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People v. Vasquez

December 31, 2001


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Colleen McSweeney-Moore, Judge Presiding.

Defendant, Luis Vasquez, was charged by indictment with first degree murder, armed robbery and aggravated battery. Following a jury trial defendant was found guilty of armed robbery and acquitted of the other charges. After the verdict, the State moved to have defendant, who was 16 at the time of the offense, sentenced as an adult. The trial court granted the motion and defendant was sentenced to a term of 30 years' imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant now timely appeals.

On appeal defendant argues that his case must be remanded for a new sentencing hearing where: (1) the sentencing statute under which defendant was charged as an adult is unconstitutional as being violative of the single subject rule; (2) the trial court abused its discretion in failing to take into account all statutory factors enumerated in the sentencing statute; and (3) defendant's sentence was disparate to that of his co-defendants.

I. Background

The pertinent facts of the case involve the events that took place during the evening hours of January 24, 1997. Assistant State's Attorney Kari Mason testified at trial that she was assigned to investigate the first degree murder and armed robbery of Joaquin Diaz. Mason stated that after speaking with detectives assigned to the case, she met with the sixteen-year-old defendant at Area 1 police headquarters on January 27, 1997. Defendant's mother was present for this interview. After advising defendant of his Miranda rights, defendant stated that on January 24, 1997, at 8 p.m. he was with Claudio Martinez, Anthony Saucedo and Marcos Sanchez in a van driving around. Defendant told Mason that while driving they saw two members of the Party People gang, a gang which was a rival of his gang. Defendant stated that he was a member of the La Raza gang. Defendant stated that they stopped the van and exited the vehicle looking to fight with the Party People.

Defendant said that as they approached the two Party People, he noticed that there was nothing in their hands. He said that one of "his boys" threw a bottle at one of the Party People. Defendant told Mason that the person who was struck picked up the bottle and threw it back, striking defendant in the eye. Defendant stated that he then approached the person who threw the bottle at him and punched him in the head. He said that he saw his friend Anthony Saucedo, also know as T-Bone, with a stick or pipe. Mason testified that at that point defendant's mother told defendant not to answer any more questions. Mason also stated that she observed defendant's left eye was bruised and cut.

Ivan Flores testified for the State under a grant of use immunity. Flores testified that on January 24, 1997, he was a member of the La Raza gang and was nicknamed "Little Popeye." Flores stated that defendant was also a member of La Raza on that date and that his nickname was "Popeye." Flores testified that he was riding in a van on January 24, 1997, with defendant, Martinez (nicknamed "Flaco"), Saucedo (nicknamed "T-Bone"), Sanchez (nicknamed "Pelon") and two girls, drinking beer. Flores said that while riding in the van someone yelled there were some Party People. Flores stated that the van stopped and Pelon, T-Bone, Flaco and Popeye got out of the van. Flores testified he saw a bunch of people fighting and beating each other, but he was unable to identify each person's exact activity. Flores testified that he saw one of the four La Raza gang members with a pipe striking one of the Party People, but he could not identify which of the four it was.

Assistant State's Attorney John Maher then testified that on January 26 he obtained a written statement from Flores. Flores' statement provided a more detailed version of the incident. Maher testified that Flores told him that Martinez exited the van with a beer bottle. Flores stated Saucedo had a pipe in the van, but Sanchez actually exited the vehicle with that pipe. Maher also testified that Flores told him that one of the Party People, the one who was hit with the bottle, was "getting his ass kicked by three or four La Raza guys" while the other Party People member had run away. Flores told Maher that Martinez hit one of the two mem over the head with a bottle. Additionally, Flores told Maher that defendant came back to the van wearing the leather coat of the boy whom everyone was "stomping." Maher stated that Flores read the statement, reviewed it, made corrections and signed every page.

Urbano Alvarez testified, through the assistance of an interpreter, that on January 24, 1997, at around 8 p.m., he left his house with Joaquin Diaz headed for Diaz's house on Washtenaw Avenue. Alvarez stated that both he and Diaz were wearing leather jackets that evening. Alvarez testified that while crossing 60th Street, he noticed a group of people, all dressed in black, walking toward them. Alvarez said he turned around and saw a van behind them. Alvarez stated that one of the people in the group, whom he later identified as Martinez, pulled off his hood, said "La Raza ------------" and hit Diaz with a beer bottle. Alvarez stated that a different person, whom he later identified as Saucedo, had a metal or wood pipe. Alvarez stated that while he was held by the arm, he saw about four people beating Diaz, who was lying on the ground. Alvarez testified that he managed to free himself and run toward Diaz's home to get help from Alfredo Monroy and James Monroy, Diaz's cousins. Alvarez stated that the group was still beating Diaz when he left. Alvarez said that when he returned, Diaz was lying on the opposite side of the street covered in blood.

Jamie Monroy testified that on January 24, 1997, Urbano came to his house on Washtenaw Avenue, yelling that Diaz was being beaten. Jamie was living at that house with his brother Alfredo, Diaz and two friends. Jamie testified that as he left the house, shortly after Urbano and Alfredo, he saw a blue van parked in front of his house. Jamie stated that he walked slowly past the van and then ran to where Diaz was lying on the ground. Jamie testified that Diaz was covered in blood and that when he put his hands behind Diaz's head he felt that the back of Diaz's head was open. Alfredo Monroy testified that after Urbano came to the house he ran to where Diaz was being beaten. Alfredo testified that he saw Diaz on the ground and another "guy" beating him in the chest and face. Alfredo said he yelled and the "guy" pulled Diaz's jacket off and ran through a passage way between two houses. Alfredo later identified Sanchez in a lineup as the person still on top of Diaz as they approached.

Dr. Mitra Kalelkar, assistant chief medical examiner, testified that on January 26, 1997, she performed an autopsy on Joaquin Diaz. Dr. Kalelkar testified regarding the extensive injuries to Diaz's head. Dr. Kalelkar noted very severe hemorrhages underneath the scalp, a fractured and depressed skull cap and a severely contused brain. In Dr. Kalelkar's opinion, these injuries were consistent with being struck with a metal pipe. Dr. Kalelkar opined that Diaz died as a result of extensive cranial cerebral injuries.

Defendant testified on his own behalf at trial. Defendant admitted that in January of 1997 he was a member of the La Raza gang. Defendant testified that on January 24, 1997, he was with T-Bone, Flaco, Pelon, Little Popeye, and two girls "drinking and smoking weed" in a van. Defendant stated that while driving around in the area of 59th and Washtenaw, he and Flaco (Martinez) exited the van at a friend's house. Defendant testified that at that point they saw two Party People walking towards them. Defendant admitted that 59th and Washtenaw was Party People territory and that the Party People gang was at war with the La Raza gang. Defendant stated that when they approached the Party People, a fist fight began. Defendant stated he was hit with a beer bottle near his eyebrow. Defendant testified that at that point he returned to the van and left Martinez still fighting. He saw T-Bone (Saucedo) exit the van with a pipe. Defendant testified that he remained in the van until the fight was over. Defendant denied that they were driving in the area looking to fight with Party People. Defendant admitted that he was arrested and taken to Area 1 with Martinez, Sanchez and Flores on January 25 but denied ever speaking to any police officers while there.

In rebuttal, Officer Frank Valdez testified that he spoke with the defendant on January 26th at Area 1. Valdez stated that the defendant told him that he was home all day on January 24th under home confinement.

At the close of all the evidence, the jury returned a verdict finding defendant guilty of the armed robbery of Joaquin Diaz but not guilty of the first degree murder of Diaz and not guilty of the aggravated battery of Alvarez. The State subsequently filed a motion to have the defendant sentenced as an adult pursuant to section 5-4-(6)(c)(ii) of the Juvenile Court Act (705 ILCS 405/5-4(6)(c)(ii) (West 1996)). On May 5, 1999, the motion was granted and the case proceeded to sentencing.

During sentencing, the State called Officer Bill Quinn. Quinn testified that on January 23, 1996, in responding to a gang disturbance call, he arrested defendant, along with 11 others, for underage drinking. A handgun, thrown to the floor by Michael Reyes, was recovered at the scene. Saucedo was arrested on that date along with the defendant. On the way to the police station, defendant admitted he was a member of the La Raza gang.

Officer Bochnak testified that he arrested defendant on April 7, 1996, for assault. The victim informed officers that he and defendant got into a verbal altercation when defendant pointed a handgun at the victim. ...

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