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People v. Mathews

May 18, 1999

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
EDDY MATHEWS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Randolph County. No. 96-CF-176 Honorable Jerry D. Flynn, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Rarick

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

The defendant, Eddy Mathews, was charged in the circuit court of Randolph County with aggravated driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and felony driving while license revoked. Mathews had been previously convicted of felony DUI and felony driving while license revoked.

This court previously reversed Mathews' conviction and remanded the cause for a new trial. People v. Mathews, No. 5-97-0487 (February 19, 1999) (unpublished order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 23 (166 Ill. 2d R. 23)). The basis for the reversal was that the trial court had read to the jury the entire charge, including a reference to Mathews' prior convictions for DUI and driving while license revoked, in violation of section 111-3(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/111-3(c) (West 1996)). On rehearing, the State argues, and Mathews concedes, that the trial transcript was inaccurate and that the trial court had not mentioned the previous convictions when reading the charge to the jury. The parties have filed corrected copies of the relevant pages of the transcript and have filed an affidavit of the court reporter averring to the mistake in the original transcript and to the accuracy of the corrected pages. This court's previous order is therefore vacated, and we will address Mathews' remaining arguments.

The State's only witness at trial was Officer Ralph Jones. Jones testified that on November 14, 1996, he was in an alley around 9:40 p.m. when the squeal of tires caught his attention. He looked up to see a Camaro pass in front of his car. Jones followed the car and recognized the driver as Mathews, whom he knew from around town. Mathews was wearing a black leather jacket and a black hat with a chain. Jones followed the Camaro to an apartment and observed the driver and two others go inside. Jones knocked on the door and asked to speak to the driver. Mathews said, "You are." Jones testified he could tell Mathews was intoxicated from the odor of alcohol and his speech, poor balance, and manner of walking to the squad car.

Shane Rinehart, a correctional officer at the sheriff's office, testified that the dispatcher's log book indicated that Jones arrested Mathews at 8:55 p.m.

Jason Smith testified that he owned the Camaro and that Mathews could not have been driving because he had been deer hunting all day and had arrived home about 8:30 p.m. Several people, including Mathews, were already there. Smith was also wearing a black leather jacket. Jones knocked on the door shortly thereafter.

Sheila Snyder testified that she drove Mathews to Smith's apartment. Joy Smith testified that she was at Smith's apartment when Snyder dropped Mathews off around 8:15 p.m. Shortly thereafter, Smith returned home from hunting. Jones knocked on the door around 8:45 or 8:50 p.m.

Mathews testified that he had been at Sheila Snyder's house until around 8 p.m., at which time Snyder drove him to Smith's house. Smith arrived about 15 to 20 minutes after he got there. Mathews denied driving Smith's car at any time and denied telling Jones that he had.

Mathews was convicted of aggravated DUI and felony driving while license revoked. He was sentenced to two concurrent extended-term prison sentences of six years.

Mathews argues that the evidence was not sufficient to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Mathews contends that the only evidence that he was the driver of the car was the testimony of Officer Jones and that such testimony was not credible. Specifically, he maintains that Jones's testimony was contradicted by all of the other evidence, that Jones found the vehicle unoccupied, and that someone else admitted driving the vehicle.

Where a conviction is challenged based upon the sufficiency of the evidence, the reviewing court will sustain the conviction if, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Rivera, 166 Ill. 2d 279, 652 N.E.2d 307 (1995); People v. Collins, 106 Ill. 2d 237, 478 N.E.2d 267 (1985). Further, it is well settled that the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony are matters to be determined by the jury. People v. Vazquez, 194 Ill. App. 3d 516, 551 N.E.2d 656 (1990). With these standards in mind, we turn to a review of the evidence.Jones testified that he saw a Camaro speed past the alley where he was conducting a traffic stop and that he followed it. Light from two street lights allowed him to see three people in the car, and he was able to recognize the driver as Mathews. He followed the car to a nearby residence and observed the three people exit the car and go into the apartment. The driver was wearing a black leather jacket and a black hat with a chain. Jones knocked on the door and Mathews answered. Jones asked Mathews if Jones could speak to the driver of the Camaro, and Mathews said, "You are." Jones testified that Mathews appeared to be intoxicated. Jones also testified that he never lost sight of the driver until the driver went into the apartment. Jones further testified that he was able to identify the driver as Mathews because he had seen him around town before and that he had no doubt that Mathews had been the driver of the vehicle.

Smith and Snyder testified that Mathews had not been the driver, and Smith claimed that he had been driving the Camaro. The jury, however, found Jones's testimony to be more credible than the testimony of Smith and Snyder. Mathews contends that discrepancies in Jones's testimony, regarding the color of the car and the time of the incident, and the facts that it was dark and Jones was involved in another traffic stop all undermine Jones's credibility. The jury was aware of these facts but still chose to believe him. Reviewing the record as a whole, we conclude that a rational trier of fact could have found Jones's testimony credible. Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, there was sufficient evidence from which a rational trier of fact could have found all of the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mathews next argues that he was denied a fair trial when the prosecutor improperly argued critical facts not in evidence and improperly bolstered Officer Jones's testimony in his closing argument. He maintains that during his closing arguments the prosecutor stated that deer hunters cannot legally hunt one-half hour before sunset and that sunset in mid-November is around 5:30 or 6 p.m., implying that Smith's testimony that he got home from deer hunting at 8:30 p.m. was not credible. Mathews also maintains that the prosecutor stated: "They ran out of beer. They made a beer run about 9 [p.m.], and Eddy gets caught." There was no evidence, Mathews contends, to support either statement. Mathews further contends that the prosecutor improperly bolstered Jones's testimony ...


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