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People v. West

January 5, 2005


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 98 CR 10120. Honorable Stuart E. Palmer, Judge Presiding.

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

[8]  Following a jury trial, the defendant, Marcus West, was convicted of five counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/ 12-14(a)(4) (West 2002)), and one count each of aggravated vehicular hijacking (720 ILCS 5/18-4(a)(3) (West 2002)), armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a) (West 2002)), and kidnaping (720 ILCS 5/10-1(a)(1) (West 2002)). He was sentenced to consecutive terms of 30 years' imprisonment on three of the aggravated criminal sexual assault convictions and the armed robbery conviction, concurrent terms of 30 years' imprisonment for the remaining aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated vehicular hijacking convictions, and a concurrent term of 7 years' imprisonment for the kidnaping conviction. On appeal, the defendant argues that the admission at trial of numerous out-of-court testimonial statements made by the victim violated his sixth amendment right of confrontation (U.S. Const., amend. VI), and that the trial court erred in admitting certain testimony at his sentencing hearing. Alternatively, the defendant argues that several of the victim's statements were improperly admitted under the spontaneous declaration exception to the hearsay rule. For the reasons which follow, we reverse and remand for a new trial.

[9]  In the evening of March 19, 1998, the victim, M.M., was operating her cab when two male passengers, one of whom was armed with a gun, kidnaped, robbed, and sexually assaulted her. The defendant was arrested while driving M.M.'s cab shortly thereafter and charged, along with co-defendant Marvin Yates, with numerous counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnaping, kidnaping, attempted murder, armed robbery and aggravated vehicular hijacking.

[10]   Prior to trial, the State filed a motion in limine seeking a ruling on the admissibility of several statements made by M.M. to: Dorothy Jackson, a woman from whom she received help immediately following the assault; a treating nurse and doctor; and three police officers. The motion further stated that M.M. was unavailable to testify at trial because she was murdered on May 14, 1998. The State also sought to introduce a tape recording of the 911 call made after the assault. The defendant responded with a motion in limine which sought to exclude M.M.'s out-of-court statements as hearsay. Following a hearing, the trial court found the statements admissible under the spontaneous declaration and statement to medical personal for purposes of medical treatment (725 ILCS 5/115-13 (West 2002)) exceptions to the hearsay rule.

[11]   The matter then proceeded to trial, during which the State presented the following evidence. Jackson testified that, on March 19, 1998, she was in her house at 7058 South Throop Street when she heard her doorbell ring. As she approached the front door, Jackson heard a woman cry out, "Help me, I've been raped." Jackson opened the door, helped the woman inside and, as she was trying to calm her, asked what happened. The woman replied that she was raped by two, possibly six men, in two separate locations, and that the men had taken her vehicle, driver's license, purse, and jewelry. The woman also told Jackson that she was a cab driver, and gave a description of her vehicle.

[12]   Jackson then placed a call to a 911 dispatcher and relayed the information she had just learned. Jackson stated that, during the call, she would ask the woman questions posed by the dispatcher, and provide the dispatcher with the woman's answers.

[13]   The State then introduced into evidence a tape recording and transcript of the 911 call. During the call, which was played for the jury, the dispatcher is heard posing numerous questions to Jackson. These questions began with inquiries into what was wrong, whether M.M. was in need of an ambulance, where she was located, and what her age was. The dispatcher then asked a series of questions relating to M.M.'s vehicle and the direction in which the assailants went "in order to get the police over there to help." M.M. can be heard on the recording answering some of the dispatcher's questions and stating that her assailants took several items of her personal property.

[14]   Chicago police officer LaSandra Harrell testified that, on March 19, 1998, she responded to a "call for help" at 7058 South Throop Street where she found M.M. "balled up like a little child." The officer approached M.M. who told her that she had been raped at gun point several times by four men. She also told Officer Harrell that the main assailant was wearing green pants, and that he had taken her red 1993 Pontiac Grand Am. The officer relayed this information to her partner who immediately sent a message over the police radio containing the information provided by M.M.

[15]   Officer Harrell stated that she followed M.M. to the hospital where she began to question her about the incident. In response to the officer's questions, M.M. stated that she received instructions to pick up two men and drive them to the 5700 block of South Maplewood Avenue. After completing the drive and requesting her fare, one of the men (first offender), who was wearing green pants, put a gun to the base of her neck and took her coin purse, necklace, watch, and earrings. The first offender then forced her to perform oral sex on him and the other man (second offender) in the vehicle before he drove to a store where the second offender purchased a box of condoms. M.M. told the officer that she was then driven to an abandoned garage where both men had vaginal sex with her. The first offender then drove to another garage where the two men, and another man who had been picked up along the way, had vaginal sex with her. Following this assault, the men took her driver's license, and the first offender threatened that he would kill her and her family if she told anyone what happened. She was eventually able to escape and run to a house for help.

[16]   Chicago police officer Kevin White testified that, on March 19, 1998, at approximately 11:24 p.m., he observed a red Pontiac Grand Am illegally pass his undercover vehicle and drive through a red light. The officer pursued the vehicle for several blocks, eventually arresting the driver of the vehicle after engaging in a foot chase. The driver, who Officer White identified in court as the defendant, was wearing green pants and a white t-shirt that appeared to have blood stains on it. The Grand Am was subsequently identified as being registered to M.M., and a custodial search of the defendant revealed a watch, necklace, and one earring.

[17]   Susanna Sibug, an emergency room nurse, testified that she spoke to M.M. in the hospital shortly before midnight on March 19, 1998. Sibug stated that M.M. told her that she had responded to a call to pick up some passengers who had specifically requested a female cab driver. M.M. told Sibug that, after driving the passengers to their destination, they began to hit her and threaten her with a gun. M.M. then recounted for Sibug the ways in which she was physically and sexually assaulted and described her assailants as black males in their teens or early twenties.

[18]   Dr. Andrew Labrador testified that he was M.M.'s emergency room physician. The doctor stated that he initiated his examination of M.M. by asking her what happened. She responded with a description of how she had obtained her injuries and how she had been sexually assaulted. Dr. Labrador performed a physical examination of M.M. and, with Sibug's assistance, prepared a sexual assault kit. The doctor testified that his examination revealed numerous abrasions to M.M.'s face, right hand, hips, knees, back, and chest.

[19]   The State also presented the testimony of Officer Patricia Kane and Detective Daniel McInerney. The majority of their testimony concerned the various statements M.M. provided in response to their independent questioning of her at the hospital. These statements included descriptions of the defendant and the nature of his actions, and were substantially similar, although more detailed, than the information M.M. provided Officer Harrell at the hospital.

[20]   Finally, the State introduced physical and genetic evidence obtained from M.M., her vehicle, the defendant, and the two areas where the assaults took place. This evidence showed that DNA profiles from M.M.'s vaginal swab and the semen stains found on her panties and leggings matched the DNA profile of the defendant. Further, a DNA profile taken from a blood sample ...

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