that she was asleep in El-Amin's hotel room when she heard the decedent yelling for El-Amin. She testified that the decedent sounded scared, like he needed help. Watson heard the decedent yell, "There are three motherfuckers out here on me."

Joanetta Maddox testified that she was with the decedent in his hotel suite when they were awakened at 5 a.m. by voices in the hallway. The decedent went to the door and spoke to someone in the hallway. A few seconds later, the decedent left the room. Moments later, she heard El-Amin's name called, followed by gunshots.

Craig Brooks testified that he was the road manager for the musical group Hammer and was staying in a suite on the twenty-seventh floor of the hotel, when at 5 a.m., he was awakened by a knock at the door. Defendant, Copeland and Foley were at the door, and they asked Brooks where the party, Hammer and the girls were. Brooks told them that they missed the party and that if they did not see the girls downstairs, the girls must have left. Brooks testified that the men did not appear to be causing problems. Five minutes later, Brooks was told that the decedent's body had been discovered in the elevator.

Hotel security guard Glenda DeBerry testified that on May 25, 1992, she was working the night shift in the lobby, when at 5 a.m., she received a telephone call from a room on the twenty-seventh floor, complaining of noise in the hallway and requesting that she ask the people to keep it down. Heading toward the elevators, she met El-Amin in the lobby and he reported the shooting of the decedent. El-Amin asked her not to call the police, because he and his friends would "handle it." El-Amin told her that he had also been shot and then passed out. Deberry then directed the night auditor to call the police, who arrived in 10 minutes. Deberry walked toward the elevators and saw defendant walk quickly out of the staircase. She did not notice any injuries on defendant.

Leslie Beauzial testified that she and defendant work for Standard Parking Corporation, parking cars at the hotel. Beauzial testified that, at 4 a.m., defendant and two friends arrived at the hotel, left their car in front of the hotel, and entered the hotel lobby. Deberry also saw defendant and his friends return to the car and drive away at a medium fast speed.

Don Stewart, director of security for the hotel, testified that the hotel has a strict policy forbidding employees from being on hotel property when they are off duty.

Adrien Norfleet, a dancer with the musical group Hammer, testified that he was in a room on the twenty-seventh floor of the hotel when he looked out into the hallway and saw three neatly dressed men, whom he identified as defendant, Copeland, and Foley. Soon thereafter, he heard loud talking in the hallway, so he opened his door and saw the decedent escorting the three men to the elevator. Norfleet looked down the elevator shaft and saw the decedent attempting to stop the elevator door from closing on the twenty-sixth floor. He summoned security, but when he returned, he heard three gunshots and the sound of footsteps. Norfleet saw the ...


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