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People v. James

May 05, 2004

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
PIERRE JAMES DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 99 CR 25318 Honorable James M. Schreier, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Karnezis

PUBLISHED

Defendant Pierre James was tried in a joint jury trial with co-defendant Willie Bishop and was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment.*fn1 On appeal, defendant contends: (1) the trial court erred in denying his request for a continuance to secure two alibi witnesses as well as an additional witness who would testify as to defendant's hairstyle at the time of the crime; (2) the trial court erred in denying his request for a severance and in permitting co-defendant's tattoo to be introduced into evidence; (3) the trial court erred in admitting gang-related evidence; and, (4) Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions Criminal, No. 3.15 (4th ed. 2000) (hereinafter IPI Criminal 4th No. 3.15) was erroneous. We affirm.

Defendant's conviction stems from a series of gang-related events in which the victim, Cory Boston, was shot and killed on June 26, 1998. The relevant events that led to the victim's death began on the afternoon of May 4, 1998. On that date, near the intersection of 111th Place and Aberdeen Street in Chicago, defendant exited a car driven by co-defendant and began shooting at a group of men who were gathered outside a convenience store. The group of men were members of the Black Disciples, which was a rival gang of the Gangster Disciples, of which defendant and co-defendant were alleged to be members. Defendant approached a car in which Robert Williams was sitting, pointed a gun at him and stated, "This is for my Folks, guy." Defendant pulled the trigger but the gun did not fire. Williams sped away and defendant ran back to co-defendant's car. About a block later, the two cars crashed into one another. Co-defendant fled the scene while defendant remained in the car partially unconscious. A group of men who were Black Disciples converged on the car and beat defendant until police officers arrived. Police officers recovered two guns near the car; however, the guns were never submitted for fingerprint analysis. Defendant was identified by eyewitnesses Robert Williams, Tyrice Jones and Marvin Dixon, all of whom testified to the above at trial.

Williams further testified he recognized defendant because he had seen defendant around the neighborhood about five or six times prior to that day. Jones also testified he knew defendant from the neighborhood and identified defendant as a Gangster Disciple. Jones was formerly a Gangster Disciple. Dixon further testified he had known defendant for about eight years because defendant used to "hang around" the high school Dixon attended. Dixon testified he is not a gang member.

The victim's uncle, Steven Boston, testified that sometime prior to June 26, 1998, he was driving in his car when the vehicle in front of him stopped and defendant exited the vehicle. Defendant approached his car and informed Boston that the victim had beat him while he was "down" or had "messed" up his face. Defendant then told Boston that he was going to "come after" the victim and the others who had beaten him. At about midnight on June 26, 1998, defendant, co-defendant and a third, unknown individual returned to the same area near the intersection of 111th Place and Aberdeen Street. At that time, Marvin Dixon and Pierre Martin were outside covering his girlfriend's car. Tyrice Jones was sitting in a car parked across the street and the victim was sitting in his car, which was parked behind Jones' car. Ed Calmes was standing on the front porch of his home. Defendant, co-defendant and the third individual approached the area on foot and fired shots at Dixon and Martin. They then approached the victim's car. One of the men approached the driver's side while the other two men approached the passenger side. The men then fired into the victim's car, killing him. Calmes, Jones and Dixon testified at trial, all identifying defendant and co-defendant as two of the men who shot the victim.

Calmes further testified that he recognized defendant because he had seen defendant around the neighborhood about a dozen times prior to that evening. Calmes stated that defendant was the man who had approached the driver's side of the victim's car. He also stated that defendant's hair was in braids, like "corn rows." Calmes identified defendant in a lineup about two weeks later, but told officers defendant had changed his hairstyle. Defendant's braids had been cut off and he had one long braid down the back of his head. Calmes admitted to having several prior convictions.

Jones further testified he heard Dixon yell, "oh shit, there go Pierre," and then heard gunshots. He saw defendant at the driver's side of the victim's car. Jones described defendant's hairstyle that night as a long ponytail. Jones also admitted he had prior convictions.

Dixon further testified he saw defendant run down the middle of the street with a gun in his hand. Dixon yelled, "oh shit," and ran. Despite Jones' testimony, Dixon stated he did not say, "there go Pierre." Dixon then saw defendant shooting into the victim's car. Dixon also admitted he had prior convictions.

Prior to defendant's trial, Dixon had been arrested and was in jail awaiting trial. According to Dixon's testimony, when he was transported from the jail to the courthouse to testify at defendant's trial, he was placed in the same "bullpen" or lockup area as defendant and co-defendant. Defendant and co-defendant approached Dixon and defendant expressed remorse for the shooting and blamed the shooting on his "youthful actions." Defendant also told Dixon he could help Dixon with his case if Dixon did not testify at defendant's trial. Defendant stated he could "hurt" the witnesses in Dixon's case. Dixon understood that "hurt" meant to shoot the witnesses because defendant then made a shooting gesture like he was pulling a trigger. Dixon informed the assistant State's Attorney what had happened in the lockup area and Dixon was placed in a segregated unit of the jail in the witness protection program. Dixon admitted he received a credit on his account at the jail commissary for $35 a week as a result of being placed in the protection program. Dixon stated, however, the assistant State's Attorney informed him they would not make any "deals" with him on his pending case in exchange for his testimony at defendant's trial.

Detective Louis Caesar testified he interviewed defendant in July 1998, and defendant told the detective he did not remember his whereabouts the night the victim was killed.

Assistant State's Attorney Stanislaus Gonsalves testified that he also interviewed defendant in July 1998, and defendant denied any involvement in the shooting and further said he had witnesses who would testify to his whereabouts that evening but could not provide their names or addresses.

Investigator Thomas Ptak testified as the State's gang expert. Ptak stated that defendant had numerous tattoos that he believed signified defendant was a Gangster Disciple. Ptak also testified that co-defendant had a tattoo of two semiautomatic pistols pointing upward with gunpowder coming out from both barrels and the words, "retaliation is a must."

After Ptak's testimony, the court asked defense counsel how many witnesses she expected to testify. Counsel advised the court she expected to call about four or five witnesses. The court informed counsel that she could call the witnesses out of turn if necessary. Prior to adjourning court for the day, the court advised the parties that the case would probably conclude the next day. The court then informed the parties that it would reconvene court at 10:45 a.m. the next day so that the case could go to the jury "reasonably early."

The next day, the State rested it's case and defendant moved for a directed verdict. The trial court denied defendant's motion and defendant proceeded with his case in chief.

Officer Pamela Guice testified that the night the victim was shot, she met with Dixon and Jones at the hospital. Officer Guice acknowledged that Jones told Guice's partner that he saw "Willie P run up to the vehicle along with two unknown offenders firing several shots into the vehicle."

The parties then entered into a stipulation that if Assistant States's Attorney Dan Reedy was called to testify, he would state that the first time he spoke with the victim's uncle, Steven Boston, was not until April 2000, more than a year and a half after the shooting.

Defense counsel then called Pierre Martin to testify. Martin testified that he was formerly a Gangster Disciple but was not a gang member on the night the victim was killed. Martin also stated that when he heard gunshots, Dixon said neither, "oh shit" nor "it's Pierre."

Defendant's cousin, Carrie Lowe, testified as to defendant's hairstyle throughout the summer of 1998. Lowe stated that in May 1998, defendant wore his hair in individual braids, not "corn rows." According to Lowe, defendant cut most of his braids, except for a few in the back, ...


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