Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County 05 CR 18551 Honorable ) Timothy Joseph Joyce, ) Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McBRIDE
JUSTICE McBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Presiding Justice Garcia and Justice Cahill concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Following a jury trial, defendant Deonte Snowden was convicted under an accountability theory of the first degree murder of Jataun Jennings. The trial court subsequently sentenced him to 27 years in prison. Defendant appeals, arguing that: (1) the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of murder where the actual killer remains unknown; (2) defendant was denied the effective assistance of trial counsel because his trial counsel failed to litigate a motion to quash arrest and suppress statements; (3) the trial court erred in giving a jury instruction that a person who is legally responsible for the conduct of another may be convicted even though the other person is "not amenable to justice"; (4) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing defendant to an excessive term in prison in light of his age and lack of criminal background; and (5) the trial court failed to comply with Supreme Court Rule 431(b) (Ill. S. Ct. R. 431(b) (eff. May 1, 2007)).
The following evidence was presented at defendant's April 2009 jury trial.
Sheena Heard testified that she was Jataun Jennings' sister. She stated that Jennings lived at 1114 East 73rd Street in Chicago with her two-year-old son. On the night of July 11, 2005, she spoke with Jennings on the phone three times about an interview Jennings had the next day.
Officer Tamica Rainey testified that on July 12, 2005, she was assigned to the third district of the Chicago police department. The third district encompasses the southeast side of Chicago. Officer Rainey was working with a partner, was in uniform and driving a marked patrol car.
At approximately 3:35 a.m., Officer Rainey received a call about a person who had been stabbed. She then proceeded to 1114 East 73rd Street. When she arrived, she went up the stairs to the first level of apartments. Officer Rainey noticed blood on the carpeting of the stairs and along the wall as well as on the apartment door to the right. She saw Jennings to her left, lying on the stairs to the second level. Officer Rainey observed that Jennings had been stabbed multiple times and was covered in blood. She immediately radioed for an ambulance to come to the scene. Jennings was transported to Stroger Hospital. Officer Rainey saw stab wounds to the left side of Jennings' neck to her thighs and defensive wounds on her forearms.
Officer Rainey spoke with Jennings very briefly. Officer Rainey asked Jennings who did this to her and Jennings replied that she did not know. Jennings then asked the officer to get her baby. Officer Rainey asked where the baby was and then went upstairs. Officer Rainey went into apartment 2W and saw blood throughout the entire apartment, but did not see the baby. She went across the hall, where she saw blood on the wall and the door. She knocked on the door and the tenant in that apartment had the child. When Officer Rainey walked through Jennings' apartment, she observed a knife at the opening of the bedroom door. She notified her sergeant and an evidence technician was called. Officer Rainey had no further involvement in the case after that night and the case was turned over to the detectives.
Detective Pat Hackett testified that on July 12, 2005, he was on duty as a detective with his partner, Detective Paul Alfini, when he received an assignment to go to 1114 East 73rd Street. When he arrived at that location, he went to the second floor. He observed droplets of blood in the first-floor hallway leading up the stairs to the second floor. When he entered Jennings' apartment, he saw a "horrific amount of blood on the floor." He noticed bloody handprints and barefoot bloody footprints on the floor. He observed a knife next to the side of the bed on the bedroom floor. He described the knife as "a basic kitchen knife[,] *** a sharp carving knife." He saw a matching knife in the kitchen and the knives appeared to be a set. He testified on cross-examination that he did not see any signs of forced entry.
Jennings had already been transported to Stroger Hospital when Detective Hackett arrived. He was present when the evidence technician was on the scene and directed him to take photographs and collect the knife. Later, Detective Hackett went to the hospital to look for the victim, but was informed that she had been taken directly to surgery. He returned to Area 2 headquarters around 6 a.m. He later spoke with a doctor who informed him that Jennings had passed away. When his shift ended, Detective Hackett passed the case on to Detectives Durkin, Almazan and Fassl.
The next day on July 13, 2005, Detective Hackett continued to investigate Jennings' homicide. He learned from other detectives that they had a person named Norman Shipp at the police station. He also found out Shipp's address, 7126 South Woodlawn. He then looked at a map and traced the route from Jennings' apartment at 1114 East 73rd to Shipp's address at 71st and Woodlawn. It was approximately two blocks. They went to the scene and walked the alleys between the two addresses. Detective Hackett testified that he found a gray, hooded sweatshirt at the bottom of a garbage can, located at 7241 South University. The sweatshirt had blood on it. He called an evidence technician to recover the sweatshirt.
Officer Robert Williams testified that he is employed as an evidence technician with the Chicago police department. He stated that on July 13, 2005, he received a call to take photographs and recover property in the alley near 7241 South University. He took photographs and recovered the gray sweatshirt Detective Hackett had found in a garbage can. He entered the sweatshirt into inventory.
Jennifer Palisoc testified that she is employed by AT&T as a sales program execution analyst. She reviewed the cell phone subscriber information for phone number 773-841-6077. She stated that the subscriber for that number was Jataun Jennings. Palisoc testified that the phone records show all incoming and outgoing calls from July 11, 2005, to July 13, 2005.
On July 11, the records reflect three phone calls were made to 773-392-4120 between 10:30 and 10:45 p.m. The next time the phone number was used was at 3:49 a.m. on July 12, to call the voicemail. The phone was used again at 3:52 a.m. and a call was placed to 773-330-5515. The subscriber for this account is Norman Shipp. That number was also called at 12:51 p.m. on July 12. The phone was used throughout the day of July 12.
Palisoc also testified about the subscriber identity module (SIM) card for Jennings' phone. The SIM card communicates with the network and is how one is able to make a phone call on the network. Palisoc stated that it is simple to replace a SIM card.
Palisoc further testified about the equipment history for Jennings' SIM card and phone. It indicated that Jennings' SIM card was used from 2:43 p.m. on July 12, 2005, to 9:07 p.m. on July 13, 2005, in an LG C1300 phone. The same phone equipment used a SIM card registered to Norman Shipp from 11:36 p.m. on July 11, 2005, to 10:46 a.m. on July 12, 2005. Palisoc also testified about two other cell phones that had been used with Jennings' SIM card prior to July 12, 2005.
Detective Patrick Durkin testified that he was assigned to Jennings' homicide shortly after 8 a.m. on July 12, 2005. He worked with two partners, Detectives Alejandro Alamazan and John Fassl. They went to 1114 East 73rd Street to follow up on the homicide. He noted there was a lot of blood in the apartment. He called a forensic investigator to collect additional evidence. He asked the investigator to pay special attention to the rear window off the porch. He did so because in his survey of the crime scene, he noticed the window was ajar and the glass was raised up, but the dust on the window sill had not been disturbed. He stated that it was likely a person could reach through this window and unlock the rear door from the inside.
Detective Durkin later met with Jennings' family. He learned that Jennings had a cell phone, but it was not in her apartment after her murder. He also found out Jennings' phone number and received information to access Jennings' Cingular account. He discovered that her phone number had been used after she had died. He followed up on the phone numbers called from Jennings' account. He found out that one of the phone numbers was registered to Norman Shipp and another dialed number was registered to Priscilla Cook. Following a conversation with Cook, Detective Durkin went to 71st and Woodlawn and met with Norman Shipp, Sr. He then went to 71st and University and met with Norman Shipp, Jr. Shipp, Jr., was taken back to Area 2.
Detective Alejandro Almazan testified that he is a detective with the Chicago police department and was assigned to investigate Jennings' homicide with Detectives Durkin and Fassl. As part of his investigation, he reviewed Jennings' phone records.
One of the phone numbers called from Jennings' phone number belonged to Danielle Jackson. He went to her residence and spoke with her grandmother. Jackson arrived home a short time later. He asked to see Jackson's cell phone, which she gave him. He observed that her phone number matched one of the dialed calls made after Jennings' death. Detective Almazan asked her to call that number, which she did. Jackson had a conversation with the person and afterward, they went to 71st and Woodlawn. They were looking for a young man by the name of "Donte" or "Tay." He was a black male, around 15, 16 years old.
They arrived at that location at around 5 p.m. Detective Almazan observed several young black males on the corner. He exited the vehicle to do a field interview. He identified defendant in court as the young man he approached. He asked defendant his name and he responded that it was Deonte Snowden. The detective asked if defendant was in possession of anything and defendant produced a Cingular LG flip phone. Defendant was with Tyree Bell and the officers recovered two additional phones from Bell. Both men were transported to Area 2. They were kept in separate areas at the station. The detectives contacted their parents.
The detectives questioned defendant. Defendant was asked how he was in possession of the telephone. Defendant responded that the phone belonged to him. The detectives asked him how the phone was operating with Jennings' phone number. Defendant stated that on July 11, 2005, sometime after 11 p.m., he asked to borrow the phone of Prentice Shipp. When Prentice was not looking, he took the SIM card out of Prentice's phone and put it in his phone. Prentice is Norman Shipp's brother.
Defendant's mother, Angela Walker, arrived at the police station and spoke privately with defendant. Afterward, Detective Almazan along with Detective Fassl had a second conversation with defendant. Defendant told them that on July 10, 2005, he and a friend named Corey Manuel spent the night at Tyree Bell's apartment. Bell lived across the hall from Jennings.
On the morning of July 11, defendant and Manuel were the only ones in the apartment and they decided to clean up a little. They took the garbage out to the dumpster. When they returned to Bell's apartment, Manuel pointed out to defendant that Jennings' back door was open. They entered the apartment. Detective Almazan testified that he stopped the conversation at that point and read defendant his Miranda warnings.
Defendant agreed to continue the conversation. He stated that when they entered the apartment, they saw two cell phones and a cell phone charger on the kitchen counter. He took one of the phones, which did not work, and Manuel took the second phone and the charger. They left the apartment and returned to Bell's apartment. Defendant said he left the cell phone at Bell's and returned around 11 p.m. that night to recover it. He said he then spent the night at the house of a friend named Marcellus. The interview ended at that time. Defendant's mother left and the detectives followed up on the investigation based upon the information from defendant.
The next morning, July 14, 2005, at approximately 5 a.m., Detective Almazan spoke with defendant's mother. She stated that she could return around 6 a.m., but she still had not arrived by 11:40 a.m. The detectives had a third conversation with defendant. A youth officer was present during the interview. Detective Almazan stated that he again advised defendant of his Miranda rights, which defendant waived, and agreed to speak with them.
Defendant started to tell the same story, but the detectives told him he was not being truthful about how he got Jennings' SIM card because the phone records indicated that Jennings used the phone after the time defendant said he was in her apartment.
Defendant then changed his story. He stated that Manuel went into the apartment first and he followed. He went through the entire apartment. He said there was one cell phone and a charger on the kitchen counter. He took the phone and Manuel took the charger. Before they could take anything else, defendant heard his name being called outside by a friend named Lester Owens. They left Jennings' apartment and closed the back door.
Later, defendant went to 72nd and Woodlawn. He met three men there, Norman Shipp and two others. He stated that he told them he knew of a place where "there was a lick." Defendant told the detectives that "a lick" was "somewhere that was easy to rob or burglarize." Shipp asked where "the lick" was. Defendant told him it was across the hall from Sherita Myles' apartment, which was Jennings' apartment. Myles is Bell's mother. Shipp asked defendant what time they wanted to "do the lick," and defendant said he told Shipp ...