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People v. Davis

January 07, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 99 CR 3720 Honorable Edwards M. Fiala, Jr. Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hall

[8]  On February 2, 2001, following a jury trial, defendant, Jackie Davis, also know as "Little Jack," was convicted of second-degree murder. On April 6, 2001, after denying defendant's motion for a new trial, the circuit court sentenced defendant to 18 years' imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections. After defendant's motion to reconsider sentence was denied, he filed his timely notice of appeal on April 10, 2001.

[9]  On appeal, defendant contends that: (1) the State unconstitutionally exercised a peremptory challenge to exclude the only African-American venireperson in violation of the principles set forth in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69, 106 S. Ct. 1712 (1986); (2) the circuit court erred by admitting Amos Ward's handwritten statement as substantive evidence pursuant to section 115-10.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/115-10.1 (West 1998)); (3) he was denied a fair trial because the prosecutor made numerous improper and prejudicial remarks during closing argument; and (4) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him to 18 years' imprisonment. For the reasons that follow, we remand with directions.


[11]   Defendant's conviction arose from the fatal shooting of Vincent Ruffin. Evidence was presented that a little after midnight on August 12, 1998, Ruffin, Arki Clark, and Thomas Lake were standing together in a vacant lot near 5th Avenue and Whipple Street in Chicago, Illinois, when they were approached by defendant and a second individual, nicknamed "Tone Bone." Ruffin was a member of the New Breed street gang, Clark was a member of the Four Corner Hustlers, and Lake was a member of the Gangster Disciples. Evidence was presented that defendant was a member of the Gangster Disciples. Defendant, who was dressed in black pants and a black hooded sweatshirt, approached the group from an alley gangway. Tone Bone was also dressed in black clothing.

[12]   Defendant walked up to Ruffin and the two engaged in an increasingly heated argument regarding money and/or the sale of drugs in the vacant lot. After about five minutes of arguing, Ruffin asked defendant whether he was "strapped," meaning did defendant have a gun. Defendant responded that he was not "strapped" and then raised his arms and patted himself down to show Ruffin that he did not have a gun on his person. After approximately another four or five minutes of arguing, defendant pulled a small revolver from his waistband and shot Ruffin twice.

[13]   Doctor Mitra Kalelkar, a Cook County assistant chief medical examiner, testified that she performed an autopsy on Ruffin's body. The doctor testified that Ruffin sustained a through-and-through gunshot wound to his neck and a second gunshot wound to the abdomen. The doctor testified that Ruffin's cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds and his manner of death was homicide.

[14]   Lake testified that after the shooting, he ran about two blocks to a hotel where he called the police and reported the incident. Afterwards Lake got into his car with Clark to look for defendant. At about 2 a.m., on August 13, 1998, Lake and Clark were stopped by the police for driving erratically. The police found a gun in Lake's car. Lake and Clark were taken to the police station, where they both gave statements regarding the shooting and identified defendant from a photograph as the shooter.

[15]   Amos Ward, defendant's cousin, testified at trial that at approximately 9:15 p.m., on August 11, 1998, he was sitting on his front porch when defendant rode up on a bicycle. Defendant wanted to borrow some clothes. Ward testified that he could not remember the type or color of clothing he lent defendant. Defendant departed Ward's house with the borrowed clothing, leaving his bicycle behind. Sometime after midnight, defendant returned to Ward's house, retrieved his bicycle and left. Ward also testified that after the shooting incident he gave a written statement to the police and gave testimony before the grand jury.

[16]   Ward's written statement and a transcript of his grand jury testimony were both published to the jury. Ward's written statement and grand jury testimony were substantially different from his trial testimony.

[17]   According to Ward's grand jury testimony, on August 11, 1998, at about 9:15 p.m., he was sitting on his front porch when defendant rode up on a bicycle. Defendant wanted to borrow some clothing, which was unusual. Defendant borrowed two pairs of dark blue jeans and then left on his bike. Ward testified that the next time he saw defendant was early the next morning on August 12, 1998, at about 12:30 a.m. A white, four-door Chevy with tinted windows dropped defendant off in front of Ward's house. Defendant told Ward that he wanted to speak with him in private. Ward and defendant then went to the basement of Ward's house, where defendant made a telephone call to his girlfriend Trina. Defendant asked Trina to go to Sacramento Boulevard and 5th Avenue to see if the police or an ambulance were in the area. Ward stated that after defendant hung up the telephone, he and defendant went outside and walked around the corner. Defendant wanted to tell his fellow gang members about the shooting so they could be on the look-out for any retaliation from rival gang members from the New Breed gang. Ward stated that defendant was a member of the Gangster Disciples street gang. According to Ward, defendant stated that on the night of the shooting he had gotten into an argument with Ruffin, who was a member of the New Breed street gang, about selling drugs in New Breed territory. Defendant stated that during the course of the argument when he informed Ruffin that neither he nor his partner had guns, Ruffin began acting tougher and threatened to retrieve a gun saying, "after I go down the street when I come back I'm going to come back shooting." Defendant stated that he then pulled out a .38-caliber handgun and fired twice. Defendant said that he knew he hit Ruffin at least one time. Defendant ran from the scene after shooting Ruffin and afterwards gave his gun to an individual named "Greg." According to Ward, after defendant told him about the shooting incident, defendant made a second telephone call and shortly thereafter Trina arrived at the house in a red Altima and picked up defendant.

[18]   Assistant State's Attorney Adam Monreal testified that he interviewed defendant and took his handwritten, five-page statement. The statement was published to the jury. According to defendant's statement, on August 12, 1998, at around midnight he approached Ruffin who was standing with two other men in the area of 5th Avenue near Sacramento Boulevard. Defendant stated that he confronted Ruffin because he wanted to know why Ruffin had disrespected him and his godmother. Defendant stated that as he and Ruffin argued, Ruffin told him to "get the f--k out of here before [I] kill [your] bit-h a-s." Ruffin then asked defendant if he had a gun, and defendant responded that he was not carrying a gun. Defendant and Ruffin continued to argue whereupon Ruffin went to his car and told defendant that he "would kill his bit-h a-s." When Ruffin returned from his car, defendant and Ruffin continued arguing, face-to-face. Ruffin's two associates were standing near Ruffin. When Ruffin put his hands down by his waist, defendant pulled a handgun from his waistband and shot Ruffin twice. After shooting Ruffin, defendant ran from the scene, threw his handgun in an alley, and went to his godmother's house located around the corner in order to warn her about Ruffin's friends. Defendant then left his godmother's house and went over to his cousin Amos Ward's house. After leaving Ward's house defendant went to his grandmother's house. Defendant stated that after the shooting, he laid low for five months.

[19]   The parties then stipulated that the partially deformed bullet recovered from Ruffin's body was a "380, 357 caliber bullet exhibiting six lans and grooves with a left hand twist." The State rested after the exhibits were admitted into evidence. After the circuit court denied defense counsel's motion for a directed verdict, the defense rested without presenting any evidence.

[20]   At the close of the evidence and after closing arguments, the jury deliberated for two days and thereafter returned a verdict finding defendant guilty of second-degree murder. Defendant was subsequently sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment in the ...

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