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The People of the State of Illinois, Appellant v. Terry Alsup

January 21, 2011


JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.


After a bench trial, defendant Terry Alsup was convicted of two counts of possession of controlled substances with intent to deliver in violation of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (720 ILCS 570/401(c)(2), (d) (West 2004)) and sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment. The appellate court found that the trial transcript revealed a "complete breakdown" in the chain of custody on one charge and reversed one of defendant's two convictions. No. 1--06--0513 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We reverse the appellate court.


On March 22, 2005, Chicago police officers arrested defendant for narcotics transactions. The State charged defendant by information with, inter alia, counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin and cocaine.*fn1 The case proceeded to trial.

Chicago Police Officer Marco Garcia testified that on March 22, 2005, he and Officer Lawrence Olivares were in a covert vehicle on surveillance for possible narcotics transactions near Independence Boulevard in Chicago. He testified that on the day in question, he observed defendant in an alley behind 1319 South Independence. Defendant stood alone in a black jacket and tan pants. According to Garcia, an unknown male approached defendant and handed defendant currency. Defendant then walked to a row of three black city garbage cans. Defendant leaned down at the northernmost can, retrieved a small item, and returned to the person to give him the item. The person proceeded westbound toward Independence Boulevard. Two subsequent transactions with unknown males occurred similarly--United States Currency was tendered, defendant relocated to the garbage can, retrieved a small item and then tendered the item to the person. Officer Garcia observed no other individuals approach the garbage can. After the third transaction, Officer Garcia radioed an enforcement team.

The enforcement team was directed by Officer Garcia to the location to arrest defendant and search behind the garbage can. A member of the enforcement team, Officer Christopher Jania, testified that he and another officer were in plain clothes in an unmarked car when they received a radio call from Officer Garcia. Officer Jania found defendant standing alone near the back of the building at 1317 South Independence, approximately 25 feet to the north of the garbage cans. Following Officer Garcia's directions, he knelt down behind the wheel of the northernmost can. With the aid of a flashlight, he found a ziplock bag containing 10 smaller ziplock bags of suspected cocaine and five tinfoil packets of suspected heroin. Officer Jania saw nothing else behind the garbage can. They then arrested defendant without resistance. A custodial search of the defendant revealed that a front pocket contained $15 United States currency. The 10 ziplock bags had a total weight of 1.05 grams of cocaine and the 5 tin foil packets contained a total weight of less than 0.1 gram of heroin.

Officer Jania testified that after he arrested defendant, he held the suspected narcotics on his person and transported them back to the police station, maintaining them under his care, custody, and control. He then turned them over to Officer Olivares, who was assigned the inventories. Officer Olivares obtained from the dispatcher a unique inventory number, also called an "R.D." number, or "records division" number. The number received from the dispatcher was 10502687 and Officer Jania entered it into the computer. Officer Jania testified that the recovered narcotics were placed in a "narcotics bag," a clear, plastic bag with green boxes on it, which was approximately 12-by-6 inches. Written in the green boxes was the relevant information regarding the case, including the time of arrest, inventory number and "other information related to the case." According to Jania, the appropriate boxes were filled out and the bag was handed to a sergeant on duty, who determined that the inventory process had been correctly followed. The sergeant then dropped the signed and sealed bag containing the recovered narcotics into the narcotics vault.

Following the testimony of Officer Jania, the parties proceeded by stipulation. The parties orally entered the stipulated expert testimony of forensic scientist Daniel Bryant into evidence:

"[Assistant State's Attorney]: Would also be a stipulation with respect to the lab in this case. Daniel Bryant, B-r-y-a-n-t, would testify that he is a forensic scientist

Court: Slow down slow down. [Assistant State's Attorney]: I'm sorry. Employed by the Illinois State Police Crime Lab, qualified to testify as an expert in the field of forensic chemistry.

Would testify that he received the items under inventory number 10502687 from the Chicago Police Department in a heat sealed condition.

He would testify that he removed the items, found them to contain under 1A1 and 1A2, nine items and under 1B ten other items.

He subjected all those items to tests commonly accepted in the field of forensic chemistry for ascertaining the presence of a controlled substance.

After performing the tests using equipment which was properly calibrated and functioning he found the items under 1A1 to be positive for less than .1 grams of heroin and the items ...

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