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People v. Stgewart

July 30, 2003


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 01-CF-61 Honorable Charles V. Romani, Jr., Judge, presiding.

Justices: Honorable Clyde L. Kuehn, J. Honorable Terrence J. Hopkins, P.J., and Honorable James K. Donovan, J., Concur

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn


Robert Mike and Otis Stewart grew up together in Alton, Illinois. Along the way, Stewart acquired the moniker "Chucky." That is how Mike referred to him throughout the trial. We will call him "the defendant."

The defendant, Robert Mike, and Patrick Thomas spent much of their January 7, 2001, evening at an Alton hangout called Club CTW. Mike and the defendant got into a heated argument at the club. We are not told what sparked the dispute.

Mike and Thomas decided to leave the defendant, and they departed to Mike's house. Thomas left Mike's house, but shortly after 3 a.m., he returned with the defendant. Mike greeted them at the door, thinking that the defendant had come to express his regret over his earlier conduct. Much to Mike's surprise, an apology was not forthcoming. As the defendant and Thomas entered Mike's house, the defendant pulled a handgun and trained it on his old buddy. The defendant demanded money.

This rather bizarre turn of events was about to get even weirder. Mike convinced the defendant that Mike needed to look for money upstairs, and he departed the company of Thomas, the defendant, and the handgun for an upstairs sanctuary. When he got upstairs, Mike did not look for money. Instead, he picked up the telephone and summoned the police.

Mike stalled for time with the police en route. As he pretended to rummage for cash, he heard a gunshot. Thomas had been shot in the leg.

About the same time, the Alton police department, in the person of four separate officers, began to arrive in response to a possible home invasion in progress. Officer Brent Bertschi was the first to discover the defendant and a companion leaving the scene. When he ordered them to halt, they ran. The defendant fired off four rounds at Officer Bertschi as he fled.

Officer Shane Gibbs was standing near the defendant's route of flight. With his weapon drawn, he ordered the defendant to drop his gun. The defendant slowed his gait and started to point his gun in Officer Gibbs' direction. Officer Gibbs did not hesitate. He fired off two rounds at the defendant.

To everyone's good fortune, no one was able to hit their target. However, Officer Gibbs' gunfire kindled the defendant's attention. Shooting at police officers was obviously more to the defendant's liking than being shot at by them. He tossed his gun away and fell to the ground. The defendant was immediately arrested. The gun that he used to fire upon the police officers was found. So were spent cartridges scattered along the path of the defendant's flight from Officer Bertschi. Ballistics testing matched the cartridges to the gun. The person who had been with the defendant when Officer Bertschi confronted them, and who had also run, got away.

The only witness to the aggravated battery, the victim, Thomas, initially refused to cooperate with the investigation. He later stated that Rico Long, not the defendant, was the man who had shot him. Thomas refused to testify at the trial. Neither side called him as a witness.

The defendant stood trial before a Madison County jury on charges of home invasion, aggravated battery with a firearm, and aggravated discharge of a firearm. The jury found him guilty of home invasion and aggravated battery and found him not guilty of aggravated discharge of a firearm. The defendant was sentenced to consecutive prison terms. He currently serves his punishment of 35 years' imprisonment for having committed home invasion. When he completes that sentence, he must serve another 25 years' imprisonment for having committed aggravated battery with a firearm.

The defendant asks us to overturn his convictions and grant him a new trial, based upon prejudicial closing arguments tendered by the person who prosecuted him. He complains of two sets of arguments, the first of which he claims intended to convey an improper message that the defendant's acquittal would leave the Alton community and neighborhood vulnerable to additional violent crime. The defendant claims the second argument improperly envelops the jurors into the justice system as an integral part of the law enforcement team. He contends that the argument casts the jurors as the final part of law enforcement work and conveys the message that an acquittal would not be doing their part in support of that work. The defendant maintains that the remarks suggested ...

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