Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 94--CF--285. Honorable Ronald L. Pirrello, Judge, Presiding.
Released for Publication May 2, 1997.
The Honorable Justice Hutchinson delivered the opinion of the court. Inglis and Doyle, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hutchinson
JUSTICE HUTCHINSON delivered the opinion of the court:
Defendant, Tory Taylor, appeals his conviction of aggravated discharge of a firearm (720 ILCS 5/24--1.2(a) (West 1994)). Defendant asserts that (1) he was not proved guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court erred in refusing to answer a jury inquiry; and (3) the prosecutor sought to indoctrinate the potential jurors during voir dire. We affirm.
This case arose from a traffic altercation on August 28, 1993, in Rockford, Illinois. Defendant, who was 15 years old at the time, was driving his stepfather's car, a blue Chevrolet Celebrity, accompanied by his friend, Lynn Hollingshed. Witnesses testified that defendant was the driver of the car, and Hollingshed was a passenger sitting in the front seat. Defendant testified that he was wearing shorts and Hollingshed was wearing black overalls, worn backwards, a black, long-sleeved shirt, and a hat. Both had been riding around town for approximately seven hours. During that time, Hollingshed showed defendant a .25-caliber handgun that he had pulled out of his pocket. At approximately 7:30 p.m., defendant turned from a larger street onto a side street.
Edward Dawson, his wife Alta, and a friend were traveling on a two-lane, two-way street on their way to a wedding reception. Vehicles were parked on both sides of the street, reducing the lane size. Defendant turned onto this street as Edward was approaching the intersection. Beyond these facts, the accounts of the incident vary. Edward and Alta testified that defendant's car came quickly around the corner, occupied a part of both lanes, and forced their vehicle close to a parked car. Defendant testified that the street was too narrow for both cars to pass, so he stopped his car and backed it up to allow the other vehicle to pass.
Edward and Alta both exited their car, allegedly to look for damage done to the parked car. They testified that the passenger in the Celebrity also got out of the Celebrity. Edward asked whether the young man had a "problem." Defendant testified that Edward had said, "You got a problem you fuckin' niggers?" as Edward drove past. Both Edward and Alta testified that the passenger was wearing black overalls, turned backwards, a black shirt, and a hat. They also testified that the passenger had a small, black machine gun in his left hand. Edward identified the passenger as the defendant during a photographic lineup and at trial. When asked if he had a problem, the youth responded, "Yes, I got a fuckin' problem, white boy." To emphasize his point, the passenger removed a small handgun and fired it in Edward's direction. Defendant testified that the shot was fired upward, and Edward testified that the bullet "whizzed" past his ear. Edward testified that he jumped back into his car as another bullet was fired. Alta, who had also exited the car, reentered the car and wrote down the license plate number of defendant's vehicle. The shooter then reentered the Celebrity and the car left the scene. The Dawsons went to the closest service station and called the police.
Defendant testified that Hollingshed was the shooter. Hollingshed was angered by Edward's alleged racial slur and had told defendant to stop the car. Hollingshed did not indicate why he wanted defendant to stop the car, nor did he give any reason for exiting the car. Defendant testified that he was startled when the first shot rang out. After firing two shots in the air, Hollingshed came back to defendant's car. Defendant asked Hollingshed why he fired the shots, but received no response from him. Defendant then drove quickly from the scene.
Defendant drove to his brother's house, but he was not home. He then drove to where his stepfather works, but the stepfather was still working and unable to meet with defendant. Finally, defendant went to the house of his uncle, Desmond Taylor. Taylor drove defendant and Hollingshed towards a friend's house, but defendant and Hollingshed left the car when they saw a police car making a U-turn to follow their car. The officer had apparently identified the vehicle as the car involved in the shooting from the Dawsons' description of the car and its license plate number. The officer stopped Taylor and obtained defendant's and Hollingshed's name.
Defendant and Hollingshed ran for a couple of blocks until they found a friend of defendant's mother, who drove them to the house of defendant's friend. Hollingshed left the friend's house after a short period to go to the hospital for treatment of a cut he had received during their flight from Taylor's vehicle. Defendant remained at the friend's house until late in the evening.
Defendant was arrested, and a grand jury later indicted him for aggravated discharge of a firearm. Defendant submitted a motion to suppress his identification as the shooter, because he was the only person wearing a black, long-sleeved shirt in the photo array presented to Edward and Alta. The motion was denied. However, because the State changed the direction of the prosecution, arguing that defendant was the driver and not the shooter, the denial of this motion was not raised on appeal.
During voir dire, defendant and the State used hypotheticals to determine potential jurors' ability to understand the nature of the case. Defense counsel made repeated objections to the State's hypotheticals, arguing that the State was attempting to indoctrinate the jury. After both sides had presented their case at trial, during jury deliberations the jury sent a question to the trial court. The jury asked for a definition of the term "offense" as it related to "aiding and abetting." The trial court answered, "You have your instructions as they apply to the facts, and you must apply your recollection of the facts to those instructions." After another four-hour period of deliberation, the jury found defendant guilty.
Defendant first argues that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of aggravated discharge of a firearm under the theory of accountability. In assessing whether the evidence against a defendant was sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a reviewing court must determine " ' "whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." ' " (Emphasis omitted.) People v. Furby, 138 Ill. 2d 434, 455, 150 Ill. Dec. 534, 563 N.E.2d 421 (1990), quoting People v. Collins, 106 Ill. 2d 237, 261, 87 Ill. Dec. 910, 478 N.E.2d 267 (1985), quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560, 573, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 2789 (1979). A defendant's conviction should not be set aside on grounds of insufficient evidence unless the proof is so ...