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People v. Ross

March 29, 2002


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 98 CR 1714 Honorable Colleen McSweeney Moore, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cahill


Separate juries found defendants guilty of first degree murder and armed robbery after a simultaneous, severed trial. Defendant Ross was sentenced to 40 years for murder and 10 years for armed robbery. Defendant Hannah was sentenced to 35 years for murder and 10 years for armed robbery. The trial court ordered the sentences to run consecutively for both defendants. This consolidated appeal followed. We affirm in part and vacate in part.

We first set out the evidence presented to both juries, then the evidence presented to each jury separately. The record shows that the State first proceeded against defendant Hannah, then against defendant Ross. We will follow that order here.

The evidence presented to both juries established that Aaron Lanagan was murdered on January 18, 1996, during an armed robbery of his convenience store.

Officer Patricia Black testified that she spoke to a confidential informant on January 18 in the course of her investigation of the murder and robbery. Black revealed at trial that the informant was Haikeem Hoskins, a member of the Gangster Disciples street gang. Black said that, after her conversation with Hoskins, she began a search for defendant Ross and three other people-all members of the Gangster Disciples gang. Black spoke to Ross on the day of the shooting but did not arrest him.

Detective Stehlik testified that he also investigated the murder and robbery and spoke with Black. Stehlik questioned Ross on January 28, 1996, but did not arrest him for the murder or robbery. Ross was arrested on January 3, 1998.

Officer Alexander Starks testified that, on December 20, 1997, he arrested defendant Hannah for an unrelated offense. Starks brought Hannah to detectives at Area 1 headquarters after speaking with him at the Third District station. Starks then testified about gang organizational structure in the Gangster Disciples. Starks explained that a "coordinator" is first in the chain of command and overlooks the "shorties" or juveniles in the gang. There are separate "coordinators" for gang members above the age of 17. A "coordinator" distributes drugs, collects money and gives orders to the juveniles about a person to "hit." This testimony was taken over objection of both defendants, who questioned Starks' qualifications to testify as an expert on gang organization.

Mary Lanagan, the victim's wife, testified that she and her husband owned the convenience store at the corner of 74th Street and Bishop Avenue. Lanagan said her husband was 65 years old on January 18, 1996.

Lawrence Garfield testified that, on January 18, 1996, he was working as a security guard across the street from the convenience store. Garfield said that he saw two teenagers run into the store, then flee down an alley next to the store. He said the teenagers were dark skinned but he could not see their faces. He said one wore a beige coat and the other a red and black jacket. Garfield said he did not find this conduct unusual, since he frequently saw neighborhood kids go into the store and steal potato chips from a rack near the door. Garfield said that the teenagers he saw ran away with a bag of chips.

A deputy medical examiner testified that the victim died of bullet wounds that lacerated his lungs and heart. This concluded the evidence presented to both juries. The trial court then excused the Ross jury and the following evidence was presented to the Hannah jury.

Assistant State's Attorney Patrick Kelly testified that, on December 21, 1997, he spoke with Hannah after advising him of his constitutional rights. Hannah acknowledged his rights and gave a court-reported statement.

Hannah said in the statement that he was a "coordinator" in the Gangster Disciples street gang. He explained that he was in charge of juveniles. He supervised their drug transactions and gave the proceeds to a fellow "coordinator." Hannah said that, in December 1995, his gang was at war with the Black Stones and was trying to accumulate guns and drugs. Hannah planned to rob the convenience store on Bishop in the middle of January because it was nearby. Hannah admitted that the victim had banned the Gangster Disciples from the store for stealing. Hannah said he called a meeting to plan the robbery. Ross, Jamel and Corey Conley, and "Little Rob" attended. Jemel and Corey are cousins. The purpose of the meeting was to plan how Hannah would commit the robbery and what the assignments of the others would be. Hannah said he planned to "go in and get the money" with a .357-caliber revolver loaded with .38-caliber bullets. Hannah said that the gun belonged to the gang and was kept at an abandoned house on 73th Street. He told the others they would be security and watch for police from different locations. Ross was to watch the alley next to the store. Corey was to watch the street from 74th to 73th Street and Bishop Avenue. Jamel was to walk around near the store.

Hannah held a second meeting on January 17, 1996. Hannah decided during this meeting that the robbery would happen the next day, January 18, at 11 a.m. Hannah said he told the others to meet him in an abandoned house near the convenience store at 11 a.m.

Hannah said he was not able to join Ross and the others on the day of the robbery because his mother made him go to school that day. He went to a YMCA after school where he learned of the murder. Hannah later spoke to Ross, who told Hannah that the robbery did not go as planned. Hannah then called an emergency meeting.

At the emergency meeting, Jamel told Hannah that he, Corey and Ross went to rob the store. Jamel admitted shooting the victim, but said that he had not intended to do so. Jamel said that the victim swung a stick at him. Jamel then shot the victim twice. Jamel shot the victim a third time when he noticed the victim was not dead. Jamel told Hannah that the others stood watch as planned in the earlier meeting. Only Jamel went inside the store. Jamel told Hannah that he did not take money, but left with two bags of potato chips and some soda. Hannah then concluded his statement by saying that he had been treated well during his five hours in custody before he gave his statement. This statement was published to the jury.

Detective James Cassidy testified that he was investigating the January 18, 1996, murder and robbery. Cassidy said he was present when Hannah gave his statement. He said that, after Hannah's confession, Cassidy began looking for Jemel Conley, Corey Conley and Ross. Cassidy said that the Conley cousins were arrested in December 1997 and Ross was arrested on January 3, 1998. The State then called two witnesses, over Hannah's objection.

Teasha Hoskins testified that she received five letters from Hannah while he was incarcerated. She received three in one envelope in the spring of 1998. One letter was for Teasha, a second directed her to give the third letter to her brother Haikeem.

The letter to Teasha discussed defendant Hannah's belief that Teasha was pregnant with his baby. Hannah then explained why he was in jail:

"The only reason why I'm here is because some [expletive deleted] opened his bill, and if Haikeem wouldn't have quacked, when I get out, I wouldn't have been my dinner."

Teasha explained that Hannah meant that if Haikeem had not told police about his involvement in the January 18 robbery, he would not have been in jail.

Haikeem Hoskins testified that he knew Hannah through his association with the Gangster Disciples. Haikeem said Hannah was a coordinator in the gang. Haikeem said that he knew a man had been killed at the convenience store on January 18, 1996. Haikeem was arrested for aggravated attempted robbery on November 26, 1997. The arrest was unrelated to the murder and robbery on January 18. Haikeem said that, when he received Hannah's letter in the spring of 1998, he had been released from jail. Haikeem then read the letter to the jury:

"Yeah, what's up [expletive deleted.] I found out all the [expletive deleted] that you told them people on November 26, the day they tried to put that cab driver murder on us. I just want to let you know if you was coming to court on me, I don't give a, I mean I just wanted to know if you was coming to court on me. I don't give a [expletive deleted] what you do to them other [expletive deleted.] I'm just concerned about my *** self. Let me give you a word of wise. If you do, you mind [sic] as well kiss yo [sic] life goodbye because that will be the end of, because that will be the last time you see yo [sic] shorty. If you know me, I don't sell woof tickets cause you know I don't have [anything] to do with this, but ain't no love loss [sic] ***. You can tear this paper up now. Boss."

Haikeem testified that he was never charged with a cab driver murder and that the cab driver reference had nothing to do with the January 18 murder and robbery. A series of objections prevented Haikeem from explaining what the letter meant to him. But Haikeem was allowed to testify that he understood Hannah to mean that he did not care if Haikeem implicated the others involved. Hannah was concerned only for himself. Haikeem admitted that he was currently in custody for a parole violation and had a pending robbery charge. Haikeem denied that he was promised leniency in exchange for his testimony.

On cross-examination, Haikeem admitted that he did not give police Hannah's name when he gave them information about the January 18 murder and robbery.

The State rested its case after presenting the stipulated evidence that a firearms examination revealed that the bullets recovered from the victim's body and at the scene could have been fired from a .38- or .357-caliber revolver.

Gloria Smith, a high school teacher, was the only witness who testified for Hannah. Smith said that, on January 18, 1996, she was teaching a sixth-period physical education class. Smith said the class started at 12:29 p.m. and ended at 1:19 p.m. Smith said that she took attendance that day and that Hannah was present for the whole period.

During a jury instruction conference, Hannah proffered Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal, No. 5.04 (3d ed. 1992) (hereinafter IPI Criminal 3d) on withdrawal. The State objected. The court refused to give the instruction, finding that the evidence did not support the defense theory that Hannah effectively withdrew his participation in the robbery and subsequent murder. The Hannah jury found defendant guilty of first degree murder and armed robbery.

Defendant Ross made a motion under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69, 106 S. Ct. 1712 (1986), challenging the State's use of four out of six peremptory challenges after jury selection but before the jury was sworn. The State made a reverse Batson challenge in response. The trial court questioned the timeliness of Ross' motion, then denied both motions after a joint Batson hearing. The following evidence was then presented to the Ross jury.

Detective Cassidy testified that on January 3, 1998, he told Officer Cedric Parks to "pick up" Ross. Cassidy explained that he had obtained Ross' name from Hannah's statement taken in December. Cassidy admitted that he did not have an arrest warrant for Ross. Cassidy spoke to Ross three times on January 3. Cassidy conducted the first interview alone. The second interview was taken with Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) Kathleen Lanahan present. Cassidy was present for a third interview when Ross gave a court-reported statement to Lanahan. Cassidy denied telling Ross that he could go home after he gave a statement. Cassidy also denied speaking to Ross' mother Delores. Cassidy said that Ross' mother could have spoken to Officer Parks, but he was not sure.

ASA Kathleen Lanahan testified that she took Ross' court reported statement on January 3, 1998. Ross said that, on January 18, 1996, he was a 16-year-old member of the Gangster Disciple street gang. Ross said that in 1996 his gang was at war with the Black Stones, a rival gang. A robbery of the convenience store at 74th and Bishop Avenue was planned to fund the "war." Hannah was a coordinator in the gang, which meant he told younger members what to do. Hannah told Ross to be the lookout in the back of the alley. Jemel and Corey Conley were also told to be lookouts near the store. Jemel was told to bring a gun kept at an abandoned house. Hannah was to enter the store and commit the robbery. These assignments were repeated at a second meeting called by Hannah the day before the robbery. Ross met the Conley cousins in an alley behind the store as planned. They waited for Hannah, who never came. Jemel then said he would commit the robbery. He took the .357-caliber revolver he brought from the abandoned house and went into the store. Corey followed him. Ross could not see if Corey also entered the store because Ross stayed in the alley, watching for police. Ross then heard three ...

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