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The People of the State of Illinois v. Juan Rodriguez

March 18, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JUAN RODRIGUEZ,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 04 CR 18035 Honorable Diana Gordon Cannon, Judge Presiding.

JUSTICE CAHILL delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion Justice McBride concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice R.E. Gordon dissented, with opinion.

Defendant Juan Rodriguez was found guilty by a jury of the first degree murder of David Reyes, the aggravated battery with a firearm of Rosendo Diaz, and aggravated discharge of a firearm. He was sentenced to consecutive terms of 50, 6 and 6 years' imprisonment. He argues on appeal that: (1) the trial court deprived him of his right to a fair trial when it denied his motion in limine to bar the State from using a juvenile adjudication as impeachment; (2) the trial court deprived him of a fair trial when it gave the jury a certified copy of this adjudication but not copies of convictions of the State's witnesses; (3) the State did not prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (4) his mittimus should be amended to reflect an additional 4 days of sentencing credit and that he was sentenced to a single 50-year term of imprisonment for first degree murder; and (5) the trial court's failure to strictly comply with Supreme Court Rule 431(b) (Ill. S. Ct. R. 431(b) (eff. May 1, 2007)) requires reversal and remand for a new trial. We affirm.

Before trial, defense counsel filed a motion in limine to bar the State from using as impeachment defendant's juvenile adjudication of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

Jury selection began on August 14, 2007. The court read the charges to the venire en masse and admonished them that defendant is presumed innocent of the charges against him and that the State has the burden of proving defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The court then admonished the first panel of prospective jurors:

"Should the State meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is there anybody seated in the jury box who could not or would not follow the law as I gave it to you that governs the case, go back into the jury room with your fellow jurors and sign a verdict form of guilty?"

One juror expressed concern about her ability to reach a decision but said she would follow the law. The court continued:

"Anybody else who could not or would not follow the law, if the State met their burden of proof, sign [a] verdict form of guilty?

No response.

Should the State fail to meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, is there anyone seated in the jury box who could not or would not follow the law that governs this case, go back into the jury room with your fellow jurors and sign a verdict form of not guilty?

No response."

The court and attorneys then asked general questions of the potential jurors. At the end of questioning, the court admonished the potential jurors:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the defendant in the case has a right to testify. He also has a right to remain silent, not testify. Should he exercise that right, is there anybody who would hold that against him?

No response."

Five jurors were selected from that panel. The court admonished the second panel of prospective jurors in the same way it admonished the first panel. Seven jurors and one alternate were selected from that panel. The court admonished the third panel of prospective jurors in a similar fashion. One alternate was selected from the third panel. Neither defense counsel nor the prosecutor objected to the method of selection or asked the court to inquire further in accordance with Rule 431(b).

Defendant's convictions arose from the June 27, 2004, shooting of Reyes and Diaz as they drove with friends to a nightclub. At trial, Virginia Rojas testified that about midnight on that date, she was with Dean Villera, her boyfriend at the time, and five of his friends, driving to a nightclub in Ford City. Rojas said she was riding in the middle passenger seat of Villera's pickup truck, Villera was driving and Ernest Villa was in the passenger seat. Aside from Raul Rivera, Rojas did not know the three other persons, which included Reyes and Diaz, seated in the bed of the truck.

As the group headed west on 59th Street, they stopped for a traffic light at the intersection of Pulaski Road. Rojas testified she saw about five boys standing in front of a house to her right. She heard them arguing with Villera's friends in the bed of the truck. As they did so, she saw defendant emerge from a gangway on the side of the house. She heard three gunshots before Villera pushed her head down and drove away. She said that although it was dark outside, there were streetlights in the area and she was able to see defendant's face as he walked out of the gangway.

Villera's truck was stopped by an unmarked police car a few blocks from the scene of the shooting. Rojas accompanied police to the station at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue where she identified defendant in a lineup as the shooter. She also identified defendant at trial. Rojas testified that she was familiar with defendant and recognized him because she had met him at a party sometime before the shooting, and he had helped her after some girls "jumped" her.

On cross-examination, Rojas acknowledged that her observations of the shooting were made within a "second or two." She also acknowledged she did not see a gun in defendant's hand or see him shoot at anyone. She said she was only able to recognize defendant from the group of people standing in front of the house because she knew who he was.

Diaz testified that he was convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in 2004 and that he was a member of the Satan Disciples street gang, who were rivals of the Saints gang. He said that on the date of the shooting he was seated in the bed of Villera's pickup truck along with Luis Torres, Reyes and Rivera, all of whom were also Satan Disciples. At the intersection of 59th Street and Pulaski Road, Diaz saw about five persons, including defendant, standing on the passenger side of the truck in front of a house. The groups began to yell "gang slogans" at each other and exchange "gang [hand] signs." As they did so, defendant ran toward the house. Diaz could not remember if defendant returned from the house before the shooting.

After the groups yelled and exchanged gang signs, an "older man" appeared on the passenger side of the truck and asked Diaz to leave. At that time, Diaz felt his face get warm and heard about four gunshots. He was subsequently treated at Christ Hospital for a gunshot wound to his left cheek. After leaving the hospital, he went to the police station at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue, where he identified defendant in a lineup as the person he saw running away from the scene.

Diaz acknowledged that on the date of the shooting, he provided Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) Fred Sheppard with a signed handwritten statement in which he said he saw defendant return from the gangway on the side of the house with his right hand under his shirt as if he were holding a gun. He also acknowledged that about two weeks after the shooting, he testified in front of a grand jury that he saw defendant return from the gangway "with his hands under his shirt." He further testified in front of the grand jury that he "didn't see the gun, but [defendant] had his hand under his shirt" and he "thought [defendant] was going to shoot." Diaz admitted he did not know if defendant was the shooter.

On cross-examination, Diaz said that before leaving for the nightclub, he, Villera, Villa and Torres were at a block party, drinking. Diaz said he had between three and six drinks at the party and was legally drunk. He acknowledged he did not see a gun in defendant's hand or anyone shooting, and that, at the time of his testimony, he could not remember if defendant returned from the gangway because he did not "remember a lot of things from that night." He also said he was not on medication when he gave his statement to ASA Sheppard and that he believed he was not free to leave the police station until he gave a statement.

Torres testified he was convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in 2002 and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon by a felon in 2003. Torres said that at the time of the shooting, he was a member of the Satan Disciples street gang and was seated in the bed of Villera's pickup truck along with Diaz, Reyes and Rivera. At the intersection of 59th Street and Pulaski Road, Torres saw about five persons, including defendant, standing in front of a house on the passenger side of the truck. Torres identified defendant in open court. The groups exchanged gang slogans and gang signs. As they did so, defendant ran into a gangway. A short time later, a bald-headed man came out of the house, followed by defendant. The man yelled at Torres "don't start [any] problems" and asked him to leave. Torres then heard a gunshot and looked at defendant. Torres said he saw defendant with his arms extended in front of him and sparks coming from his hands. He heard the sound of breaking glass. The group then sped away westbound on 59th Street. As they did so, Torres noticed Diaz was bleeding from his left cheek and Reyes was "leaning down" with blood on the right side of his back.

The group was stopped by an unmarked police car a few blocks from the scene of the crime. Torres spoke with an officer about the shooting and accompanied the officer back to the scene. Torres and several officers went to the backyard of the house where the shooting occurred. Torres identified defendant there as the shooter. He testified there were other young Hispanic men in the backyard but only defendant had long hair and a teardrop tattoo by his eye. Torres then went to the police station at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue, where he spoke with detectives about the shooting and identified defendant from a lineup as the shooter.

On cross-examination, Torres acknowledged that at the time of the shooting, he was on mandatory supervised release for his conviction of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. He said that, as a member of the Satan Disciples, he hated the Saints street gang and its members. A girl had told him previously that a member of the Latin Kings street gang lived on the block near the intersection of 59th Street and Pulaski Road. That member had long hair and a teardrop tattoo. Torres acknowledged that when the truck pulled up to that intersection, he was looking for someone who fit that description. When he saw about five persons standing in front of a house near the intersection, he told Reyes, Diaz and Rivera "look at them Kings right there." The groups then began to argue. Torres said he hated the Latin Kings and the man he was looking for because he believed him to be a member of the gang. He said his attention was drawn to defendant as he exited the gangway because Torres was looking for a person matching defendant's description and because he assumed that defendant ran to the back of the house to get a gun. Torres acknowledged he did not see a gun in defendant's hands.

The parties stipulated that, if called, Detective Jean Romic would testify she interviewed Torres a couple hours after the shooting and he did not inform her that defendant ran into a gangway next to his house or that he assumed he did so to retrieve a gun.

Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Michelle Jorden of the Cook County medical examiner's office testified as an expert witness. She said she reviewed an autopsy report prepared by Dr. Aldo Fusaro, who was no longer employed with the Cook County medical examiner's office. An examination of Reyes' body showed a gunshot wound to the mid-back. Dr. ...


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