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People v. Hill

January 30, 2004

[5] THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DEMECO D. HILL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



[6] Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 01CF1164 Honorable Theodore E. Paine, Judge Presiding.

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

[8]  Defendant, Demeco D. Hill, appeals his conviction of attempt (armed robbery), arguing it should be reduced to attempt (robbery) because the evidence was insufficient to prove he was armed with a dangerous weapon during the attempted robbery of the Prairie Pantry. We affirm.

[9]  I. BACKGROUND

[10]   On August 22, 2001, defendant was charged by information with attempt (armed robbery) in violation of section 18-2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Criminal Code) (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 18-2 (West 2000)) and aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer in violation of section 11-204.1 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-204.1 (West 2000)). The charges stem from an attempted robbery at the Prairie Pantry in Decatur on August 19, 2001. According to the police report, two black males, later identified as defendant and Shannon Garry, entered the store. Defendant displayed a chrome automatic handgun while Garry went behind the counter and attempted to retrieve money out of the cash register. In the store at the time were the store owner and a friend. A customer entered the store while the robbery was in progress. The friend left the store and called for help. The suspects ran from the location without taking any money. After a high-speed vehicular chase and a foot chase by the police, defendant and Garry were apprehended and later identified by the witnesses.

[11]   The testimony from defendant's bench trial is summarized below only to the extent necessary to this disposition. Edward L. Garver, Jr., testified that he was in the Prairie Pantry on the morning of August 19, 2001, visiting with his friend, the owner of the store, Larry Franz. Two men entered, one brandishing a pistol, and tried to rob the store. Garver described the gun as "silver, sort of like a .45." He remembered that the gun was cocked. He testified that the two men entered the store through the back door and proceeded to the cash regis-ter. They were having difficulty opening the register. While the two men were preoccupied, Garver ran out the door to call the police.

[12]   Larry Franz, the owner of the Prairie Pantry, testified to events largely consistent with those testified to by Garver. Franz described the gun used as "silver or chrome-colored and it was--had a long barrel on it." He particularly recalled the long chrome barrel because it was pointed directly at him.

[13]   David Smith testified that on the day of the robbery he had stopped at Prairie Pantry to buy some cigarettes on his way home from work. Smith walked into the store while the robbery was in progress. One of the robbers shouted at Smith to get on the floor. Smith turned around, thinking it was a joke, and one of the men stuck a gun in his side. Smith testified that he was not familiar with guns, but described the one pointed at him as a "nickel-plated automatic."

[14]   On July 17, 2002, the trial court found defendant guilty of both charges. The trial court denied defendant's motion for a new trial. On September 6, 2002, defendant was sentenced to 15 years in prison on the attempt charge and 3 years in prison on the fleeing-and-alluding charge. This appeal followed.

[15]   II. ANALYSIS

[16]   Defendant argues the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was armed with a dangerous weapon during the commission of the robbery. He claims that since the gun he was carrying was inoperable, it could not be classified as a "dangerous weapon" within the meaning of section 18-2 of the Criminal Code (720 ILCS 5/18-2 (West 2000)). He contends the underlying offense of his attempt conviction should be changed from armed robbery to robbery. We disagree.

[17]   Defendant primarily relies upon the Illinois Supreme Court's decision in People v. Skelton, 83 Ill. 2d 58, 414 N.E.2d 455 (1980), which held that the characteristics of a "dangerous weapon" should be analyzed under an objective test to determine its true danger to others. In Skelton, the toy or replica gun used by the defendant was too light and too small to be used as a bludgeon and did not fire pellets or blank shells. The court found the gun was not a weapon that likely would cause serious injury, and was therefore not a "dangerous weapon" within the meaning of the armed robbery statute. Skelton, 83 Ill. 2d at 66-67, 414 N.E.2d at 458. Defendant's reliance on Skelton, and the other cases cited in his brief, is misplaced in that all were decided prior to the amendment of the armed robbery statute.

[18]   Prior to the enactment of Public Act 91-404, which became effective on January 1, 2000 (Pub. Act 91-404, §5, eff. January 1, 2000 (1999 Ill. Laws 5126, 5134)), section 18-2(a) of the Criminal Code read as follows:

[19]   "Armed robbery. (a) A person commits armed robbery when he or she violates [s]section 18-1 while he or she carries on or about his or her person, or is otherwise armed with a dangerous weapon." 720 ILCS 5/18-2 (West 1998).

[20]   The cases cited by defendant in support of his argument, and those cited by the State, for that matter, were decided under this version of the statute--the preamendment version ...


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