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People v. Segoviano

June 29, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'mara Frossard

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

No. 93 CR 27560

Honorable Vincent M. Gaughan, judge Presiding.

Defendant Antonio Segoviano appeals from his convictions for attempted robbery and murder after a jury trial in which an imposter testified as an occurrence witness and the real occurrence witness gave exculpatory testimony.

We address the following issues on appeal: (1) whether defendant's due process rights were violated by the introduction of false testimony from an imposter witness; and (2) whether the trial court properly denied defendant's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence. We hold that the introduction of false testimony by the imposter witness during trial violated defendant's due process rights. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand for a new trial. I. FACTS On November 9, 1993, at approximately 4:30 p.m., defendant, Arnel Robinson, Mario Rodriguez and Jerome J. Lewis were at the projects near 31st and Halsted Streets in Chicago. They talked about purchasing narcotics. These individuals walked down 31st Street to a pay phone where Jerome J. Lewis, also known as "J.J.," called his girlfriend for a ride. Mario Rodriguez was with Jerome J. Lewis at the pay phone. While Lewis was on the phone, defendant, also known as "Little Cap" or "Little Capone," and Arnel Robinson were standing a few feet away. Arnel Robinson showed defendant the black .357 gun he carried in his pants and the two agreed that they would locate a suitable victim to rob.

A currency exchange was located nearby. There was an alley next to the currency exchange which veered off into another alley and then led out to the main street. Defendant and Arnel Robinson agreed that defendant would go into the currency exchange and locate an individual to rob while Robinson waited in the mouth of the alley.

At this time, Onesimo Beltran and Martin Alvarez pulled into the alley in their truck. Mr. Alvarez had to stop at the currency exchange to pick up a city sticker he had ordered a week ago. Mr. Alvarez went into the currency exchange while Mr. Beltran waited in the truck and began scraping off the old city sticker from the windshield.

Defendant followed Mr. Alvarez into the currency exchange. Mr. Alvarez spoke with Steven Schoenberg, the manager, who informed him that his sticker had not yet arrived. While they were conversing, defendant etched his nickname, "Little Cap," into the wall. Mr. Schoenberg told defendant to stop.

Defendant followed Mr. Alvarez out of the currency exchange and into the alley. At the mouth of the alley, Arnel Robinson grabbed Mr. Alvarez. Defendant continued walking beyond the bend in the alley to where Mr. Beltran was scraping the city sticker off his truck's window. Defendant demanded money. Mr. Beltran replied that he did not have any money and closed the door of the truck. Defendant began walking back down the alley toward the currency exchange.

Two shots were fired. Mr. Beltran looked in the mirror of his truck and saw people grabbing at Mr. Alvarez. Mr. Beltran called to Mr. Alvarez. Mr. Alvarez, bleeding, got in the truck and the two drove to their home, where they called an ambulance. Mr. Alvarez died from a gunshot wound to his chest.

At trial, one of the witnesses the People called to testify on the first day of trial stated that his name was "Jerome Lewis." "Jerome Lewis" testified that he preferred to be called "Stacy." He stated that he was currently serving time in jail in Minnesota.

"Jerome Lewis" testified that shortly after 4 o'clock on November 9, 1993, he was near a pay phone at 31st Street between Lituanica and Halsted Streets in Chicago. The witness stated he was going to call his girlfriend on the pay phone to get a ride to pick up some drugs. The witness, "Jerome Lewis," testified that while he was at the pay phone, he heard defendant talking to Arnel Robinson. Specifically, the witness testified that "[defendant] asked Arnel would he help him stick up the Mexican guy" and that Arnel Robinson replied, "Let's do it." The witness stated that defendant was 10 to 12 feet away when he said this and that Mario Rodriguez was also present. The witness then testified that he saw Arnel go into the alley and defendant go into the currency exchange. The witness said defendant came out of the currency exchange after two or three minutes, held his left hand above his head with all five fingers showing and then reentered the currency exchange. The witness stated that the "Mexican guy" exited the currency exchange and walked into the alley with defendant following behind him. The witness stated that Arnel was already in the alley at this time. Next, the witness testified, he began crossing the street when he heard two gunshots coming from the alley. After the gunshots, the witness stated that defendant crossed the street to where defendant's mother was standing and the witness left with his girlfriend, who had come to pick him up.

During cross-examination, this witness first testified that his name is "Stacy Lewis" and that he has an older brother named "Jerome" who also goes by the name "J.J." The witness testified that he had used his brother's name in connection with prior arrests but that he did not use his brother's name in connection with this case. The witness then stated that his own name is "Jerome" and that his brother's name is "Stacy." The witness admitted that he had used other dates of birth in prior encounters with the law.

The following day, the People called three more witnesses. After all the witnesses testified, the court held a hearing outside the jury's presence to determine whether the person who testified earlier was actually Jerome Lewis or was Jerome Lewis's brother. At this hearing, defense counsel presented the testimony of another individual calling himself "Jerome Lewis." The trial court then declared that an independent investigation would be held to determine whether "your brother or you were the person at that location at 31st by the currency exchange."

The next day, outside the presence of the jury, the prosecutor told the trial court that the witness, "Jerome Lewis," who had previously testified, admitted he was not present at the scene of the shooting. The prosecutor explained the situation to the court as follows:

"He says that in fact he was not present. He said it was his brother who was present; that he testified because he thought his brother might run into some problems if the brother testified for the State. So he came down here to testify figuring he was safe up in Minnesota. He said he learned about the incident from his brother after it happened, and that's why he did that. I asked Mario Rodriguez to ...

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