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People v. Lisle

October 5, 2007


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois No. 03-CF-821. Honorable Charles H. Stengel, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Schmidt

Defendant, Steven Lisle, Jr., was convicted of first degree murder and aggravated battery following a jury trial in the circuit court of Rock Island County. He appeals, claiming improper hearsay testimony was admitted, necessitating reversal of his convictions and entitling him to a new trial. Defendant also claims the State failed to offer evidence sufficient to convict him of the first degree murder of LaRoy Owens. We affirm.


Defendant's jury trial commenced on September 27, 2004. The State's first witness was DeMarco Hearn, the first cousin of the victim, LaRoy Owens. DeMarco lived at 513 6th Avenue in Rock Island and was at home asleep in his room on the morning Owens was shot. He was awakened by a loud noise and his mom saying she heard shooting on the side of the house. Within a couple of minutes of the sound of the shots, DeMarco went outside and saw Owens lying on the ground next to a van. DeMarco called 911 after he checked for a pulse on Owens and could not feel one.

Tarisita Nimmers testified that the location of her house at 518 6th Avenue in Rock Island is about a half of block from the location where Owens was shot. Nimmers heard a single shot followed by a 10-second pause and then five or six shots in rapid succession.

Judy Dixon, likewise, testified that she lived close to the scene of the shooting and was at home when the police arrived early in the morning on September 15, 2003. She had just returned home from work and was changing her clothes when she heard gunshots. She recalled a pause of a few seconds after hearing the first shot, then a series of five more shots rang out. Following the sounds of the shots, Dixon heard what sounded like two separate voices, as if the people talking were moving down the alley that runs next to Dixon's house.

Chantel Gillette, a police officer with the Rock Island police department, testified that she was the first to respond to the scene at 513 6th Avenue. She arrived at the scene at approximately 4:15 a.m. on September 15, 2003. When she arrived, she observed DeMarco pointing in the direction of a body that was lying next to the driver's door of a vehicle parked in the driveway. She went up to the body, saw a gunshot wound to the victim's head, and determined that the person had no pulse. The officer then took steps to keep the area from being disturbed until other officers arrived. After she secured the area, Gillette followed a trail of blood she saw leading down the driveway and onto 6th Avenue. The trail led to the home of Angela Lee in the 700 block of 9th Avenue. Gillette testified that there were no significant pools of blood at any point along the trail. When she arrived at the Lee residence, the person who had been bleeding was already on his way to the hospital.

Mary Devine testified that she was employed as a "technical investigator" for the Rock Island police department. She personally took photographs and measurements of certain bloodstains that were located on and in a Ford Windstar minivan parked at the crime scene. She visually examined the van for blood while the van was at the crime scene and then later, in the more controlled and well-lit location at the Rock Island police department. During these examinations, Devine recovered samples of blood she found at various locations on the inside and outside of the van. She submitted the samples to the Morton crime lab for testing. A stipulation was entered into evidence noting that a forensic scientist at the Morton crime lab, Debra Minton, ascertained that the DNA from the blood found by Devine on the inside panel of the driver's-side door matched the DNA profile of the decedent Owens. A separate stipulation indicated that Minton would testify that the DNA from the blood that was found on the front passenger door of the minivan near the door handle matched the DNA profile of Ronald Hearn (thereinafter Hearn). Devine testified that, in her opinion, the bloodspatter evidence she observed and collected was consistent with Hearn having been shot somewhere on the passenger side of the minivan.

Devine also described, by reference to a diagram, the location of six spent shell casings that she recovered at the scene. Devine indicated that one of the shells was found on the driver's side of the van and all of the others were recovered from areas outside the van. Devine was not able to find any fingerprint evidence on the shell casings. Devine also obtained one fired bullet from within the fabric of the front passenger seat of the van and took possession of the bullet that was removed from the body of Owens. Another stipulation was then admitted into evidence that indicated firearms expert Chris Kozel received the six shell casings and two bullets from Devine. He examined and performed tests on the casings and projectiles and was able to render an opinion that all of the casings and projectiles were fired from the same 9-millimeter handgun.

Devine further testified that the bloodspatter patterns of the drops of blood she observed and collected from the ground and on one of the shell casings near the passenger-side of the van were consistent with the injuries Hearn sustained. Whereas the bloodspatter pattern found on the passenger-side door was more likely to have been caused by the initial trauma of the bullet impact, the blood she observed in the area of the shell casings and going across the driveway was of a low impact variety. Another stipulation was read during the latter part of Devine's direct examination that indicated Minton had identified the DNA in the blood recovered from the ground near shell casing number two and it matched the DNA of Hearn.

Dr. Edward Leon testified that he is an emergency room physician and was working at Trinity West Hospital when Hearn was brought in sometime between 4:30 and 5 a.m. on September 15, 2003. When Dr. Leon initially examined Hearn, Hearn was in stable condition with 10 entry and exit bullet wounds. It appeared to Dr. Leon that the 10 wounds represented 5 "through and through" injuries in which the bullets had both entered and exited Hearn's body. Dr. Leon testified that the location of the five shots that entered Hearn's body were to the right side of his cheek, his left shoulder, and in the area of his left thigh and left buttocks.

The State called defendant's father, Stephen Lisle, Sr., during its case-in-chief. Lisle, Sr., testified that early on the morning of September 15, 2003, he received a call on his home phone from his son, the defendant. Defendant was looking for the phone number of one of his two sisters. Lisle, Sr., did not give the number to defendant as it was 4:30 in the morning and he had to go to work that morning.

Steven Metscaviz, a detective with the Rock Island police department, testified that he responded to the scene at 513 6th Avenue in Rock Island at 5 a.m. on September 15, 2003. Detective Metscaviz found the body of Owens next to the open driver's door of a blue 1995 Ford Windstar van parked in the driveway. According to Detective Metscaviz, defendant was taken into custody at his girlfriend's house in Davenport, Iowa, nine days later. Defendant gave a statement to Detective Metscaviz and the lead detective in this case, Dave Sullivan, after he talked to his pastor and his attorney at the police station in Rock Island. At around 6 p.m. on September 24, defendant, his counsel, and the two detectives (Metscaviz and Sullivan) were present while defendant heard and waived his rights under Miranda. Defendant told the detectives that he had not been with Hearn or Owens on the evening of September 14 or during the early morning hours of September 15. Defendant also said he had not been with a person named Korey Randle during these times. He said he found out that Owens and Hearn had been shot during a telephone call he received from an unnamed female. He told the detectives that, at the time the shooting took place, he was at his mom's house at 629 7th Street. As defendant was sitting on the front steps at that time, a person who knows him named Darryl Hicks walked by and saw him sitting there. Earlier in the afternoon on September 14, defendant told the investigators that he had been at Maudy Traywood's house on 6th Street where a party was being held for Steven Leonard. While at this party, defendant saw Hearn and Owens. The detectives asked whether defendant had also seen someone called "C Rider" at this party. Defendant did not know who "C Rider" was, but when the detectives told him that was a name Korey Randle is known by, defendant said he knew who Randle was. Defendant did not recall whether he saw Randle at the party at Traywood's house.

On cross-examination, Detective Metscaviz acknowledged that defendant had described Owens as a close friend who spent time at defendant's house every day. The detective also acknowledged that the police had failed to locate any weapon that could be tied to the shooting incident on September 15, 2003.

Darryl Hicks testified that he knew defendant and Owens. On the night Owens was shot, Hicks was walking home and saw defendant going into his mother's house on 7th Avenue. No one was with defendant at the time, and Hicks estimated this occurred around five minutes prior to the shooting. Hicks testified that he did not hear any shots from his house and he could not testify with certainty where the defendant was when the shots were fired.

Rock Island police detective David Sullivan testified that he participated in a second interview of defendant that was conducted on June 4, 2004, after defendant and his attorney had already provided the Rock Island police with a verbatim transcript of an audiotape statement defendant previously made to his attorney on May 24, 2004. According to Detective Sullivan, the interview on June 4 was conducted in an effort to clarify some details that were discussed in defendant's May 24 statement. However, the interview on June 4 was not transcribed, audiotaped, or videotaped. During the June 4 interview, defendant indicated that he was, in fact, present with three other people in the driveway of 513 6th Avenue at the time Owens was killed. In addition to Owens, the people who were in or near the minivan were the defendant, Ronald Hearn, and Randle. Detective Sullivan proceeded to detail the contents of defendant's May and June statements, beginning with what defendant stated in his recorded statement of May 24, 2004.

I. Information Defendant Provided in May Statement As Testified To By Detective Sullivan

Defendant disclosed that he was picked up by Randle and Randle's little brother, Paris, at around 2 or 3 p.m. on September 14, 2003. Randle dropped defendant off at defendant's mom's house on 7th Street and he stayed there for awhile before walking down to Hearn's house at 513 6th Avenue. From there, defendant walked a half a block to Traywood's house, where a party was being held. A short time after he arrived, defendant saw Owens and Hearn come to Traywood's house. Paris Randle asked to buy drugs from Owens, but Owens was not able to sell him any on the spot. Owens kept a supply of drugs at the house of a girlfriend who had recently evicted Owens from her premises. Defendant refused Owens' request to go to the girlfriend's house and retrieve Owens' stash of cocaine, after which Owens and Hearn left the party and managed to get inside the girlfriend's house to retrieve the drugs. Defendant indicated that Owens went to Hearn's house and stashed his drugs somewhere on that property. Defendant went from the party on 6th Street to Buck's Tavern, where the police eventually came and chased away a group that was standing outside the tavern. Defendant again met up with Korey Randle as he walked away from Buck's Tavern, and together they drove in the Windstar to defendant's mother's house. While the two were hanging around there, at midnight or 1 a.m. on September 15, Owens and Hearn drove up in a gray Monte Carlo. Defendant and Randle then drove the minivan to a Quick Shop store, where they intended to buy more alcohol. Hearn and Owens also went to Quick Shop and the four men purchased cigars and alcohol. Both vehicles were driven from Quick Shop to Angela Lee's residence on 9th Avenue. Ultimately, the four men later left in the minivan and drove to 513 6th Avenue, where Hearn lived. According to defendant, Owens and Hearn left the Monte Carlo at Lee's residence and got in the van with the defendant and Korey Randle.

Describing what took place immediately prior to the shooting, defendant said Owens received a call from someone who was ready to buy some drugs. Owens exited the van to find the stashed cocaine and returned when he could not find the drugs in the spot he had hidden it. When Owens exited the van to try to find the cocaine, defendant went to the side of Hearn's house to urinate. Defendant said that he was still urinating when Owens returned to the van, cussing at Hearn about the missing drugs. Owens reached under the mat of the minivan and pulled out a gun, which he then used to shoot at Hearn. Defendant stated Hearn was still inside the van when Owens began shooting. Defendant had just returned to the van and jumped in the middle seat when Owens pointed the gun toward Hearn and fired a few shots. As soon as Owens began shooting, Korey Randle, who was seated in the fully reclined front passenger seat, exited the van and ran away. Hearn got out of the van and began to wrestle with Owens, at which time Owens shot Hearn two more times. According to the defendant, Hearn managed to gain control of the gun from Owens and, as Owens tried to get in the driver's seat of the van, Hearn shot him. Defendant said Hearn began shooting at the defendant after Hearn shot Owens. This caused defendant to flee. He caught up with Korey Randle and the two left the area together.

II. Information Defendant Provided In June Statement As Testified To By Detective Sullivan

Defendant provided further details about the shooting during his interview with the police on June 4, 2004. He indicated that while he was with the others in the van as it was parked in Hearn's driveway, Owens and Randle were sitting in the front seats, defendant was in the middle seat and Hearn sat in the far rear seat. In the June interview, defendant mentioned the name of the person who had called Owens' cell phone about buying drugs. Defendant described Owens as angry with Hearn after he looked for but could not find the cocaine allegedly hidden on the property at Hearn's residence. Defendant said that even after he left the van to urinate, he was in a position where he could see and hear what was happening inside the van. Owens was accusing Hearn of stealing the drugs because Hearn was the only person, other than Owens, who knew where the drugs had been hidden.

Detective Sullivan continued his testimony by noting that defendant was asked specifically if anyone other than the four people in the minivan were in the area at the time of the shooting, to which defendant indicated the only other person nearby was a person he called "Molina." Molina was at the park waiting for Owens to deliver drugs to him. Defendant said that he thought two or possibly three shots were fired while Owens and Hearn were inside the van and another two shots were fired outside the van. Once Owens and Hearn were outside the van wrestling, Hearn obtained control over the gun and pursued Owens around the van from the passenger side to the driver's door. Hearn came up from behind Owens just before shooting Owens in the head at close range. Defendant told the police that Hearn dropped the gun he used to shoot Owens, pulled a different gun, and started to shoot at defendant and Korey Randle. When Detective Sullivan asked defendant how Randle could have been shot at by Hearn when he had fled as soon as the first shot was fired, defendant stated that he was the only one Hearn was shooting at after Owens had been shot. Sullivan asked defendant if he knew who Ricky Childs was and whether Childs was present at the time of the shooting. Defendant said he knew Childs, but that Childs was not present.

On cross-examination, Detective Sullivan conceded that defendant had, at no time during any of his statements, admitted to shooting anyone. The detective testified that, despite the efforts by his department, the police were unable to find Korey Randle. Detective Sullivan also admitted that ...

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