Not Released For Publication
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
ADELL JONES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County.
The Honorable Vincent Gaughan, Judge Presiding.
delivered the opinion of the court:
On November 18, 1997, the grand jury indicted defendant Adell Jones on three counts of first degree murder, three counts of aggravated kidnaping, and one count each of arson, concealment of homicidal death, aggravated vehicular hijacking, vehicular hijacking, and burglary. Prior to the bench trial on June 7, 1999, the State dropped the aggravated kidnaping, arson, concealment of homicidal death, vehicular hijacking, and burglary charges. The court convicted defendant on three counts of first degree murder and the aggravated vehicular hijacking count. On July 13, 1999, the trial court sentenced defendant to natural life for the murder charge plus 30 years for the hijacking charge to run concurrently. Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration on July 28, 1999, which the court denied on September 16, 1999.
Defendant raises two issues on appeal: (1) whether he was denied effective assistance of counsel; and (2) whether Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000), requires the reversal of his sentence where the circuit court imposed a sentence of natural life imprisonment for first degree murder.
At approximately 4 a.m. on October 18, 1997, defendant drove his brother's Lincoln Continental, along with his passenger Leroy Smythe, to a Shell gas station located at 147th Street and Sibley Boulevard. The two had followed another vehicle to the gas station in an attempt to obtain the telephone numbers of two ladies inside the car. Once at the gas station, defendant noticed two men standing by the telephone and a woman with blonde hair standing by her van, which was beside another vehicle. Defendant parked his brother's car and walked over to the vehicle he had been following. The passenger of that car got out of the vehicle, and defendant got into the car and obtained the driver's telephone number. Defendant then left the vehicle and walked past the telephones on his way to his brother's vehicle. At that point, the woman with the blonde hair stopped defendant and asked him to tell a gentleman from the vehicle parked next to her van to stop harassing her. Defendant did so, and the gentleman left. Defendant then noticed his brother's vehicle and the vehicle with the two women he had been following drive off. Defendant ran after the vehicles and fired a shot from his .25 Winchester at them.
With his gun in hand, defendant ran back to the woman with blonde hair and her van and told her to move over so that he could drive her car in order to pursue his brother's stolen vehicle. Defendant and Smythe got in the van and drove after his brother's car. Defendant placed the gun between his legs. The woman was screaming and struggling with defendant during this pursuit. After five minutes, defendant lost sight of the vehicles. Defendant turned the vehicle around and began driving toward his cousin Sylvania Polk's home on South Exchange Avenue in Chicago. The woman continued to struggle with defendant, and he hit her with his gun, which discharged and struck her in the face, although it did not kill her. Defendant arrived at his cousin's home, left the woman and Smythe in the van, spoke with his cousin, and called his fiancee. Defendant returned to the van, placed the woman in a head lock, and shot her several times in the head.
Defendant and Smythe drove the van to 86th Street and Ingleside and walked a few blocks to Smythe's home. Defendant left the gun with Smythe and went home, where he told his brother what occurred. Defendant's brother later burned the van, and his brother's wife retrieved the gun from Smythe.
At approximately 6:40 a.m. that same day, Chicago police officer Pizana and his partner Mike O'Malley were stopped by a garbage man who informed them of a body in an alley on South Commercial Street. Officer Pizana found the body lying face down and noticed injuries to the victim's head and casings from a .25-caliber automatic weapon.
On October 19, 1997, Chicago police officer Allen Falasz, a bomb and arson detective, investigated a fire at 8748 S. Dauphine Street. Falasz testified that the fire originated in the rear of the van and was caused by a flammable liquid ignited with an open flame. The vehicle was registered to the victim and her husband.
The parties stipulated that Donna M. Hunsaker, an expert in the field of forensic pathology and doctor for the Cook County medical examiner's office, if called to testify, would state that the victim was shot five times, with one wound to the upper lip and mouth, two wounds to the left temple, one wound to the vortex of the head, and a wound to the back of the neck. According to Hunsaker, who conducted the autopsy, the victim died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The parties also stipulated that Chicago police officer W. O'Connor, a forensic investigator, recovered four Winchester .25-caliber cartridge casings from the homicide scene and Chicago police officer S. Majewski, also a forensic investigator, recovered one .25-caliber cartridge from the van floor. They further stipulated that Beth A. Patty, an expert in firearm comparison and identification employed by the Illinois State Police Forensic Science Center, would testify that the five bullets were all fired from the same Winchester .25-caliber automatic weapon. They also stipulated that Polk would testify that defendant told her that he shot the victim in the face but that she was still alive at that time. According to Polk, she told defendant to take the victim to the hospital.
After finding defendant guilty of first degree murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking, the court found defendant eligible for the death sentence but later declined to impose death due to sufficient mitigating factors. The court sentenced defendant to natural life for murder and a concurrent 30-year sentence for aggravated vehicular hijacking.
The first issue raised is whether defendant was denied effective assistance of counsel. Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel based on deficient representation of a criminal defendant are evaluated in accordance with the two-prong test set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 693, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 2064 (1984), and adopted by Illinois courts in People v. Albanese, 104 Ill. 2d 504, 526, 473 N.E.2d 1246, 1256 (1984). Under Strickland, defendant must demonstrate that (1) his counsel's performance fell below the objective standard of reasonableness; and that (2) there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. People v. Shatner, 174 Ill. 2d 133, 144, 673 N.E.2d 258, 263 (1996), citing Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694, 80 L. Ed. 2d at 698, 104 S. Ct. at 2068. As to the first prong, judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance is highly deferential and a court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; that is, defendant must overcome the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action might be considered sound trial strategy. People v. Pecoraro, 175 Ill. 2d 294, 319-20, 677 N.E.2d 875, 887-88 (1997), citing Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689, 80 L. Ed. 2d at 694-95, 104 S. Ct. at 2065.
A court need not consider whether counsel's performance was deficient prior to examining the prejudice that defendant suffered as a result of the alleged deficiency. If the ineffective assistance claim can be disposed of on the ground that defendant did not suffer prejudice, the court need not decide whether counsel's performance was constitutionally deficient. People v. Bull, 185 Ill. 2d 179, 203, 705 N.E.2d 824, 836 (1998). To establish prejudice, defendant must prove that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceedings would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome. Bull, 185 Ill. 2d at 203, 705 N.E.2d at 836.
Defendant argues that because his counsel was ineffective, the resulting convictions for first degree murder and aggravated vehicular hijacking must be reversed and this cause remanded for a new trial. Defendant claims that inasmuch as his counsel failed to subject the State's case to meaningful adversarial testing, ineffective assistance of counsel can be presumed without application of the Strickland test. Defendant ...