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People v. Matthews

October 26, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
REGINALD MATTHEWS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



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

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

No. 94 CR 27285

Honorable Stuart E. Palmer, Judge Presiding.

Following a jury trial, defendant Reginald Matthews was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 32 years in prison. On appeal, defendant contends: (1) the trial court committed reversible error with regard to the admission of gang-related evidence and in instructing the jury as to the proper use of such evidence; (2) defendant was denied his right to a fair trial when the trial court did not provide answers to certain jury questions; (3) defendant was denied due process when the State failed to provide defendant's alleged statement to defense counsel in discovery, resulting in reversible error; (4) the trial court erred in not suppressing the lineup and defendant's statements as the fruits of an illegal arrest; and (5) there was insufficient evidence to support defendant's conviction.

We reverse and remand.

FACTS

On October 2, 1994, the victim, Alphonso Taylor, and Damon Royal were walking east on 86th Street when a car slowed beside them and its occupants began "dropping" gang signs in disrespect of the street gang Conservative Vice Lords, of which Taylor and Royal were members. In response, Taylor and Royal began dropping gang signs disrespectful to the Blackstones street gang, to which the car's occupants belonged. The car drove away toward the west, and Taylor and Royal were joined by Roy Knight. Shortly thereafter, the car returned, approaching them from the front.

The front passenger of the vehicle then leaned out the passenger window and over the roof of the car and pointed a gun at the three individuals, who ran for cover. Royal heard a gunshot and saw Taylor, who was running away from the shooter, clutching his chest. Royal ran to call an ambulance and returned soon after to find Taylor surrounded by the police and others. Royal testified that he did not talk to police at that time because he thought his gang would deal with the shooter. Alphonso Taylor, the victim, was taken to a hospital and later died.

Detective Michael Rowan, assigned to investigate the homicide, conducted a canvass of the area following the shooting. The canvass resulted in a description of the vehicle involved in the crime, though Rowan did not obtain much additional information from witnesses at the scene. The next day, Rowan discovered an abandoned vehicle which matched the description, and it was impounded. After a second, unrelated shooting in which Royal was injured, he came to police with information about the Taylor murder. Royal provided police with a description of the shooter and identified the vehicle impounded by the police as the one used in the shooting.

Three juveniles were arrested and placed in custody in connection with the shooting: defendant Reginald Matthews, Devon Howard and Ricky Richardson. In a police lineup that included all three individuals, Royal identified defendant as the shooter. Approximately 15 minutes after the lineup identification, Rowan informed defendant he was under suspicion for the murder of Alphonso Taylor and that he had just been identified as the shooter in the lineup. Defendant told him he was home asleep at the time of the shooting, as he did not get up that early. According to Rowan, defendant also told him that the reason he was identified in the lineup was because he was a Blackstone and the witnesses were Conservative Vice Lords.

Defendant's mother testified that, on the day of the shooting, she was waiting at her house for her sister, Rosalind, to come and drive her to church. When Rosalind arrived, defendant spoke with her until they left for church at around 11:50 a.m. Defendant testified on his own behalf and stated he returned home from his friend Richardson's house at around 11:30 a.m., when he spoke with his aunt in the driveway of his house. On cross-examination, he denied that he, Richardson or Howard was a member of the Blackstones.

Defendant further denied stating to police that the only reason he was picked out of the lineup was because he was a member of the Blackstones and the witnesses were Conservative Vice Lords. The defense objected to this line of questioning, arguing this statement had not been provided to him in discovery. The trial Judge overruled the objection and allowed the testimony. On rebuttal, Rowan testified that defendant had, indeed, made the statement regarding his gang affiliation.

The jury found defendant guilty of first degree murder, and he was sentenced to 32 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant now appeals this conviction.

ANALYSIS

I. The Discovery Violation

We first turn to defendant's argument that the State's failure to disclose in discovery a statement made by defendant to Detective Rowan denied defendant's due process rights and right to a fair trial. The standard of review for a discovery violation is whether the trial court abused its discretion. People v. Weaver, 92 Ill. 2d 545, 559, 442 N.E.2d 255 (1982). Though the judgment of the trial court in these matters is given great weight, a reviewing court will find an abuse of discretion when a defendant is prejudiced by the discovery violation and the trial court fails to eliminate the prejudice. Weaver, 92 Ill. 2d at 559.

At trial, defense counsel objected to testimony regarding a statement not provided to defense counsel in discovery, allegedly made by defendant to Rowan, that the only reason he was identified in the lineup was because he was a member of the Blackstones and the witnesses were Conservative Vice Lords. The objection was overruled, and after defendant testified he was not a member of a gang, his testimony was impeached with the prior inconsistent ...


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