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People v. Nunn

October 26, 1998


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

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

Honorable Mary Maxwell Thomas, Judge Presiding.

Following a jury trial, defendant, Joseph Nunn, was convicted of attempted murder and aggravated battery. The trial court merged the aggravated battery conviction into the attempted murder conviction, and sentenced defendant to 10 years' imprisonment. On appeal, defendant argues: (1) the trial court erred by granting the State's motion in limine; (2) the prosecutor improperly adduced evidence and made arguments to which defendant was prohibited from responding by the in limine ruling; (3) defense counsel provided ineffective assistance; and (4) the State failed to prove defendant guilty of attempted murder beyond a reasonable doubt. We affirm.

The victim, Michael James, was severely beaten on the morning of January 16, 1995. Defendant was later arrested in connection with the beating, and gave the following written statement to Assistant State's Attorney Sharon Opryszek:

"[Defendant] states that on January 16, 1995, at about 2 a.m. he was at apartment 1107 with Arnetta Price, Pascha, Annie Price and their kids when Michael James came over. [Defendant] states that Michael James and Annie Price *** were arguing and Michael James was asked to leave the apartment by both [defendant] and Pascha.

[Defendant] states that Michael James left the apartment 1107. [Defendant] states that five minutes after Michael James left the apartment 1107, [defendant] left the apartment. [Defendant] states that he met up with Michael James down by the elevator at the first floor of the building at 4352 South State. [Defendant] states that he asked Michael James why he had been messing with Annie Price's daughter, Vernetta. [Defendant] states that he heard that Michael James had been sexually messing with Vernetta, who is only 13 years old. [Defendant] states that Michael James said he wasn't messing with Vernetta. [Defendant] states that he and Michael James started arguing and then Michael James admitted that he messed with Vernetta. [Defendant] got mad after Michael James admitted he messed with Vernetta and so [defendant] pushed Michael James backward and Michael James fell backward by the stair and grabbed on to the pole next to the stairs. [Defendant] states that he punched Michael James in the face four to five times. [Defendant] states that Uncle Billy told him to stop and let him go. [Defendant] states that Benny Nunn, also called Bingo, Daze, NaRolas, and a fat guy were there when [defendant] was fighting with Michael James. [Defendant] states that these guys asked him why [defendant] was fighting Michael James and he told Bingo, Daze, NaRolas and the fat guy that Michael James had supposedly raped Vernetta.

[Defendant] states that he then left and saw Daze hit Michael James. [Defendant] states that he left to go get cigarettes at the gas station at 43rd and State. [Defendant] states that he came back from the gas station a few minutes later and saw Michael James laying on the ground with blood coming out of his mouth, nose, and ears.

[Defendant] states that he went back to apartment 1107 and told Pascha about Michael James being hurt. [Defendant] states that [Annie Price] went downstairs to see about Michael James. [Defendant] states that the paramedics came and took Michael James to the hospital."

Prior to trial, the State made a motion in limine to: (1) preclude defendant from introducing Michael James' arrest based on a complaint of alleged criminal sexual abuse against Vernetta; (2) exclude any mention of the alleged criminal sexual abuse at trial; and (3) redact the portion of defendant's confession that mentions the alleged sexual abuse. The trial court granted the motion.

At trial, Twyla Charles, a Chicago Housing Authority police officer, testified that at approximately 2:30 a.m. on January 16, 1995, she observed an ambulance parked in front of a housing complex at 4352 South State Street. Charles walked inside and observed an African-American male, later identified as Michael James, lying face-down in the lobby. He was unconscious and bleeding from the head.

Michael James (hereafter, the victim) testified that in the late evening hours of January 15, 1995, he visited his girlfriend, Annie Price, at her sister's apartment at 4352 South State Street. Annie, defendant, and "Pashaw" were in the apartment when the victim arrived. The victim argued with Annie for about 10 to 15 minutes, then he left the apartment and started to walk downstairs.

The victim heard footsteps behind him on the stairwell. When the victim reached the first floor, defendant and "three or four" other men approached him. Defendant said "Let's kill this punk." One of the men held the victim from behind, while defendant punched him in the jaw and hit him several times in the face with a 40 ounce beer bottle. The other men with defendant also hit the victim several times in the face. The next thing the victim remembers is waking up in the hospital.

Doctor John Barrett testified he assisted the victim after he was brought to Cook County Hospital on January 16, 1995. Doctor Barrett observed that the victim was "pretty badly injured," with evidence of blunt head trauma and a very depressed level of consciousness. Doctor Barrett conducted a CT scan which revealed that the victim had a "diffuse axonal injury," meaning he had a very severe head injury that had damaged his brain tissue.

Detective Armata testified that in late January 1995 he went to 4352 South State Street where he spoke with defendant about the victim's beating. Defendant told Armata that he witnessed the victim arguing with Annie in her sister's apartment on January 16. However, defendant denied knowing how the victim sustained his injuries.

Armata testified that at approximately 12:45 a.m. on July 10, 1995, he spoke with defendant again, this time at police headquarters. During this conversation, defendant stated that he saw a group of men beat the victim ...

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