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March 12, 1997



Released for Publication April 24, 1997. As Corrected March 24, 1997.

Presiding Justice Cousins delivered the opinion of the court. Cahill and Leavitt, *fn2 JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cousins

PRESIDING JUSTICE COUSINS delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant Kareem Groves was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder and possession of a stolen motor vehicle. The trial court sentenced defendant to 60 years' imprisonment for the murder conviction, to run concurrently with seven years' imprisonment for possession of a motor vehicle. On appeal, defendant contends that: (1) he was denied effective assistance of counsel; (2) the prosecutor improperly shifted the burden of proof during closing arguments; and (3) he was denied a fair trial where a judge other than the trial judge conducted the voir dire.


The State charged Kareem Groves and codefendant Lamont Warren with two counts of first degree murder. The trial court granted Kareem Groves motion for severance. The trial court also granted defendant's motion to consolidate a separate indictment charging defendant with possession of a stolen motor vehicle. At the jury trial, Deborah Spraggs (Spraggs) testified that, at approximately 2 a.m., on August 3, 1993, she was sitting on the trunk of a parked car in the vicinity of 5538 West Congress in Chicago, talking to a friend, Kareem Williams (Williams). Xavier Jasper (Jasper) drove up while Spraggs and Williams were talking. Jasper stopped his car and talked with them until a policeman directed Jasper to move along. While Williams and Spraggs talked, Spraggs noticed a car pull up and park. The car came from the westbound direction on Congress and parked at a distance of two or three car lengths behind Williams, who was sitting on the front of a car facing Spraggs. Spraggs made an in-court identification of the defendant as the driver of the car. Spraggs stated that the defendant wore a black and blue, short-sleeve, hooded shirt. Defendant called to Williams, "Hey, man." Williams responded, "What's up?" Defendant then walked towards Williams and said, "Ain't you the nigger that chased me the other day?" After Williams responded "No," defendant, standing approximately three feet away, drew a shot gun, cocked it back and said, "Yeah, you was" and shot Williams in the head. Defendant then walked back to the car and entered the driver's side. Spraggs testified that she saw two heads in the back seat of the car defendant was driving. As the victim lay shaking on the ground, Spraggs ran for help.

Spraggs also testified that defendant and a couple of his friends were chased out of the neighborhood by the victim and the victim's cousin just days before the murder. Spraggs also testified that the victim was "associated with" the Four Corner Hustlers street gang, which is a part of the Vice Lord street gang. Spraggs positively identified defendant in a lineup on the day of the shooting.

Jasper testified that, after he had been told by police to move his car, he parked in front of his house approximately one-half block away from where Spraggs and the victim were talking. While he sat in his parked car talking to a friend, he heard a shot and noticed an oncoming car in his rearview mirror. Jasper testified that the car was an Oldsmobile Cutlass, burgundy in color with no license plates. The car moved westbound until Central Avenue, where it turned left and headed south. Jasper did not see the occupants of the car.

Leon Bentley (Bentley) also testified that he heard gunfire as he left his house at 5518 West Congress. He was the victim's cousin. He testified that a shot came from a westerly direction, a couple of houses down. When Bentley looked down the street, he saw a male with a blue hood and a 12 or 20-gauge shotgun get into the driver's side of the car. Bentley described the car as a burgundy, four-door Cutlass. Bentley also testified that he saw an individual named Darnell Warren (Darnell) in the back seat of the Cutlass. *fn1 Bentley stated that a few days before the shooting, he and Williams had chased Darnell and two other persons down Congress toward Central Avenue. Bentley testified that Darnell was a member of the Maniac Latin Disciples, a rival gang of the Four Corner Hustlers.

Chicago police detectives Wojcik and Ricco were assigned to the Williams homicide. Pursuant to the investigation, Detective Wojcik spoke to a person named "Tremelle." From Tremelle, police received an address where they could locate defendant. Detectives Wojcik and Ricco, along with Chicago police detective Gawrys went to 5504 West Congress. After the building manager opened the rear gate, Detectives Wojcik and Ricco went to the front of the building, while Detective Gawrys stayed in the back.

Detective Gawrys testified that, while he was in the back of the building, a car pulled into the alley. Detective Gawrys walked into the gangway and hid against a garage. He saw a maroon Oldsmobile attempting to park in the alley. Detective Gawrys testified that he knew one of the individuals to be Lamont Warren (Lamont) and the driver looked like the defendant. As the driver parked the car, Detective Gawrys could see that the rear window on the driver's side was broken. As the driver exited the car, the detective saw that the steering wheel column was peeled. When the driver got out of the car, he took a bag from the back seat. Detective Gawrys then moved away from the gangway and went underneath the porch. From underneath the porch, the detective watched defendant drop a bag over the fence at 5504 West Congress and then defendant and Lamont Warren jumped over the fence. After they jumped over the fence, Detective Gawrys announced his office and defendant and Lamont stopped. Detective Gawrys testified that at this point he heard footsteps running away. Detective Gawrys then went back to the car in the alley and saw the column peeled, the window broken, and the trunk lock appeared to have been pulled. After running the license plate, the police learned that the car had been reported stolen. Defendant and Lamont Warren were then placed under arrest. Detectives Gawrys and Ricco drove the suspects to the police station, and Detective Wojcik took the bag and drove the Oldsmobile to the station.

Following an interview with defendant, detectives went to defendant's mother's residence at 3018 West Flournoy, pursuant to a consent-to-search form signed by defendant. Detectives searched defendant's bedroom. Defendant's mother would not authorize any additional search of the premises. No gun was recovered. Gawrys further testified that on the night of the shooting, Xavier Jasper and Deborah Spraggs viewed a lineup. Jasper made no identification, but Spraggs identified defendant.

Officer Theatrice Patterson, a fingerprint examiner, testified that none of the prints recovered from the car matched those of defendant or Darnell Warren. However, prints from the vent window and the exterior driver's door glass matched those of Lamont Warren.

Detective Wojcik testified that Spraggs was shown various articles of clothing that were taken out of the bag. She identified a hooded shirt and a pair of pants, but said she was not sure about the pants. Detective Wojcik also testified that, at the 25th district parking lot, Jasper identified the Oldsmobile as the car he had seen at the time of the shooting. Spraggs was unable to identify the car. Detective Wojcik subsequently went back to the defendant's apartment building and found an expended 20-gauge shotgun shell in a bush in an empty lot below the landing of the rear porch.

It was stipulated between the parties that, if called to testify, Caesar Torres would testify that he was the owner of the 1980 red, four-door Oldsmobile Cutlass. On August 2, 1993, his car was parked at 2556 West Wabanasia Avenue at 2 p.m., and when he returned to that location at approximately 5 a.m., his car was gone. When Torres identified his car at the police station, the car now had a broken rear vent window, a peeled column, and a punched-out trunk lock.

Officer Treacy testified as an expert in the field of firearms identification. He testified that the fragments found in the victim were classified as being No. 4 leadshot. He also identified the wadding cup found at the crime scene to be a 20-gauge wadding cup. He testified that the recovered shell was a 20-gauge federal No. 4 shotgun shell.

Defendant's motion for a directed verdict was denied. For the defense, defendant's mother, Alice Groves, testified that defendant stayed at her house three or four times a week. She testified that, on August 3, 1993, at approximately 11 a.m., the police knocked on her front door and told her that they had permission from defendant to search his room. She testified that she saw defendant's signature but saw no address typed on the form. When the police asked her to sign a consent-to-search form, she refused. She also stated that police told her that they were looking for a gold chain that was taken in a robbery. She also testified that the police never told her they were looking for a shotgun or that they were there pursuant to a homicide investigation.

According to defendant's mother, the police did not just search defendant's room, but they also searched the living room, her daughter's room and the heating system in the utility room. She testified that she refused to allow the police to search her room. Ms. Groves further testified that the police took a photograph from her home. She then called the police and spoke to Detective Ricco and asked why it was taken. She testified that, three days later, Detective Ricco came back to her house and returned the photo.

Ms. Groves testified that, at the time of the offense, defendant was at her house. She stated that on August 2, 1993, defendant left the house between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Defendant returned a little after midnight, and she let him in because she was the only one in the household with a key. She stated that, between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m., she did not notice defendant leave the apartment. She testified that defendant would have had to come past her room to leave through the back door, but not if he left through the front door. According to defendant's mother, she did not go to sleep until 3 a.m.

Ms. Groves also testified that when defendant got home, he took the television from her room and brought it down the hallway into his room. She also stated that she heard defendant talking to her daughter's boyfriend. She awoke at approximately 6 or 7 a.m. the next morning to a knock on the back door. After she unlocked the door, she let Darnell Warren, Lamont Warren and another person whose name she could not recall into the house. The three men sat at the table while Ms. Groves went to wake defendant.

She testified that she saw Darnell Warren and defendant go into the bathroom. After they left the bathroom, both of them went into defendant's room. Defendant and the other men then went out the back door, and she locked the door behind them. Ms. Groves also testified that she gave defendant a brown plastic bag with a yellow strap for his laundry. She stated that the short-sleeve, hooded shirt was not in defendant's laundry bag. After being shown the shirt that had been identified by Spraggs as the one that had been worn ...

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