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People v. Dodds

November 18, 2003

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CHARLES DODDS, 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 Burke

UNPUBLISHED

Defendant Charles Dodds appeals from an order of the circuit court dismissing, without an evidentiary hearing, his petition for post-conviction relief filed pursuant to the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 2000)). Defendant also appeals from the same order in which the trial court denied his motion for a new trial pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2000)). On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his post-conviction petition because new DNA evidence establishes that he was not physically connected to the crime scene in any way and, therefore, demonstrates his actual innocence. Defendant also contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a new trial because the State presented false evidence and made false arguments to the jury. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse and remand.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Defendant was charged with the murders of Shirley Glenn and Thomas O'Connor based on events that occurred on February 5, 1985. The matter is before this court for a third time. The facts were set out partially in our decision on direct appeal. People v. Dodds, 190 Ill. App. 3d 1083, 547 N.E.2d 523 (1989). Due to page limitations, only those facts relevant to the DNA issue are set forth here.

In addition to the testimony at defendant's jury trial of the investigating and arresting police officers, the detectives assigned to the case, defendant's friend who was a police officer, the assistant State's Attorney who obtained defendant's confession, and various witnesses who observed defendant and his conduct on the day in question, including the fact that he was present at the building where the victims were murdered on at least one occasion that day with Erwin Lewis, defendant's uncle, the State presented the testimony of Pamela Fish. Fish testified that she was a criminologist in the serology unit of the crime lab for the Chicago Police Department. Fish was asked to test certain evidence samples taken from the crime scene. Fish stated that a stain recovered from the exterior side of the apartment door contained blood that was of human origin, but she was not able to determine the blood type because the sample was insufficient. The same was true with respect to a stain on defendant's gray, white, and black striped sweater. Fish also tested defendant's black pants, blue shorts (worn as underwear), and a brown sweater jacket. Although none of these items had visible bloodstains on them, Fish stated that preliminary chemical tests indicated traces of blood scattered all over the items. However, again, because of an insufficient quantity, she was not able to type the stains and she could not tell whether the blood was of human or animal origin. No presence of blood was found on defendant's fingernail clippings, his shoes, socks, another sweater, and a shirt, nor on the knife recovered from the scene. Fish further testified that if the clothes previously had blood on them and they were not properly cleaned, traces of blood would show up on testing.

After defendant's motion for a directed finding was denied, defendant presented the testimony of Officer Theatris Patterson. Patterson, a latent print examiner, testified that defendant's fingerprints were not found on anything taken from the apartment following the murders, i.e., shot glasses, a tequila bottle, or a coffee cup. However, Lewis' prints were found on the coffee cup. On cross-examination, Patterson admitted that defendant could have touched the bottle or a shot glass and not left a print and the fact that no comparisons were made to defendant did not mean that defendant had not been present in the apartment.

Defendant also presented testimony from his mother that her brother, Erwin Lewis, confessed to her that he had committed the murders, as well as his own testimony in which he denied murdering Glenn or O'Connor.

The jury found defendant guilty of both murders and he was sentenced to natural life imprisonment. Defendant appealed, and we affirmed. Dodds, 190 Ill. App. 3d 1083. Thereafter, defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the trial court summarily dismissed as being frivolous and patently without merit. Defendant appealed, and we granted defense counsel's motion for leave to withdraw pursuant to Pennsylvania v. Finley, 481 U.S. 551, 95 L. Ed. 2d 539, 107 S. Ct. 1990 (1987), and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. People v. Dodds, No. 1-92-1655 (1992) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). Defendant then filed a second post-conviction petition, which the trial court again dismissed.

On January 25, 1999, defendant filed a motion for DNA testing pursuant to section 116-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963. 725 ILCS 5/116-3 (West 2000). The trial court granted the motion and defendant's bloodstained sweater, along with forensic blood samples from defendant, the victims, and Lewis were sent to the Illinois State Police Division of Forensic Services. On May 8, 2000, forensic scientist Edgardo Jove reported that DNA extracted from defendant's sweater was consistent with originating from defendant and at least one unknown contributor, which could not have been Glenn, O'Connor, or Lewis. Also sent to the lab were defendant's striped sweater, a brown sweater jacket, blue shorts, a turtleneck sweater, a pair of socks, black pants and belt, and a pair of shoes. On July 22, Jove reported that no blood-like stains were noted on the shorts, socks, pants, or shoes. In addition, no blood was indicated on the visible stains of the striped sweater, brown sweater, or turtleneck sweater.

Thereafter, on September 29, defendant filed a third post-conviction petition, contending that he did not receive a fair trial because the State presented false testimony from Pamela Fish and made false arguments to the jury based on Fish's testimony. Defendant also filed a motion for a new trial pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code, contending that he was entitled to a new trial because the State presented false testimony through Fish. On January 18, 2001, the State filed a motion to dismiss defendant's petition, contending that DNA evidence was not exculpatory and, therefore, defendant failed to demonstrate any prejudice as required for the court to consider a successive post-conviction petition. The State noted in this motion that the case involved one of first impression, i.e., that there were no reported cases where section 116-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure had been used to bring a successive post-conviction petition.

At a hearing on the State's motion to dismiss defendant's post-conviction petition on February 21, the trial court concluded that defendant had not made an affirmative showing of evidence that was of such conclusive character that it was likely to change the outcome of his trial. According to the trial court, a negative match to the victims' blood on defendant's clothing did not exonerate defendant. The court further concluded that a negative match did not provide evidence sufficient to override the witnesses' testimony at defendant's trial and his own confession. Accordingly, the trial court granted the State's motion to dismiss defendant's post-conviction petition. In addition, the trial court denied defendant's motion for a new trial, concluding that there had been no showing by defendant that Fish's testimony was of such conclusive character as to deprive him of a fair trial. This appeal followed.

ANALYSIS

I. Dismissal of Post-conviction ...


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