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03/21/97 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. JOHNNIE DANIELS

March 21, 1997

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JOHNNIE DANIELS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 93-CR-09771. Honorable James Zafiratos, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication April 24, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Theis delivered the opinion of the court. Hoffman and O'brien, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Theis

JUSTICE THEIS delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant Johnnie Daniels was tried for first degree murder and armed robbery in connection with the death of Finest Simmons. The jury found defendant guilty of armed robbery but acquitted him of the murder charge. The trial court sentenced Daniels to 14 years in Prison. Defendant appeals his armed robbery conviction pursuant to Supreme Court Rules 602 and 603. 134 Ill. 2d Rs. 602, 603.

On appeal, defendant alleges numerous trial errors. Defendant concedes that he received a speedy trial but argues that his trial counsel erred by waiving his presence at a hearing to advance the trial schedule. Defendant also contends the trial court erred by not holding a hearing on his motion to suppress the testimony of the State's primary witness, Galen Henderson, which allegedly was obtained pursuant to an illegal search. Defendant claims the trial court erroneously barred admission of evidence, limited cross-examination, and restricted argument regarding Henderson's weapon convictions and drug addiction. Defendant argues the trial court erred in admitting Henderson's prior consistent statement to rehabilitate Henderson's trial testimony. And finally, defendant states the jury instructions were improper because the trial court: (a) refused to give an accomplice instruction; (b) erroneously gave a circumstantial evidence instruction; and (c) refused to give an instruction as to the credibility of a drug addict's testimony. We affirm.

On March 27, 1993, Finest Simmons was shot and killed at the Regal 8 Motel on Mannheim Road. The State's primary witness was Galen Henderson. Henderson testified that, on March 26, 1993, at approximately 11 p.m., he, defendant, Eric Mason, and two women drove to the Regal 8 Motel. They went to Room 282, where a dice game was in progress. Henderson, defendant, and Mason were shooting dice along with Simmons and several other people. People roamed throughout the room and hallway where drugs were randomly sold.

According to Henderson, Simmons won about $300 and then left the game. Henderson, Mason, and defendant all lost money and they too left the game. The three men drove to defendant's mother's house, borrowed some money, and returned to the motel. Henderson testified that defendant then asked Chianta Chatman who had won the game and was told that Simmons had won. Henderson stated that he and defendant then went to Simmons's room so that defendant could recover the money he had lost to Simmons in the dice game. Henderson testified that defendant pulled out a gun and knocked on the door. Simmons answered the door and defendant asked him, "Where the money at, man? *** Where the money at?" Simmons told defendant, "I ain't got no money, man," and then Simmons tried to grab the gun. The gun "went off" three times. Simmons fell backwards and threw the money on the ground. According to Henderson, defendant grabbed the money and they went back to Room 282.

On cross-examination, Henderson testified that defendant had taken the gun out of his pocket before reaching Simmons's room, knocked on the door, and waited with the gun drawn for about a minute before Simmons answered the door. On redirect, over defense counsel's objection, the State introduced Henderson's prior testimony before the grand jury which was consistent with his testimony on direct examination.

Next, Chianta Chatman testified. Chatman stated that he spoke with defendant the day after the shooting. At trial, Chatman testified that defendant said "he didn't give a damn about what [people] said and how they said it." Over the objection of the defense, the State then introduced Chatman's prior inconsistent statement before the grand jury that defendant said, "Fuck it. So what? I did him."

Chatman's girlfriend, Ckiquita Thomas, then testified. Thomas, who was selling drugs on the night of the shooting, stated that Henderson warned her about two men who were talking about robbing her. On direct examination, Thomas said she saw Henderson and defendant talking near the bathroom. Thomas testified that she overheard them say "We got to get them before they get us." The State asked Thomas who was speaking, to which she replied, "I wasn't -- It sounded like Galen [Henderson], but I wasn't looking in that direction." Over defense counsel's objection, the State asked Thomas the same question to clarify her answer. After Thomas gave the same answer as before, the State then impeached her by introducing her prior grand jury testimony. Before the grand jury, Thomas had stated, "And I overheard either [Henderson] or [defendant] -- I can't recognize the voice -- and they said 'We want to get them first.'" Thomas then testified that she later went to sleep and awoke to gunshots. After Thomas heard the gunshots, "I heard my front door close. And when my front door closed, I seen Eric, [defendant] and Galen [Henderson] walking out my back door."

Eric Mason testified that Henderson and defendant went out the rear door of Room 282 and then he "heard some pops or something." A few minutes later, defendant and Henderson knocked on the door of Room 282. Mason let them in and asked them if they heard anything. They said no and defendant asked Mason to take him home. Mason then left the motel with defendant and Henderson.

The final occurrence witness, Ronald Williams, Finest Simmons's brother, testified that he was in the room with Finest when he was shot. Williams stated that he was in the bathroom when he heard a knock at the door. He then heard some people say "give me the money," then heard a hit and a single gunshot.

After all the evidence, the jury acquitted defendant of first degree murder but convicted him of armed robbery. The court sentenced defendant to 14 years in prison. For the reasons that follow, we find that any trial errors were harmless ...


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