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People v. Cuadrado

June 26, 2003

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DAMARIS CUADRADO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Bertina E. Lampkin, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Karnezis

UNPUBLISHED

Following a jury trial, defendant Damaris Cuadrado was convicted of solicitation of murder for hire in violation of section 8-1.2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/8-1.2 (West 1998)) and was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment. She now appeals and asserts numerous errors *fn1 requiring reversal of her conviction including: (I) the trial court erroneously denied her motion to dismiss the indictment; (II) her conviction is invalid because the evidence is insufficient as a matter of law; and (III) she was denied her right to confront State witness Benjamin Jiminez. We affirm.

[The following is not publishable under Supreme Court Rule 23]

[The preceding excerpt is not publishable under Supreme Court Rule 23]

BACKGROUND

Benjamin Jiminez (Benjamin) testified that he met defendant for the first time in September 1997 when he was introduced to her by Pedro Trinidad. Benjamin pulled up to Trinidad's house and Trinidad approached Benjamin's car and told Benjamin that defendant was looking for someone to kill her husband. Benjamin agreed to speak with defendant.

Defendant got into Benjamin's car and told Benjamin that she wanted her husband murdered because he was abusive. Benjamin noticed that defendant was upset but inquired why defendant did not just divorce her husband. Defendant responded that her husband had threatened to take their son away from her and she did not want to take that chance. Defendant then offered to pay Benjamin $10,000. Benjamin said he would look into it. Benjamin gave defendant his pager number and the two agreed to meet again.

A week later, defendant paged Benjamin and set up a meeting. Prior to their meeting, Benjamin set up a micro cassette recorder in his car with the hope that he would be able to record his conversation with defendant. Once defendant was inside the car, Benjamin pretended that he forgot defendant's name so that she would say it for the tape, which she did. Benjamin verified that defendant did not want her husband beaten, but wanted him killed. Defendant replied that she needed him "gone" and wanted him "out of the picture." Benjamin again told defendant that he would look into it but had not found anybody yet.

After the meeting, Benjamin wanted to make a copy of the tape. He went to his mother, who worked for a security firm to see if she had the right equipment. She did not, but inquired about the contents of the tape. Benjamin explained to his mother that the tape contained a conversation with a woman who was attempting to hire someone to kill her husband. Benjamin explained that he was going to blackmail defendant with the tape. Benjamin's mother listened to the tape and warned her son not to get involved.

In early December 1997, defendant paged Benjamin and they met. They talked about whether Benjamin had found anyone to kill her husband and Benjamin said he had not. Sometime after December 14, 1997, defendant again paged Benjamin and told him not to worry about looking for someone. *fn2

The two met shortly thereafter and defendant told Benjamin that she had already had the job done. Benjamin then informed her that he had secretly tape recorded their earlier conversation. Benjamin then told defendant that even though the job had already been done, he wanted money or he would go to the police with the tape. Defendant told Benjamin that she did not have the money because she had just paid the person "to do it" but that she would work on getting it.

Thereafter, defendant gave Benjamin $3,000 in cash and demanded the tape. Benjamin told defendant he would give her the tape when she gave him more money. Two days later, defendant gave Benjamin an additional $1,000 in cash. Benjamin then let defendant listen to the tape. After listening to the tape, defendant tore up the tape and threw it into a sewer. Defendant then told Benjamin that she would meet with him one more time and give him more money.

On May 22, 1998, defendant and Benjamin agreed to meet. Defendant failed to appear for the meeting so Benjamin went to defendant's house and stood across the street. Defendant approached Benjamin and told him that she did not have the money yet. As the two were talking, a man approached. Defendant introduced him as her boyfriend, Darryl Mitchell. He and Benjamin shook hands. Defendant told Benjamin she would meet him later.

The next day, defendant paged Benjamin and told him to meet her. They met and defendant told Benjamin to follow her in his car so she could get his money. After driving for a time, defendant stopped her car at 57th and Sawyer. Both defendant and Benjamin exited their vehicles. Defendant told Benjamin to wait while she got the money. After Benjamin got back into his car, Darryl Mitchell and another man approached and started shooting at him. Benjamin was shot in the spine and was instantly paralyzed.

Subsequently, Benjamin was hospitalized and spent three months in rehabilitation. In mid-June 1998, he told his mother what had happened and she called detectives, who took Benjamin's statement and showed him numerous photographs. He identified Darryl Mitchell as the person who shot him. He also later identified Mitchell in a lineup.

On October 21, 1998, police conducted a confidential overhear of a telephone call Benjamin made to defendant. During that conversation, defendant attempted to pretend that she was someone other than Damaris Cuadrado, but eventually exposed her real identity when Benjamin mentioned that he had another copy of the tape. During that conversation, defendant denied killing her husband but agreed to meet Benjamin the next day. Benjamin did not appear for the meeting.

Teresa Jiminez (Teresa), Benjamin's mother, testified she listened to the micro cassette tape that Benjamin had in September or October of 1997. On that tape, she heard her son's voice and another female voice but did not recognize the female voice. Shortly after she heard the tape, she saw her son with a bundle of hundred dollar bills although her son did not have a job.

Teresa also testified that she was present when there was a confidential overhear of a conversation between her son and defendant in October 1998. She subsequently listened to that tape and recognized the female voice as the same voice on the tape that her son had played for her.

After her son was shot, he initially told her that he had been shot by gangbangers. However, in the middle of June 1998 Teresa called the police after having a conversation with her son wherein Benjamin told her that defendant had him shot and that he did not want her to get away with it.

Later at the police station, Teresa heard police questioning someone in the other room. Teresa testified that she recognized the voice as the woman she had heard on Benjamin's tape and during the interception of a private communication.

Detective John Murray of the Chicago police department testified that on December 14, 1997, he was assigned to investigate a homicide. When he arrived at the scene, he observed a Hispanic male, identified as Edgardo Cuadrado, lying face down on the grass. It appeared that he had been shot several times. Defendant was interviewed and did not mention Benjamin Jiminez or any recording.

On June 17, 1998, Detective Murray received a telephone call from Teresa Jiminez. He and his partner went to the Schwab Rehabilitation Institute and spoke with Benjamin and his mother. As a result of his conversations, Detective Murray contacted postal inspector Kevin O'Brien at the United State Post Office and requested a series of photographs from employment identification cards. Benjamin later identified a photograph of Darryl Mitchell from the United State Post Office employment identification photographs.

On October 21, 1998, Detective Murray obtained a court order allowing him to record a conversation between Benjamin and defendant. The equipment was set up at Benjamin's mother's condominium. Two calls were placed to defendant's home wherein Benjamin spoke with defendant. Those calls were tape recorded. Teresa and Benjamin listened to the tape.

Surveillance was set up around defendant's Palos Hills condominium and several other addresses where defendant was known to visit. Defendant later ...


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