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People v. Lucas

December 19, 2002


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Fitzgerald

Docket No. 89458-Agenda 5-September 2002.

A jury found defendant, Roosevelt Lucas, guilty of first degree murder. The same jury found defendant eligible for death on the ground that the victim was a correctional officer and concluded that there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude imposition of the death penalty. The trial court sentenced defendant to death, and this court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence on direct appeal. See People v. Lucas, 151 Ill. 2d 461 (1992). Pursuant to the Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act, defendant petitioned the circuit court for post-conviction relief. 725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 1996). Following a hearing on the State's motion to dismiss, the circuit court dismissed defendant's petition without an evidentiary hearing. Defendant appeals directly to this court (134 Ill. 2d R. 651(a)), and we now affirm the judgment of the circuit court.


On September 3, 1987, Robert Taylor, a superintendent at the Pontiac Correctional Center, was attacked while he worked in his office and died as a result of multiple stab wounds to his heart and multiple lacerations to his scalp caused by a blunt instrument. In our opinion on direct appeal we detailed the evidence presented against defendant at trial. Lucas, 151 Ill. 2d at 468-76. In the instant appeal, we will only discuss the facts necessary to address the claims raised by defendant in his post-conviction petition.

At trial, the State presented several witnesses to prove that defendant and another inmate killed Taylor. Two inmates gave eyewitness testimony at trial. Inmate Lawrence Spillar testified that he was in Taylor's office discussing his assignment to a painting detail when the attack began. Spillar testified that while he spoke with Taylor, inmate Ike Easley ran into Taylor's office, jumped onto Taylor's desk and began to hit and stab Taylor in the chest with a knife. Spillar attempted to flee the office, but was prevented from leaving when he collided with defendant at the door. Defendant and Spillar briefly struggled at the door until defendant pushed Spillar aside; Spillar then observed defendant rush towards Taylor and beat Taylor several times in the head with a pipe. Spillar stood at the door of Taylor's office and watched as defendant and Easley discarded their weapons and ran. Inmate Demetre Brown testified that on the morning of the murder he saw Easley and defendant approach Taylor's office prior to the attack; both wore hats and gloves. Brown testified that he watched Easley and defendant rush into Taylor's office, and saw Easley stab Taylor repeatedly in the torso while defendant struck him repeatedly in the head with a metal pipe. After the attack, Brown also observed Easley and defendant run from the office, discarding their weapons as they ran. Defendant cross-examined each eyewitness regarding their prior convictions and gang affiliations. Spillar was the leader of the Stones, while Brown was a Vice Lord, an ally gang of the Stones. Defendant belonged to the Stones' and Vice Lords' rival gang, the Black Gangster Disciples (BGD), and conceded his membership in the gang at trial.

Another State witness, Officer Don Lyons, testified that immediately after the attack all inmates were secured in their cells. During his patrol of the cell-block one-half hour after the attack, he observed defendant inside his cell, naked waist-up, washing his arms, torso and hands. Lyons testified that this behavior was unusual because defendant's cell-block had been given the opportunity to shower earlier that morning. Further, Lyons testified that unlike other inmates who stood at the front of their cells shouting to one another to learn about the attack, defendant asked no questions and seemed disinterested.

The State argued that Taylor's murder was a retaliation killing by gang members of the BGD for the death of a fellow gang member, Billy "Zodiac" Jones, three months earlier at Pontiac. The State presented witnesses to show that defendant's affiliation and leadership position within the BGD led to his participation in the killing. Further, the State offered witnesses to support its theory that the killing was retaliatory. Deputy Director Donald Long testified that his investigation confirmed that "the motive, as shown through the investigation, was that the murder of [Taylor] was a direct result of the death of inmate [Jones]." Inmate Harry Martin, a former BGD member, testified about the motive for the killing and discussed defendant's participation in the killing. Martin first outlined the structure of the BGD and its activities, including extortion, gambling, prostitution, tax fraud, armed robbery and credit card fraud. Martin testified that he had gained information concerning the BGD's structure and activities because he was previously a board member and financial advisor to Larry Hoover, the BGD's chairman of the board. He explained, however, that in 1987 he began to cooperate with the Department of Corrections (DOC) because he learned that BGD gang members were planning to assassinate him:

"I was Larry's financial adviser from 1984 until 1987. During that time we established policies for the institutions, throughout the state and all the states. One of the policies was no heroin inside of the institutions. No guns, no violence, etcetera, things that would stunt the financial growth of the organization. After Larry Hoover left in February or March [1987], the majority of the board were disgruntled by the policies that were established when he was there saw me as the stepping stone between what they wanted to do and what was going on at the time, so they put together a conspiracy to assinate [sic] me.

[The warden told me of the conspiracy to assassinate me.] When he told me this I didn't believe it. I'd been a member of the B.O.S [BGD] all my life. I'd given my life to the organization. I was a Board member. I was-it made me mad, so I wouldn't believe him. *** I went back and talked to a couple of board members who were my allies at the time, and they confirmed the conspiracy.

I had a dilemma. I was in between assasinating [sic] seven members of the board or throwing away thirteen years of my life. So rather than become what they were, I threw away thirteen years and left the institution."

Martin testified that only after he learned of the assassination plans against him did he begin to cooperate with the DOC. Martin further testified that he was introduced to Pontiac BGD members when he was transferred to that facility in 1987. He first met gang members in the cafeteria, including the BGD's facility "co-chairman," Corwyn "Ketchup" Brown. Martin testified that during this meeting with Ketchup defendant was present, and based upon defendant's conduct he believed defendant was a member of the BGD's security group called the United Front Organization (UFO). Specifically, he stated that he observed defendant "trailing" Ketchup and other board members, and observed defendant take orders from Ketchup. UFO members were protectors and responsible for security, making certain that members had weapons or body guards. Additionally, UFO members carried out attacks or murders against other inmates or prison staff. Martin testified that during this same meeting in the cafeteria, Ketchup conveyed the BGD's outrage and hostility towards the administration for Jones' death. Specifically, while the defendant was present, Martin was told by Ketchup that the BGD wanted to "retaliate against the administration." On cross-examination, Martin admitted that his statement that defendant was a member of the UFO was an assumption based on his knowledge and experience of the gang structure and defendant's conduct which fit the stereotypical characteristics of a UFO member. Defense counsel further cross-examined Martin regarding his motive to testify and asked specifically whether Martin received anything in exchange for his cooperation. Martin testified that he did not receive immunity for his testimony and was not offered anything in exchange for his testimony by either the prosecution or the DOC. Martin responded that the only thing he "received" for his testimony was "solitary confinement, a dead son, and my wife in exile."

Two inmates, Darryl Knighten and Louis Roberson, testified for the defense. Knighten testified that he observed Taylor's body lying on the ground in front of his office. He then saw an inmate called "Iron Man" enter Taylor's office and stand by Taylor's body. Knighten testified that he watched Iron Man reach for an object and eventually return to his cell. Next, Roberson testified that on his way to get a cup of coffee he passed defendant's cell, where he saw defendant sitting. After he returned to his own cell, Roberson testified, he heard noises and stepped outside the cell to see what was causing the commotion. According to his testimony, he saw Taylor lying on the ground outside his office and, at the same time, saw defendant standing at the front of his own cell. However, on cross-examination Roberson admitted that he only saw defendant standing at the front of his cell after he heard the noise, and that he did not know if the noise he heard was the attack upon Taylor or instead the guards rushing to Taylor's office after the attack.

The jury found defendant guilty of first degree murder and at a subsequent sentencing hearing found defendant eligible for the death sentence. After hearing evidence in aggravation and mitigation, the jury concluded there were no mitigating factors sufficient to preclude the death penalty and the trial court imposed the death penalty. On direct appeal, this court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence (Lucas, 151 Ill. 2d at 497-98). We now consider the circuit court's dismissal of defendant's post-conviction petition without an evidentiary hearing.


The Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) provides a procedural mechanism by which criminal defendants can assert that "in the proceedings which resulted in his or her conviction there was a substantial denial of his rights under the Constitution of the United States or of the State of Illinois or both." 725 ILCS 5/122-1(a) (West 1996). The purpose of the post-conviction proceeding is to permit inquiry into constitutional issues involved in the original conviction and sentence that were not, nor could have been, adjudicated previously on direct appeal. People v. Morgan, 187 Ill. 2d 500, 528 (1999). Therefore, a post-conviction petition is a collateral proceeding and does not relitigate a defendant's innocence or guilt. People v. Evans, 186 Ill. 2d 83, 89 (1999). Any issues considered by the court on direct appeal are barred by the doctrine of res judicata, and issues which could have been raised on direct appeal are deemed waived. People v. West, 187 Ill. 2d 418, 425 (1999).

A defendant is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his claims as a matter of right. Rather, a defendant is only entitled to an evidentiary hearing where the allegations contained in the petition, supported by the trial record and any accompanying affidavits, make a substantial showing of a constitutional violation. People v. Orange, 195 Ill. 2d 437, 448 (2001). A trial court must examine the legal sufficiency of the defendant's allegations taking all well-pleaded facts as true. People v. Towns, 182 Ill. 2d 491, 503 (1998). A trial court's ruling on the sufficiency of defendant's allegations is a legal determination and, therefore, we review de novo a trial court's decision to dismiss the petition without an evidentiary hearing. People v. Coleman, 183 Ill. 2d 366, 388 (1998). Defendant raises three claims for our review.

I. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel-Mitigation

Defendant alleges that his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to investigate and call numerous witnesses in mitigation. To support his claim, defendant attaches 10 affidavits from friends and family who were willing but were not called to testify on his behalf. Defendant further argues that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to adequately prepare certain witnesses that did testify on his behalf.

Claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel are examined under the two-prong, performance-prejudice test first enunciated in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 104 S. Ct. 2052 (1984). People v. Albanese, 104 Ill. 2d 504, 526-27 (1984). To establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel during sentencing, defendant must show that "counsel's performance fell below minimal professional standards and that a reasonable probability exists that the sentence was affected by the poor performance." People v. Steidl, 177 Ill. 2d 239, 257 (1997), citing People v. Orange, 168 Ill. 2d 138, 168 (1995). Regarding the first prong, defendant must establish that trial counsel's errors were so serious that counsel did not function as " ` "counsel" guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.' " People v. Olinger, 176 Ill. 2d 326, 356 (1997), quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 80 L. Ed. 2d 674, 693, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 2064 (1984). Trial counsel has a duty to make a reasonable investigation into mitigating evidence to present at the sentencing hearing. Morgan, 187 Ill. 2d 500; Towns, 182 Ill. 2d at 513-14. However, trial counsel's decision to present certain mitigating evidence, or not present evidence, is presumed to be a product of sound strategy and is entitled to judicial deference on review. Olinger, 176 Ill. 2d at 356; Towns, 182 Ill. 2d at 513-14. In order to establish the second Strickland prong, defendant must show that but for trial counsel's deficient performance, there is a reasonable probability that the result of the sentencing proceeding would have been different. Steidl, 177 Ill. 2d at 257. Defendant must satisfy both prongs in order to prevail on his claim.

The State offered significant evidence in aggravation. The State introduced defendant's prior convictions for robbery, bail jumping, theft, murder, and armed robbery. At the time of Taylor's murder, defendant was serving a sentence of 80 years' imprisonment for murder and armed robbery. The State discussed the facts of the murder and armed robbery and presented testimony from the son of the defendant's first murder victim. Further, the State presented testimony regarding defendant's correctional violations, including one incident in which a correctional officer suffered a minor injury due to ...

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