Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit Rock Island County, Illinois No. 97--CF--556 Honorable J. Donald O'Shea Judge Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Homer
The defendant, Nashaun Quick, was convicted by a jury of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9--1(a)(3) (West 1996)) and was sentenced to natural life in prison without the possibility of parole. On appeal, he contends that: (1) the trial court erred in allowing the statements of his alleged accomplices to be used at trial; (2) the State failed to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) the trial court erred in failing to grant him a new trial because a key witness altered her testimony in the trial of an accomplice; (4) the trial court erred in failing to grant him a new trial as a sanction against the State for its failure to comply with discovery rules; and (5) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing the defendant to natural life in prison. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the defendant's conviction and remand this cause for a new trial.
Derrick Rhoden, Jeremiah Jamison, and the 19-year-old defendant were accused of participating in the June 11, 1997, murder of Paul Foster. Rhoden and Jamison were given immunity in exchange for their testimony in the defendant's case.
Jamison told police in a tape-recorded statement that he, along with Rhoden and the defendant, had been involved in a fight with members of the Gangster Disciples on the day of the murder, and that the three of them returned to the victim's home later that night to scare members of the gang. Once there, they decided to shoot at the victim's house. Jamison told police that the defendant was the shooter.
Rhoden gave a similar taped statement to the police. He specified that the defendant began shooting at the victim's house while standing on a sidewalk near the front of the house. According to Rhoden, the defendant shot a 9-millimeter black gun five or six times into the front of the house as he walked east.
In fact, numerous bullet holes were found in the front (south side) of the house and 11 spent 9-millimeter shell casings were discovered in that location. In addition, a 9-millimeter slug was recovered from the victim's body which was found in a bedroom in the southwest corner of the house.
The victim's girlfriend, Mae MacQuieter, testified that she was sleeping on a couch in the victim's home at about 1:30 a.m. on June 11, 1997, when she was awakened by several gunshots. When the shots stopped, she went into the bedroom and found the victim on the floor with blood on his chest. The victim died as a result of the shooting.
After receiving grants of immunity, Jamison and Rhoden were called to testify for the State. At trial, Jamison recanted the statement he had given to the police and testified that he had not participated in the crime. Rhoden refused to answer any questions at trial. Over the defendant's objections, Jamison's taped statement and the referenced portion of Rhoden's were admitted into evidence.
Officer Harder of the Rock Island police department testified that he responded to a report of a fight near the victim's residence on the afternoon of the day preceding the shooting. He observed the defendant with a bloodied lip and "in a fit of rage."
The defendant theorized at trial that a Charles Davis and members of Davis' gang committed the murder due to a dispute with the victim over the selling of drugs from the victim's house. This theory was based, at least in part, upon a discussion his counsel had prior to trial with Officer Poulos of the Rock Island police department. A memo (the Poulos memo), prepared by Poulos prior to this meeting, was not provided to counsel until the third day of trial.
At their meeting, Poulos informed counsel that the victim had met with him the day of the murder. The victim told Poulos that he feared for his life because he was being threatened by Charles Davis. The actual Poulos memo revealed also that a confidential informant had reported to Officer Poulos that a woman named Mary Fender had told him that Charles Davis and Terrance Brannigan committed the murder.
Upon receiving the Poulos memo, the defendant claimed surprise and moved for a mistrial. The court denied the motion, but granted the defendant a two-week continuance. As an additional sanction, the court allowed the memo to be introduced by the defense as evidence.
When the trial resumed, the defendant called a number of witnesses, including three alibi witnesses. In addition, a neighbor of the victim testified that the victim was concerned about activity near his home, and a police officer testified that there was a lot of drug dealing in the area surrounding the victim's home.
The defendant also called Charles Davis to the stand. Davis denied being involved in the murder of the victim, but admitted that he was involved in a fight near the victim's residence on the afternoon of the murder. Mary Fender also testified and denied ever saying that Davis and Brannigan committed the murder.
At the close of the case, the jury found the defendant guilty of first degree murder. About two weeks after trial, defense counsel was advised by the State that there were other interviews, documents, and memos that were inadvertently not disclosed. After the documents in question were revealed to the defendant, he filed motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial. The court denied the motions.
The defendant was sentenced to natural life in prison and this appeal followed.
I. Admissibility of Accomplices' ...