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People v. Collins

August 23, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
GARTH D. COLLINS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 00-CF-528 Honorable James K. Booras, Victoria A. Rosetti, Judges, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN

Released for publication August 29, 2002.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
GARTH D. COLLINS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 00-CF-528 Honorable James K. Booras, Victoria A. Rosetti, Judges, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN

PUBLISH

Defendant, Garth D. Collins, appeals from his conviction of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 570/401(a)(2)(A) (West 2000)). We reverse and remand.

Defendant was charged with multiple drug and weapon offenses after police executed a search warrant on his residence on February 16, 2000. After a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of the charge of possession with intent to deliver and several lesser drug-possession charges. The trial court denied defendant's motions for a new trial and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and sentenced defendant to a term of six years in prison. This appeal followed.

Defendant first contends that he was denied a fair trial by the State's failure to disclose material information regarding Muriel Spencer, one of the State's witnesses. Defendant raised an entrapment defense, contending that Spencer was an agent of the police and provided the drugs that were found during the search of defendant's residence.

Due process and Supreme Court Rule 412(c) require the State to disclose to a defendant any material or information within its possession or control that tends to negate the guilt of the defendant as to the offense charged. See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215, 83 S. Ct. 1194 (1963); People v. Preatty, 256 Ill. App. 3d 579, 589 (1994); 188 Ill. 2d R. 412(c). To establish a violation of this rule, the evidence not disclosed to the defendant must be both favorable to the defendant and material. People v. Vasquez, 313 Ill. App. 3d 82, 98 (2000). Evidence is material if there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different. Vasquez, 313 Ill. App. 3d at 98. The question is not whether the accused more likely than not would have received a different verdict had the evidence been disclosed but, whether, in the absence of the evidence, he received a fair trial, understood as a trial resulting in a verdict worthy of confidence. Vasquez, 313 Ill. App. 3d at 98.

Defendant filed motions to quash and suppress the manner of entry and to compel the disclosure of a confidential informant, alleging in both that an unidentified man knocked at defendant's door and entered his residence at the time the police entered the residence and executed the search warrant. A hearing on the motions was held on June 13, 2000. Defendant testified that on February 16 he received a telephone call from Muriel Spencer at about 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. Defendant had purchased some items from Spencer in the past and knew who Spencer was. About 25 minutes later, defendant heard a knock at his back door. Seeing Spencer standing there, defendant opened the door and allowed Spencer into his kitchen. Several police officers rushed in behind Spencer and executed the search warrant. Defendant lost sight of Spencer at that time. Defendant testified that a plastic bag of drugs was found on a countertop in his kitchen, about seven feet from his back door. Spencer was never handcuffed while he was in defendant's kitchen, and no one ever asked his name or what he was doing there. Defendant never heard the police knock or announce their office before they entered his home. Defendant also stated that Spencer had placed the drugs in the kitchen earlier that day. On cross-examination, defendant stated that he was aware that cocaine was also found on some plates in a cabinet. He stated that Spencer had been to his house approximately one hour before the search warrant was executed and that "it had to be" Spencer who put the drugs in his apartment. He did not see Spencer put the drugs in the apartment, and he did not know that the drugs were there before the police arrived.

After defendant's testimony, the court asked the assistant State's Attorney if Spencer were the confidential informant referred to in the search warrant. The assistant stated that she did not know the name of the informant.

Officer George McClary, Jr., of the North Chicago police department testified that he was present at the execution of the warrant and that the black male who knocked at defendant's back door never entered defendant's residence. On cross-examination, McClary testified that he had had contact with the black male before and that the man was "an integral part" of the plan for the execution of the warrant.

The trial court found that Muriel Spencer was the black male that knocked at defendant's door and that, because he had actively participated in the execution of the warrant, his identity had to be disclosed, although it was apparent that defendant already knew Spencer's identity. The court ordered the State to disclose Spencer's name, address, prior convictions, and "anything that goes to his bias or his credibility." The court also denied defendant's motion to quash and suppress the method of entry.

On June 29, defendant moved for the reconsideration of the court's ruling on the motion to quash and suppress and presented the testimony of Muriel Spencer as an offer of proof. Spencer testified that he was forced by the North Chicago police department to go to defendant's residence on February 16. Some member of the department put a gun to his head and told him to knock on defendant's door. He never entered defendant's residence but was handcuffed and placed in a car. He had been arrested prior to February 16 for "speeding tickets, a bunch of junk," but there was no criminal charge arising from the arrest. He was taken to defendant's residence by police two different times. He was under no agreement with the North Chicago police department prior to February 16. After the offer of proof, the court struck the motion to reconsider, finding that no new facts would have been presented. The court also found that there was no agreement between Spencer and the police.

On that same date, the State presented Spencer's testimony in relation to its motion to revoke defendant's bond. Spencer testified that, since February 16, he had been shot at by someone in a car who stated that "they" would kill him because he "rat out [sic] on our friends." His car had been vandalized and he had also been threatened by a man named Tracie O'Brian. On cross-examination, when asked if he were a confidential informant, Spencer replied, "No, I'm not. Hell no I'm not. No, I'm not. Hell no." When asked again, he stated, "No, I'm not. I said no, hell no." He denied being under any agreement with the North Chicago police department, and he denied having any arrangement with the police regarding the entry into defendant's home. Although a police officer had placed a gun to his head to make him knock at defendant's door, he had not been threatened by the police department, as placing the gun to his head was not a threat. The court found Spencer's credibility "questionable to say the least" and denied the motion.

On July 19, during argument on various motions filed by defendant, the following colloquy on disclosure of information regarding Spencer took place:

"THE COURT: If there is anything that would go and [sic] towards bias, et cetera, et cetera, anything that should be discoverable, deemed to be discoverable I ...


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