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People v. Lyles

June 28, 2002


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County 96 CR 21031 The Honorable Edward M. Fiala, Jr., Judge Presiding.

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


Following a jury trial, defendant Lukas Lyles was found guilty of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 1996)) and sentenced to 45 years in prison. On appeal, defendant contends that the weapons recovered from the back porch of his apartment should have been suppressed as the fruit of an unjustified warrantless search of defendant's back porch. For the following reasons, we affirm.


Defendant's conviction arose from the fatal shooting of Paris Green. Defendant and co-defendants Doyle Hargrays and Darryl James were charged with first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 1996)). The cases were severed but tried simultaneously. The evidence at trial established that shortly before midnight on July 16, 1996, Green was standing near the intersection of 46th Street and Indiana Avenue in Chicago speaking to Emil Riley, who was sitting in the driver's seat of a car. Riley testified that, while they were speaking, a car drove by and the occupants of the 1car flashed gang signs. Shortly thereafter, Hargrays arrived in another vehicle. Hargrays and two other individuals exited the car and began shooting. Riley, who suffered no injuries in the shooting, identified defendant as one of the shooters. Green suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head.

Officer Nathaniel Hill, a gang tactical officer, testified that he was aware of an ongoing gang dispute in the area where Green was shot. Officer Hill arrived at the scene within 12 minutes after the shooting and observed approximately 20 to 25 people in the general area. Officer Hill walked through the crowd and asked if anyone had witnessed the shooting. Officer Hill spoke to Emil Riley and Ron Pendleton, who identified defendant as one of the offenders. According to Riley, three individuals were involved in the shooting. Riley told Officer Hill that the three individuals circled the block several times in a "white maroon [sic] vehicle," displayed gang signs and finally exited the vehicle and started shooting. Riley and Pendleton provided Officer Hill with a physical description of each of the three individuals. Riley described defendant as a male teen, approximately 5 feet tall. Pendleton told Officer Hill defendant was wearing a white T-shirt.

When Officer Hill spoke to Riley and Pendleton, he did not know that they and defendant belonged to rival gangs. Two weeks prior to Green's shooting, a member of Pendleton and Riley's gang shot defendant and at the same time killed a member of defendant's gang. According to Officer Hill, defendant was cooperating with the police investigation of that shooting, and Officer Hill knew where defendant lived. Officer Hill proceeded to defendant's apartment at 420 East 46th Street, approximately four to five blocks away.

Officer Hill and seven other officers sealed off the perimeter surrounding defendant's building. While Officer Hill was stationed in the alley behind the building, officers at the front of the residence told him they were knocking on defendant's front door. Officer Hill observed activity on the back porch but could not tell what was happening because it was dark. The officers at the rear of the building subsequently told Officer Hill that three subjects were coming down the back stairs. After defendant and co-defendants were arrested in the backyard, the officers went up to the back porch of defendant's apartment and recovered two guns from a garbage can. According to Officer Hill, other apartments had access or back doors that opened onto the porch. Officer Hill testified that there appeared to be two apartments "on [sic] the top floor back porch." Officer Hill testified that he did not know whether defendant's apartment was searched.

Officer John Lahori, a gang tactical officer, testified that on July 17, 1996, at approximately 12:40 a.m., he was participating in the investigation of Green's shooting. As part of this investigation, Officer Lahori hid at ground level under the first-floor back porch at defendant's apartment building along with another gang tactical officer, Officer Milton Seaton. Officer Lahori was notified that additional officers entered defendant's apartment after knocking at the front door. Officer Lahori then heard some "footsteps on the porch area, some rumbling around." Officer Lahori left his position under the porch and waited with Officer Seaton outside the ground-level stairway door. Officer Lahori heard a total of two doors open. According to Officer Lahori, defendant and the two other men were arrested after they exited the stairwell into the yard. Officer Lahori then ascended the stairwell to the second-floor porch area.

Officer Lahori testified that he saw "a table [and] a bunch of stuff on the back porch *** [and] kind of looked around on the back porch that was directly by the back door of [defendant's] apartment." Officer Lahori recovered "[t]wo 9-millimeter handguns, a couple of 30-round clips and a lot of ammunition" from a garbage can that was "approximately three feet away from the rear entrance to [defendant's] apartment on the back porch." Officer Lahori placed the weapons in a clear plastic bag so that he would not contaminate any fingerprints that might have been on the weapons.

At trial, the State introduced a photograph of the back of defendant's apartment building into evidence. Officer Lahori testified that the photograph accurately reflects how the rear of defendant's apartment building appeared in July 1996, except that "[i]t seems to be a little more remodeling done." Officer Lahori did not indicate what remodeling appeared to have been done. The photograph depicts a brick three-story walk-up. On the second and third floors, a door led from the building to a wooden exterior porch that is protected on each exposed side by a wooden balustrade. No door from the first-floor residence to the first-floor back porch is visible in the photograph. An enclosed structure, apparently housing the stairwell, is visible directly adjacent to the porches. No access to this structure-either from the building or the ground floor exterior-is visible in the photograph. A chain-link fence borders the property on both sides of the building and at the alley. The photograph does not reveal whether any door or other barrier separated each porch from the enclosed stairwell.

Officer Seaton testified that he had known defendant for years and that he was aware that defendant had been shot prior to July 16, 1996. On July 16, 1996, Officer Seaton went to defendant's residence at approximately 1 a.m. While other officers secured the perimeter of the building, Officer Seaton hid along with Officer Lahori under the back porch. Defendant, James, and Hargrave subsequently went down the back stairs and were arrested after they exited the back stairway through the ground-level door. Officer Seaton "vaguely recall[ed]" attempting to open the ground-level door to access the back stairs and believed it was locked. Officer Lahori testified that defendant and his companions unlocked the door when they exited the stairwell. Two guns were subsequently found inside a garbage can on the upstairs porch. Officer Seaton believed that defendant's apartment was in a three-story building and "guess[ed]" that three flights of stairs led to the porch where the guns were retrieved. Officer Seaton did not recall whether other apartments had back doors that entered onto the porch.

Chicago police officer Ronnie Edmond testified that he and Officer Hill arrived at the scene of the shooting at approximately 12:15 a.m. Thirty minutes later, Officer Edmond went with other officers to defendant's residence. After the three individuals were arrested, Edmond and several other officers searched defendant's apartment. Officer Edmond "believe[d] [he] searched the bedroom, the dining area and also *** around on the rear porch." He was on the porch with Officer Lahori when the weapons were recovered, but he could not recall if they were in a garbage can.

At trial, Robert Berk, an analyst with the State Police crime lab, testified that he analyzed a gunshot residue kit which included swabs taken from both of defendant's hands on the night of the shooting. Based upon his analysis, Berk opined that on the night of the shooting defendant had either handled a ...

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