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The People of the State of Illinois v. Martell Mimes

June 20, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MARTELL MIMES,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 05 CR 28199 Honorable Kenneth J. Wadas, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Lampkin

JUSTICE LAMPKIN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Presiding Justice Hall and Justice Rochford concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Following a bench trial, defendant Martell Mimes was convicted of attempted first degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, and two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW). He was sentenced to concurrent terms of 45 years in prison for attempted murder, 10 years for aggravated battery with a firearm, and 3 years for AUUW.

On appeal, he contends: (1) the trial judge improperly assumed the role of prosecutor; (2) the trial court improperly increased defendant's sentence for attempted murder where the State did not charge the sentence enhancing facts in the indictment; (3) defendant's sentence for attempted murder was excessive; (4) his convictions for aggravated battery with a firearm and two counts of AUUW violated the one-act, one-crime rule; (5) his convictions under the AUUW statute should be vacated because the criminalization of carrying a firearm on one's person in public violates the constitutional guarantees of the right to bear arms; and (6) the trial court erroneously imposed various fines, fees and costs against him.

For the reasons that follow, we hold that (1) the trial judge did not improperly assume the role of prosecutor by considering other-crimes evidence against defendant for the limited purpose of identification; (2) defendant received sufficient notice prior to trial of alleged facts that increased the penalty range of his attempted murder conviction where he was not prejudiced in the preparation of his defense; (3) the trial court's 45-year sentence for attempted first degree murder was not an abuse of discretion; (4) defendant's convictions for attempted first degree murder and one count of AUUW did not violate the one-act, one-crime rule, but this rule was violated by his convictions for aggravated battery with a firearm and a second count of AUUW;

(5) defendant's conviction for carrying an uncased, loaded and accessible handgun on a public city street is affirmed because the relevant provisions of Illinois's AUUW statute did not violate the constitutional protection of the right to bear arms; and (6) the trial court properly assessed defendant with the $50 court system fee, but the other challenged fees or fines are vacated or offset by his time spent in custody.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendant was arrested and charged with the November 8, 2005 attempted first degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm of the 17-year-old victim, Lenard Richardson. Defendant was also charged with eight counts of AUUW based on allegations that he was carrying an uncased, loaded and accessible firearm in public and did not have a Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) card, was under 21 years of age, and was involved in street gang activity.

At the bench trial in August 2008, the testimony of Richardson and his older brother, Leonard Cole, established that Richardson was selling heroin in a Chicago public housing building on the evening in question when he was robbed by defendant and three other offenders. Defendant brandished a silver pistol, took Richardson's bundle of narcotics and about $200, and hit Richardson in his jaw with the pistol. Richardson then telephoned Cole, who drove to the scene with another friend. When Cole arrived at the scene, he told Richardson to wait in the car and he (Cole) would "handle it." Cole and his friend walked across the street to a second public housing building and spoke with Lavane Tanksley. After a minute, Richardson lost sight of Cole, got out of the car, and went inside the second building.

Richardson went upstairs, looked out a window and saw Cole talking to Tanksley. Richardson then went downstairs to the lobby. As he was by the door and about to exit the building, he saw defendant, who was outside and about three feet away. Defendant walked toward Richardson and was carrying a silver pistol. Defendant started shooting as he walked up the steps to enter the building, and continued shooting as he walked into the lobby, passed Richardson and ran up a staircase. When Richardson heard the initial gunshots, he dropped to the ground and heard more gunshots fired. Only Richardson and defendant were in the lobby. Richardson did not have a gun. Richardson sustained two gunshot wounds fired into his back. Cole also heard the gunshots, dropped to the ground and then saw that someone was lying inside the lobby with his feet sticking out the door. Cole went into the lobby and saw that the victim was Richardson. No one else was in the lobby. Cole remained with Richardson until the police arrived.

Richardson was taken to the hospital and briefly interviewed by the police. Although Richardson initially denied selling drugs at the scene, he subsequently told the police about the events leading up to the shooting, gave a description of the shooter, and said he thought the shooter used a gun that belonged to Tanksley. The police spoke with Tanksley and obtained defendant's name. One day after the shooting, Richardson identified defendant as the shooter from a photo array. As a result of the shooting, Richardson suffered a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed from the waist down. Thereafter, he was confined to a wheelchair and had to wear a colostomy bag and diaper. Furthermore, both his legs were subsequently amputated.

The State's evidence established that police recovered at the scene three shell casings and a full cartridge outside the building on the steps leading up to the lobby door. Inside the lobby, the police recovered five more shell casings and several pieces of metal from expended bullets. All eight shell casings were fired from the same gun.

Later, defendant was arrested and advised of his Miranda rights. According to the testimony of Chicago police detective Chris Matias, defendant initially told the police that he was inside his sister's apartment the entire day when the offense occurred. Later, however, defendant told the police that he used Tanksley's gun to shoot Richardson because he thought Richardson was reaching for a handgun. After the shooting, defendant ran upstairs to his sister's apartment. Furthermore, defendant told the police that he never saw a gun in Richardson's hands. Defendant did not testify at the bench trial.

After closing arguments, the trial judge stated that he considered the other-crimes evidence, i.e., the testimony that defendant robbed Richardson at gunpoint and struck him with the gun, only for the purpose of identification. The trial court concluded that any prejudicial effect was outweighed by the probative value of that evidence, which was relevant to show Richardson's prior opportunity to observe defendant and then identify him later as the shooter. The trial court stated that Richardson was a credible witness and the physical evidence corroborated his version of the events. The trial court also stated that Detective Matias's testimony concerning defendant's inculpatory admissions to the shooting was credible.

The trial court found defendant guilty of attempted first degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, and two counts of AUUW. Specifically, defendant's AUUW convictions were based on findings that he (1) knowingly carried on his person an uncased, loaded and accessible firearm while not on his own land or in his own abode or fixed place of business (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A) (West 2004)), and (2) possessed an uncased, loaded and accessible firearm upon public land (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(2), (a)(3)(A) (West 2004)). The trial court found defendant not guilty on six other counts of AUUW because the State failed to prove he was involved in gang-related activity, did not have a FOID card or was under 21 years of age.

At the sentencing hearing, the parties stipulated that two Chicago police officers would testify that they arrested defendant in September 2005 in the hallway of a building where he did not live for being in possession of 23 small clear plastic bags containing crack cocaine. Moreover, the State presented Richardson's victim impact statement and informed the court that defendant was out on bond for the 2005 possession of a controlled substance case when he shot and severely injured Richardson. Furthermore, defendant had a prior juvenile adjudication of guilt for burglary but no prior adult convictions.

For the offense of attempted first degree murder, the trial court imposed a 20-year sentence plus the minimum mandatory addition of 25 years for a cumulative 45-year sentence based on the finding that defendant was the shooter in the case and caused great bodily harm to the victim. Defendant also received concurrent sentences of 10 years for aggravated battery with a firearm, and three years each for two counts of AUUW. The trial court also assessed $840 for various costs, fees and fines. Defendant timely appealed.

II. ANALYSIS

On appeal, defendant contends: (1) the trial court improperly assumed the role of prosecutor when it sua sponte considered other-crimes evidence; (2) the trial court improperly added 25 years to his 20-year attempted murder sentence where the State did not charge the sentence enhancing facts in the indictment; (3) defendant's 45-year sentence for attempted murder was excessive; (4) pursuant to the one-act, one-crime rule, his convictions for aggravated battery with a firearm and two counts of AUUW should be vacated because they were based on the same physical act as his attempted murder conviction; (5) his convictions under the AUUW statute should be vacated because the criminalization of openly carrying a firearm on one's person in public violates the constitutional guarantees of the right to bear arms; and (6) the trial court erroneously imposed various fines, fees and costs against him.

A. Appearance of Partiality

Defendant argues the trial court erred when, after closing argument, it stated, sua sponte, that certain testimony, i.e., that defendant robbed Richardson at gunpoint and hit him in the jaw with the gun, was relevant only to show Richardson's ability to identify defendant as the offender who shot him later the same day. The trial court also stated that the probative value of this other-crimes evidence outweighed any prejudicial effect. Defendant acknowledges that all the testimony concerning the armed robbery was admitted during the bench trial without any objection from defendant. Nevertheless, defendant contends that the trial court's statements established that it impermissibly acted as a prosecutor because the State never raised the issue of the admissibility of the other-crimes evidence. We find that defendant's argument lacks merit.

A trial judge abuses his discretion when he abandons his judicial role and adopts the role of prosecutor. People v. Hicks, 183 Ill. App. 3d 636, 646 (1989). However, where justice is liable to fail because a certain fact has not been developed or a certain line of inquiry has not been pursued, a judge has a duty to interpose and avoid the miscarriage of justice either by suggestions to counsel or an examination conducted by the judge himself. People v. Franceschini, 20 Ill. 2d 126, 132 (1960).

Here, the trial judge did not improperly act as a prosecutor when he merely clarified, prior to announcing his findings, that he had considered the properly admitted testimony about the robbery, which constituted other-crimes evidence, only for the relevant purpose of identification. Specifically, defendant's prior bad act afforded Richardson the opportunity to observe defendant and the gun up close and thereby assisted Richardson in identifying defendant as the offender who shot him later that day.

This situation is dissimilar to that in Village of Kildeer v. Munyer, 384 Ill. App. 3d 251 (2008), relied upon by defendant, where defendant Munyer was charged with reckless driving in three separate cases. Although the three cases involved different witnesses from three separate incidents that occurred on different dates, the trial court heard the three cases together. Id. at 252. In the first and second cases, the witnesses testified that the defendant drove his vehicle toward the witnesses' vehicles and then swerved into the witnesses' path, causing the witnesses to leave the road to avoid being hit. Id. at 252-53. In the third case, the defendant drove toward two stopped cars, causing the occupants to think the defendant would strike them before he pulled his vehicle away at the last minute. Id. at 253. After the prosecution had rested, the trial court granted the defendant a directed finding in the first and second cases based on the failure of the complaints to give sufficient factual descriptions of the alleged acts. Id. at 253. Then, the trial court improperly acted as a prosecutor when it sua sponte took the affirmative step of admitting the testimony from the two dismissed reckless driving cases as other-crimes evidence in the remaining reckless driving case in order to establish proof of the defendant's willful or wanton mental state. Id. at 253, 257.

In this case, the trial judge did not prompt the State to present the other-crimes evidence, and the State did not reopen its case to present additional evidence. Instead, the judge merely commented on the relevant basis for the previously admitted other-crimes evidence. Furthermore, the defense never argued that the testimony concerning the robbery constituted inadmissible other-crimes evidence. Defendant cannot credibly complain on appeal that he was prejudiced by the admission of that evidence where the defense referred to that testimony extensively during the cross-examinations of Richardson and Cole in order to discredit them as drug peddlers. Defendant fails to establish any appearance of partiality or abuse of discretion by the trial judge here.

B. Mandatory Addition to Defendant's Attempted Murder Sentence

Defendant contends that the addition of 25 years to his 20-year sentence for attempted first degree murder is void because the State violated section 111-3(c-5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/111-3(c-5) (West 2004)). According to defendant, section 111-3(c-5) required the State to give him written notice prior to trial that it would seek an enhanced sentence based on the facts that he personally discharged a firearm which caused great bodily harm to Richardson. Defendant acknowledges that he failed to raise this issue both prior to sentencing and in his motion to reconsider the sentence. He argues, however, that a void order may be challenged at any time and a "sentence which does not conform to a statutory requirement is void." People v. Arna, 168 Ill. 2d 107, 113 (1995).

Alternatively, defendant seeks review of this issue under the plain error rule, arguing that the imposition of an unauthorized sentence affected substantial rights where the State's alleged indictment error prevented him from exercising his right to request a bifurcated proceeding. Specifically, defendant contends that if he had known the State would seek an enhanced sentence based on his use of a firearm and causing the victim great bodily harm, then defendant could have requested a bifurcated proceeding where a jury would decide his guilt but a judge would decide whether the enhancing factor existed. Furthermore, defendant could then have chosen to testify either at the guilt phase of the trial only, or the enhancing factor phase only, or neither or both. See Ill. S. Ct. R. 451(g) (eff. July 1, 2006) (when the State seeks an enhanced sentence, trial courts have discretion under section 111-3(c-5) in deciding whether to conduct unitary or bifurcated trials on the issue of guilt and on the issue of whether a sentencing enhancement factor exists).

Because this issue involves a question of law, our review is de novo. People v. Rowell, 229 Ill. 2d 82, 92 (2008). A defendant has a fundamental right to be informed of the nature and cause of criminal accusations made against him. Id. at 92-93. The legislature enacted section 111-3(c-5) of the Code in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), which held that whenever a fact other than a prior conviction is considered to enhance a penalty beyond the statutory maximum, that fact must be found to exist beyond a reasonable doubt by the trier of fact. People v. Crutchfield, 353 Ill. App. 3d 1014, 1023 (2004).

Section 111-3(c-5) provides: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, *** if an alleged fact (other than the fact of a prior conviction ) is not an element of an offense but is sought to be used to increase the range of penalties for the offense beyond the statutory maximum that could otherwise be imposed for the offense, the alleged fact must be included in the charging instrument or otherwise provided to the defendant through a written notification before trial, submitted to a trier of fact as an aggravating factor, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to prove the fact beyond a reasonable doubt is not a bar to a conviction for commission of the offense, but is a bar to increasing, based on that fact, the range of penalties for the offense beyond the statutory maximum that could otherwise be imposed for that offense." 725 ILCS 5/111-3(c-5) (West 2004).

Defendant's challenge on appeal is limited to the issue of notice; he does not assert that the alleged facts that he fired the gun that caused Richardson great bodily harm were neither submitted to ...


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