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People v. Gray

March 26, 2004

[5] THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JESSIE GRAY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 02-CF-1265 Honorable George J. Bakalis, Judge, Presiding.

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

[8]  Following a jury trial, defendant, Jessie Gray, was convicted of aggravated robbery (720 ILCS 5/18--5(a) (West 2002)). He was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment. He appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in answering the jury's request for clarification of a phrase in the issues instruction for aggravated robbery (Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal, No. 14.20 (4th ed. 2000)). We determine that the court properly answered the jury's request, and thus we affirm.

[9]  We begin by presenting the evidence that is relevant to the issues on appeal. On April 30, 2002, about 8 p.m., Joseph Wesley and Jordan Ratley were walking toward a convenience store. As they walked, they were accosted by defendant, whom they did not previously know. Defendant stood in front of them with his hand under the football jersey that he was wearing. He swore at them and told them that he would kill them if they were members of the "GD" gang, which they were not. In light of defendant's erratic behavior and the smell of his breath, Wesley and Ratley knew that he was drunk.

[10]   Slurring his words, defendant told Wesley and Ratley that he had a pistol. He walked three or four feet away, turned his back, and acted as if he were taking something out of his jersey and putting it behind a tree. Wesley thought that defendant may have put down his gun. Defendant returned to Wesley and Ratley, took off his jersey, and placed it onto a car. Wesley could see that defendant had no gun at that point. Defendant asked for money, but Ratley told him to go home. Defendant threw a punch at Ratley, who was bigger than defendant, and Ratley blocked the punch. Defendant turned to Wesley, who was smaller than defendant, and demanded the chain that Wesley was wearing. Wesley tried to run, but defendant blocked his path. Wesley took off his chain and threw it onto defendant's jersey. Wesley and Ratley ran to Wesley's house and called the police. When the police apprehended defendant, he had his jersey and Wesley's chain. He had no weapon.

[11]   In instructing the jury, the trial court stated as follows:

[12]  
"To sustain the charge of aggravated robbery, the State must prove the following propositions: The first proposition: That the Defendant knowingly took property from the person or the presence of Joseph Wesley and, second proposition, that the Defendant did so by the use of force or by threatening the imminent use of force, and third proposition, that the Defendant did so while indicating verbally or by his actions to the victim that he was at that time armed with a gun." (Emphasis added.)

[13]   See Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions, Criminal, No. 14.20 (4th ed. 2000).

[14]   During its deliberations, the jury sent a note to the trial court: "We want clarification on 'at that time.' Does this mean 'any time during the incident' or 'at the exact time the chain was handed over'?" Defense counsel argued that "at that time" means "[at] that instant." However, the trial court noted People v. Dennis, 181 Ill. 2d 87 (1998), in which the supreme court:

[15]  
"talked about armed robbery, but [held] that although the required force or threat of force may either precede or be contemporaneous with the taking of the victim's property, use of a dangerous weapon at [any] point in a robbery will constitute armed robbery so long as it reasonably can be said to be part of a single occurrence. Sufficient force exists when the force used is part of a series of events that constitute a single incident or occurrence."

[16]   See Dennis, 181 Ill. 2d at 101-02. The trial court reasoned that "[c]ertainly the same has got to be said for an aggravated robbery." Thus, over defendant's objection, the court instructed the jury as follows:

[17]  
"The required force or threat of force must either procede [sic] or be contemporaneous with the taking of the victim's property. Indicating verbally or by actions to the victim that the person was armed with a gun can constitute aggravated robbery so long as it reasonably can be said to be part of a single occurance [sic]."

[18]   Shortly thereafter, the jury submitted a second note, raising two questions:

[19]   "1. Is 'procede' intended to be precede or proceed?

[20]   2. Does contemporaneous mean 'within the time frame of taking of ...


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