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People v. Woodard

September 20, 2006


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 01 CR 373 Honorable Dennis A. Dernbach, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Greiman

Modified opinion, originally filed on 08/03/2006


Defendant Lakisha Woodard appeals from her convictions for the first degree murder of Orlando Patterson and solicitation to commit murder and her sentence to consecutive terms of 45 years and 20 years in prison. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

Defendant was initially indicted for the first degree murder and the solicitation of the murder of Patterson. She was tried separately but simultaneously by a jury along with her co-defendant, Marlon Porter.

At trial, Harriet Alexander, the victim's aunt, testified that Patterson was 12 years old in November 2000, and that on the evening of November 10, he and other children were playing outside her building at 5931 South Elizabeth Street. At the time, Patterson was wearing a black jacket and black and gray gym shoes. Alexander heard a gunshot, ran outside, and discovered that Patterson had been shot. Patterson was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and later died there.

DaShaun Smith testified that in October 2000 he was a student at Dunbar High School in Chicago. On the afternoon of October 24, Smith went to Copernicus Elementary School to meet his friend Ronald. Smith and Ronald began to scuffle and bumped into a white Pontiac Bonneville that was parked on the street. A woman, whom Smith identified as defendant, got out of the car and began yelling and cursing at the two boys. Smith responded in kind, prompting defendant to place him in a choke hold. While Smith and defendant were struggling, two other women approached and began hitting Smith about the face and head. At one point, defendant wielded a cane in a menacing manner; Smith grabbed hold of the cane and the two wrestled over it. Smith's sister Joanna soon after arrived and broke up the fight.

As Smith left the scene, he met two police officers who transported him to the station and asked him about the altercation. He answered their questions and went home. After Smith arrived home, his friend Chris came over and spoke with him about his sister Joanna. Smith further testified that, at the time of Patterson's shooting on November 10, he was in the vicinity of 59th Street and South Racine Avenue and had recently walked past Alexander's building on Elizabeth Street. That evening, he was wearing a black jacket with yellow stripes, and described himself as having a build and hairstyle similar to those of Patterson.

Joanna Smith testified that on the afternoon of October 24, 2000, she saw her brother DaShaun fighting with defendant and two other women outside Copernicus and attempted to help him. One of the unidentified women grabbed Joanna while the other blocked her path, so she brandished a screwdriver and poked at them. The women released her and she left the scene, DaShaun having told her he did not need her help. Joanna proceeded to her mother's home to tell her what had happened. Fearing a reprisal from defendant and the other women, Joanna later purchased a box cutter to protect herself. Joanna later saw one of the women she had fought with near a convenience store at 60th and Loomis. Joanna entered the store and defendant and the other women followed her inside. Defendant was holding a metal baseball bat and proceeded to strike Joanna several times. A friend of Joanna's attempted to restrain defendant and was similarly beaten. Defendant then pinned Joanna against the meat counter; Joanna grabbed the box cutter from her pocket and swung it in defendant's direction, cutting her face in the process. Defendant and the other women fled the store. The police were called and Joanna remained at the store to answer their questions.

Joanna later spoke with detectives on November 15, 2000, and was shown comparison photographs of her brother DaShaun and Patterson. Detectives also showed her a photograph of defendant, whom Joanna tentatively identified as the individual who assailed her on October 24.

Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) Nancy Galassini testified that in November 2000 she was assigned to the case of Patterson's murder and that on November 19, she and supervising attorney Kathy Lanahan interviewed defendant, who had been in police custody on suspicion of the murder since November 16. Galassini and Lanahan informed defendant of their offices and advised her of her Miranda rights. Galassini and Lanahan spoke with defendant about Patterson's murder, and defendant agreed to have her statement memorialized on videotape.

The videotape, in which defendant admitted her involvement in Patterson's murder, was published to the jury.

On cross-examination, ASA Galassini stated that detectives had questioned defendant several times in the 48 hours she had been in custody prior to her interview with Galassini. She also stated that defendant did not agree to appear on videotape until after she had already given a statement. Defendant told Galassini that she had been provided food and drink and had been allowed to use the bathroom.

Araminta Alexander, Harriet's daughter, testified that in the evening of November 10, 2000, she and her cousins, including Patterson, were playing in front of her mother's house. A black car with tinted windows drove by at high speed on Elizabeth Street. Approximately five minutes later, an individual dressed all in black approached and shot Patterson in the back. Patterson fell to the ground, and the assailant walked away along 59th Street. On November 19, 2000, Alexander viewed a lineup at the police station and identified co-defendant Porter as having a similar build (tall and slim) and wearing identical shoes to the individual who shot Patterson. She also tentatively identified co-defendant in court as the individual who shot Patterson.

Ronald Trice testified that in November 2000, he was 12 years old and resided at 5957 South Elizabeth Street. He had been friends with both Patterson and DaShaun Smith and described them as having very similar appearances at that time. On the evening of November 10, Trice was outside playing with Patterson, Alexander and several other children when a man dressed all in black approached from a nearby alleyway and shot Patterson in the back. Trice and others attempted to chase the man, who ran toward Racine along 59th Street. The assailant got into a car, which was gray in color and had tinted windows and stripes along the rear windshield, which drove away along Racine. On November 19, Trice identified co-defendant Porter in a police lineup as the gunman, whom he had described as tall with a medium build.

Detective Robert Lanihan testified that in November 2000, he was assigned to investigate the murder of Patterson, and he received a phone call from an anonymous source who had information concerning the case. After receiving the call, Lanihan and his partner sought defendant for questioning. On November 15, Lanihan interviewed DaShaun and Joanna Smith and afterward issued a stop order for defendant.

Detective J. Breen testified that he had been assigned to investigate Patterson's murder and that on November 18, 2000, he and his partner took co-defendant Porter into custody. During booking, Porter described himself as 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing 175 pounds.

Officer Russell White testified that on October 24, 2000, he was assigned to investigate a battery in the 7th District. He and his partner proceeded to St. Bernard's Hospital, where they interviewed defendant, who alleged that she had been the victim of a battery and was being treated for a laceration on her face. Defendant could not identify her assailant and gave several conflicting accounts of how she had come sustain her injury. White took her report and left defendant with his contact information in the event that she would need to speak with him further.

Pacita DeJesus testified that she was working as a nurse at St. Bernard's on October 24, 2000, and that she treated defendant for a laceration to her face. Defendant had minimal bleeding, no visual disturbances, and appeared lucid.

Detective John Halloran testified that he was assigned to investigate the Patterson murder on November 10, 2000, and that he sought defendant for questioning based on an anonymous tip. Defendant contacted police and submitted to interviews on November 16. Halloran advised defendant of her Miranda rights, which defendant indicated that she understood and agreed to waive. Based on defendant's conversations with Halloran and other detectives, police sought the pistol used in Patterson's murder at defendant's mother's home and at an address on South Loomis. In a conversation that took place on November 18, Halloran again advised defendant of her Miranda rights, which she acknowledged and agreed to waive, and confronted her with the facts that police had co-defendant Porter in custody and were questioning him and that DaShaun and Joanna Smith had identified her as the individual that had assailed them on October 24. Defendant proffered a statement in which she admitted to asking Porter to kill DaShaun and Joanna. She further related that while she was fighting with DaShaun on the afternoon of October 24, a "skinny kid" stole her car keys, and that during a follow-up doctor's appointment concerning her face laceration on November 1, she resolved to have DaShaun and Joanna killed. Defendant thereafter sought out information as to where DaShaun and Joanna lived and spent their free time, and showed Porter their neighborhood and indicated her desire that he kill them both. Defendant provided Porter with a pistol and a car - a gray Isuzu - with which to carry out the murders.

On cross-examination, Detective Halloran stated that after his conversation with defendant on November 16, he did not indicate to her that she was free to leave the police station, but informed her that he intended to conduct some additional investigation and that she should ask the other officers in the station in the event that she needed anything. Early the next morning, Halloran's shift ended, he was not on duty the following day, and he returned to duty the afternoon of November 18, and he was not aware of defendant's movements during his absence. By the time that defendant tendered her statement, which was the third time that Halloran interviewed her, she had been in police custody for approximately 50 hours. In that time, she had been fed and allowed to use the restroom.

Detective Daniel McNally testified that on November 17, 2005, he interviewed defendant and advised her of her Miranda rights, which defendant acknowledged and agreed to waive. Defendant related that after her altercation with Joanna Smith on October 24, an individual known as "Boo" transported her to the hospital and may have been involved in the subsequent shooting of Patterson. McNally eventually identified "Boo" as Joseph Wright but was not able to locate him for questioning. Defendant also mentioned an individual to whom she referred as "Tay," but detectives were not able to locate him either. She also implicated other individuals, but refused to tender any identifying details.

Defendant further related to McNally that her Pontiac Bonneville had been taken from her sometime during the afternoon of October 24 and that a family member had recovered the vehicle not far from the Copernicus school. Defendant also related that she had borrowed the Isuzu from a local drug addict. Detectives were able to locate each vehicle, and defendant identified the Isuzu as the one she had borrowed. During his shift, McNally saw to it that defendant was provided with food and was allowed to use the bathroom.

Melissa Nally testified that she was employed by the Illinois State Police as a forensic scientist specializing in firearm identification. The parties stipulated that she was qualified to testify as an expert in that area, and she stated that in March 2004 she examined a bullet that had been recovered from Patterson's body. The bullet's dimensions and characteristics led her to opine that it was a lead, rounded-nose bullet of either a .357 or .38 ...

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