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People v. Thornton

August 16, 2002


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

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn


Defendant Tyrone Thornton was charged, along with co-defendant Melvin Scott, with six counts of aggravated kidnaping, one count of forcible detention (720 ILCS 5/10-4(A)(West 1996)), three counts of aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4-(a), 12-4(b)(8), (West 1996)), one count of aggravated unlawful restraint (720 5/10-3.1(a)(West 1996)) and one count of unlawful restraint (720 ILCS 5/10-3)(West 1996)).

Following a jury trial, Thornton was convicted of two counts of aggravated kidnaping (720 ILCS 5/10-2(a)(1), (a)(3) (West 1996)). He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. On appeal, defendant asserts that his convictions must be reversed because (1) he was prejudiced when one of the jurors was interviewed in camera during jury deliberations; (2) his constitutional rights were violated when the court interviewed a juror regarding her health and this interview took place in the presence of only the State and defense counsel; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. For the following reasons, we affirm.

At trial, James Fullilove (the victim) testified that on August 30, 1997, at around 7 p.m. he was sitting in the backseat of a car parked in front of 6224 S. Vernon in Chicago, Illinois. At approximately 7:15 p.m., he saw co-defendant Scott pull up in his car and block the car in which he was sitting. Defendant Thornton then got out of Scott's car and opened the door of Fullilove's car and pulled Fullilove out of the car. After Fullilove was out of the car, Thornton started punching him in the face, and the victim and Thornton fought for about 5 or 10 minutes. The victim tried to run and defendant tripped him. Defendant then pulled the victim's overalls off and the victim was left wearing underwear, socks, and one shoe.

After that, co-defendant got out of his car, walked over, put the victim in a "full Nelson," and walked the victim through a gangway that led to an alley. As Scott was doing that, Thornton drove Scott's car around through the alley. Scott then forced the victim into the backseat of the car. Thornton then began to drive while the victim, Scott, and another man, named Hickey, were in the backseat. During the car ride, Hickey, held the victim's head down so that he could not see where he was going while Scott punched the victim and told him that he owed him money for drugs. Thornton stopped the car in front of an abandoned three-flat building on 48th and Michigan.

After the car stopped, Scott took the victim out of the car in a "full Nelson" and brought him up to the third-floor apartment of that abandoned building. Once inside, the victim saw six or seven other people in the apartment. Thornton then punched the victim in the face a couple of times and then the other men in the apartment started punching, kicking and beating the victim. The victim heard someone on the phone while he was still being beaten. Thornton and Scott were still in the apartment. After the phone call, Thornton and Scott left the apartment while the other men continued to beat the victim.

About 30 or 40 minutes after Scott brought the victim into the apartment, someone came inside and said the police had Scott outside. The other men then stopped beating the victim and brought him out into the hallway. One of the men then kicked the victim down three flights of stairs. When the victim landed at the bottom of the staircase, he got up and walked outside, where he saw Detectives Carlson and Golab.

The victim then saw Scott inside a police car and told the detectives that Scott was one of the men who kidnaped him. The detectives took the victim to the hospital where he remained until the next day. The victim's face was fractured on the right side, he had a broken rib, and his "kidneys were messed up."

Chicago police officer Shayna Fitzpatrick testified that at about 7:30 p.m., she went to 6224 S. Vernon in response to a radio broadcast regarding a kidnaping in progress. When she arrived, she met with the victim's brothers, Samuel and Kenneth. After speaking with them, she went with the victim's brothers to the victim's house at 6223 S. King Drive. While inside the house, Samuel received a phone call. Officer Fitzpatrick talked with Samuel about the phone call and as a result of that conversation, she sent a flash message with details about the kidnaping over the radio.

Chicago police detective Marie Patrice Carlson testified that she was working with Detective Golab on the evening of August 30, 1997. After hearing the flash message that Officer Fitzpatrick sent over the radio, she and Detective Golab went to 6223 S. King Drive. Once there, Detective Carlson spoke with Officer Fitzpatrick and the victim's brother, Samuel. Samuel then got into the police car with Detective Carlson. Detective Carlson heard another message while inside the car that a car matching the description of co-defendant's had been stopped at 527 E. 61st Street. In response to that message, Detective Carlson, Detective Golan and Samuel drove to that location. When they arrived, Thornton and Scott were sitting in the back of a police car.

Another police officer brought Scott over to Detective Carlson and Detective Golab's car while Samuel exited the car. Detective Golan then read Scott his Miranda rights. Scott first denied knowing about the victim's kidnaping and then said he might know where the victim was.

Scott then directed the detective to 48th and Michigan. Detective Golab stopped the car at the southwest corner and then Scott told Detective Carlson to call over a teenaged boy who was walking down the street. When the boy reached the car, co-defendant told the boy to tell "them" that he was with the police. The boy then walked across the street and into the building where the victim was.

Detective Carlson testified that shortly thereafter the victim came out of the building, wearing only a pair of blue boxer shorts with a torn waistband, white socks, and one shoe. The victim had swelling and contusions on his face, his right eye was swollen shut, and the victim's whole body was shaking. Detective Golab went to help the victim while Detective Carlson was in the police car with Scott.

The victim then brought Detective Carlson, Detective Golab, and some other police officers up to the third-floor apartment where Thornton and Scott had brought him. Detective Carlson then called for an evidence technician who came and took photos of the apartment. After that, the detectives brought the victim down to the police car and were going to take the victim to Area Two for an interview when the victim began to complain of pain in his ribs and lower back. The police took him to the hospital.

Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) James Navarre testified that on August 31, 1997, he met with defendant in an interview room in Area Two while Detective Golab was present. ASA Navarre told defendant that he was a prosecutor and a lawyer but he was not defendant's attorney. ASA Navarre advised defendant of his Miranda rights. Defendant said he understood and agreed to talk to ASA Navarre. After talking with ASA Navarre and Detective Golab for about a half hour, defendant agreed to give a handwritten statement.

Defendant said that he had known Scott for about 10 years. Defendant also said that he knew Fullilove, who had owed Scott $550 for couple of months. Scott had been trying to get the money from the victim but every time the victim saw Scott, the victim, would run.

On August 30, 1997 at around 7 p.m., defendant was riding in the front seat with Scott in Scott's car while a person named William was in the backseat. Scott told the defendant that they were going to drive by 62nd and Vernon to see if the victim was there so that Scott could collect the money the victim owed him. When they arrived, Thornton saw the victim out on the street with his brothers. Thornton said they first drove around the block and then he got out of the car and walked up and grabbed the victim so he could not run.

Thornton said that the victim looked at Scott and he could see the fear in the victim's eyes. The victim then tried to run, so Thornton grabbed him and they "started tussling with each other" as the victim tried to run. Defendant hit the victim in the right eye and the victim kicked defendant. Defendant held onto the victim's overalls, which came off, and as defendant pulled the victim's overalls, the victim's left shoe came off also.

Defendant said that Scott got out of the car and the victim told his brother to go get the money that the victim owed Scott. When the victim's brother went to get the money, Scott stayed with the victim. Defendant then got into Scott's car and drove around the block. When defendant came around the block, Scott had the victim in a "full Nelson." Defendant stayed in the front seat and William stayed in the backseat as Scott forced the victim into the back of the car.

Defendant then drove to 4839 S. Michigan while Scott was in the backseat and was asking the victim where his money was. When they arrived at 4839 S. Michigan, William, Scott and defendant took the victim to the third-floor apartment. Once inside, defendant hit the victim in the ribs. William then used Scott's phone to call the victim's brother about getting the money the victim owed Scott. Defendant heard William say that William was going to call back in five minutes. A couple of Scott's friends were also in the apartment.

After William got off the phone, defendant and Scott drove to 61st and King Drive to pick up the money from the victim's brother. The victim's brother was not there when they arrived so defendant used Scott's phone to call the victim's brother to see where he was with the money. Defendant said he dialed a phone number in the 312 area code twice to call the victim's brother but heard a busy signal each time. Defendant did not know that the area code he should have been dialing was 708. As defendant was walking back to Scott's car, the police came. The detectives then arrived and Scott went with them to show them where the victim was being kept until they got the money.

Defendant took the stand in his own defense. Defendant testified that he was with Scott on August 30, 1997. He saw the victim on the street and he and defendant began to fight. Eventually they stopped fighting and the victim and Scott got into Scott's car, which defendant was driving. No one pushed the victim into the car. Defendant was told to drive to 48th and King Drive. On the way there, he heard Scott and the victim talking about money that the victim owed Scott. Upon arrival, Scott, the victim, and a third man got out of the car and went into a building. Defendant stayed in the car. After approximately 30 minutes, Scott returned to the car. Defendant asked for ride home. Scott parked the car at 61st and King Drive and police came "from everywhere." The police took defendant to Area Two.

Defendant testified that he was at Area Two for almost a full day before he was interviewed by an assistant State's Attorney. Defendant asked the police to be allowed to call his lawyer several times but they refused. When the assistant State's Attorney questioned the defendant, the defendant lied because he was afraid. Eventually, the assistant State's Attorney told defendant that nothing would come of this incident and he could go home if he signed a statement. Defendant testified that the assistant State's Attorney made up everything in the statement. Defendant admitted that he signed all seven pages of the written statement. The defense rested.

The jury found defendant guilty of two counts of aggravating kidnaping. Defendant's motion for new trial was denied. After a hearing in aggravation and mitigation, the trial court sentenced defendant to 10 years in prison on one count of aggravated kidnaping. This appeal followed.


Juror Separation

Defendant first argues that his convictions must be reversed because during jury deliberations, a juror who complained of being ill was brought to the judge's chambers. There, she was questioned by the court on the record in the presence of counsel for both sides but not in the presence of defendant. The record reflects that the following took place:

"THE COURT: Come on in.

THE JUROR: I don't know if it's something I ate.

THE COURT: The food here, that could be true. Which jury are you on?

THE JUROR: The Tyrone Thornton.

THE COURT: Thornton jury. You are on the jury on deliberating. Do you think that if we stopped deliberations at this time that you would be able to continue deliberating tomorrow?

THE JUROR: I don't know that's possible.

THE COURT: Do you feel like you could continue to ...

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