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People v. Goff

October 27, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McNULTY

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

Honorable Michael B. Bolan, Judge Presiding

The trial court entered judgment on a jury verdict holding defendants, Michael and Rockmon Goff, guilty of murder. Defendants ask this court to reverse the convictions because the trial court denied their motion to reopen the case.

Around 7 p.m. on April 9, 1994, Officer Glenn Davis went to a Horizon food store in response to a call. He found Cesar Teague on the floor covered with blood. While paramedics tried, unsuccessfully, to revive Teague, Davis spoke to some people at the scene. He then went across the street to the parking lot of an Aldi's food store and to the adjacent alley, where he found 10 spent bullet shells. Police found no gun.

Laura and Sparkle Roberson, who were not on the scene when Davis arrived, came to the alley and told Davis that four boys, including defendants, shot Teague. Laura pointed to the apartment building where defendants lived. Davis went to the apartment and spoke to defendants' mother. At his request she went to find her sons. They walked back toward the apartment a few minutes later. Although they saw police they made no attempt to flee. When Davis called them, they walked straight to him. Police arrested them.

Teague died from three gunshot wounds. One bullet entered his midback, then coursed through the lung and heart before exiting the top of his chest. A second bullet entered through his buttocks and traveled slightly upwards before exiting from the lower abdomen. The third bullet went through his foot.

A grand jury indicted defendants for murder, based largely on the testimony of Laura and Sparkle. In answer to discovery prosecutors listed Christopher Green as a potential witness. Defendants named as potential witnesses all persons listed by prosecutors in answer to discovery.

Laura testified that in April 1994, when she was 11, she had known defendants from school for several months. They came over to Laura's home to visit almost every day. She also saw Teague frequently. On April 9, she and Sparkle met Teague and his nephews while they were walking across Aldi's parking lot. Laura and Teague walked a little ahead, toward Teague's home. They saw defendants and two other boys coming toward them. Laura asked defendants what they were doing and one of the boys said, "We fixing to kill this hook." A "hook," in this context, meant a member of the Vice Lords gang. The four boys belonged to the rival Gangster Disciples. The boy specified he meant to kill the hook standing next to Laura. Laura answered, "He's not a hook. He ain't in a gang."

Teague grabbed Laura and they ran down the alley. She heard gunshots. Teague fell and she fell beside him. She looked around and saw all four boys with guns shooting at them. Defendants stood in the parking lot, shooting through a chain link fence, and the other two boys shot at them from the alley. Laura lay partly on Teague's chest while the boys stood about three feet away shooting. No bullets struck Laura.

After the boys ran away Laura helped Teague up and propped him up so he could walk, leaning on her, to the Horizon, where he collapsed. Laura told the store clerks to call the police, and then she ran back home. Teague had not bled on Laura or her clothing. She returned to the alley a little later, where she talked to Davis and other officers.

On cross-examination defense counsel impeached Laura with her testimony before the grand jury. She told the grand jury that two of the boys cut through a yard to run in front of her and Teague, then they shot Teague in the stomach. At trial she swore the four boys shot from behind them, hitting Teague in the back. She explained that she misspoke when she testified, without cross-examination, before the grand jury. On redirect the court permitted Laura, over objection, to tell jurors that at a prior hearing in juvenile court, she testified that defendants and two other boys shot Teague after chasing him down the alley.

Laura's sister Sparkle corroborated part of her testimony. She saw Laura and Teague talking to defendants and the two other boys, then she saw them shooting at Teague. She ran behind the wall of Aldi's, so she saw no more. According to the transcript of her grand jury testimony, she then swore that she saw Teague fall, and she and Laura ran over to him and hugged him. At trial she denied having so falsely testified. She did not see Teague fall and she did not run over to him after the shooting. She ran home.

After both parties rested but before closing arguments, defense counsel sought leave to reopen to present the testimony of Green, who was present in court and immediately available. Defense counsel said, in an offer of proof, that Green would testify his house abuts the alley behind Aldi's parking lot. He was on his porch when he heard shots around 7 p.m. on April 9, 1994. In the signed statement defendants presented Green said he saw "young men *** chasing and shooting at Cesar Teagu[e]." The police in their report recorded his descriptions of the shooters. Police showed him a lineup which included defendants. The police report indicates that he did not identify the defendants as the shooters. Green said the defendants "were not the young men [he] saw in April of 1994 chasing and shooting at Cesar Teagu[e]." Defense counsel added that Green would testify that he saw no girl with or near Teague or running in the area.

The court found a discrepancy between the police report and the offer of proof because, according to the offer of proof, Green would not confine himself to saying he did not recognize defendants as the shooters; he would further assert that they were not the persons he saw shooting at Teague. The court held the testimony could "surprise" prosecutors, and they would not have an adequate opportunity to rebut Green because the police ...

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