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The People of the State of Illinois v. Shai-Tan L. Cook

September 9, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
SHAI-TAN L. COOK,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 07CF1314 Honorable Leslie J. Graves, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cook

JUSTICE COOK delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Steigmann and Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Defendant, Shai-Tan L. Cook, appeals three convictions of aggravated driving under the influence (DUI) based on his involvement in a fatal car accident. Defendant was sentenced to concurrent, 14-year prison terms on the three counts at issue on appeal. Defendant presents three arguments for our review: (1) the State failed to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that his DUI violation was the proximate cause of the death; (2) the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on the element of proximate cause; and (3) his convictions violate the "oneact, one-crime" rule. We reject defendant's arguments regarding proximate cause and jury instructions and accept his one-act, one-crime argument, vacating two of the three convictions. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand with directions.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 Defendant's convictions arose from his involvement in a fatal car accident that occurred at approximately 2:40 a.m. on October 28, 2007. That night, defendant was among a large group of patrons at J.D.'s, a now-defunct bar outside Illiopolis. Before traveling to J.D.'s, defendant had already consumed several alcoholic beverages at a Halloween party. Once there, he continued drinking. All told, by his own accounts, defendant drank at least four or five beers and at least two shots of vodka that night.

¶ 4 The owner of J.D.'s ordered all the patrons to exit the bar when a fight broke out inside. The fight continued in the parking lot, where the other customers were slow to leave. Two police officers who were already at J.D.'s on an unrelated matter attempted to break up the fight. When their efforts stalled, the owner of J.D.'s "maced everybody." Illinois State Police trooper Brian McMillen, who was nearby on I-72, responded to a call for backup.

¶ 5 J.D.'s was located south of I-72 on Dye Road, an undivided, two-lane highway with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour. When defendant and his passenger left J.D.'s, they found themselves in a line of traffic traveling north on Dye toward the interstate. The relative position of five of the cars was described in testimony at defendant's trial. The first of these was driven by Aretha Currie, the second by Tamara Apholone, the third by Justin Taylor, the fourth by defendant, and the fifth by Tarise Bryson.

¶ 6 As these drivers headed north, Trooper McMillen drove south on Dye toward J.D.'s from the interstate. When Currie saw Trooper McMillen's car with its overhead lights activated, she drove onto the shoulder and stopped. Apholone did the same. Whether these drivers were able to stop before Trooper McMillen passed in the opposite direction is not revealed by the record.

¶ 7 Behind Currie and Apholone, Taylor steered his entire car into the southbound lane. He and Trooper McMillen unsuccessfully attempted to avoid colliding. Trooper McMillen's car was traveling 93 miles per hour and Taylor's 30 miles per hour. The passenger sides of their cars made contact, sending Trooper McMillen's car into the northbound lane at 83 miles per hour and disabling his car's electrical functions, including its headlights and overhead lights. As it skidded into the lane of oncoming traffic, Trooper McMillen's car spun clockwise a quarter turn, throwing its tail end onto the shoulder and leaving its front end in the roadway. Defendant's car then struck the driver-side passenger compartment of Trooper McMillen's car perpendicularly. Defendant had cut his speed from 45 to 38 miles per hour before impact; Trooper McMillen's car, spinning out of control, had slowed to 77 miles per hour. Behind defendant, Bryson had begun slowing when he first noticed Trooper McMillen's police lights-- by his account, approximately 5 or 10 seconds before the accident; when he anticipated the second collision, he steered his car into the field abutting the shoulder to avoid further collision. Trooper McMillen was killed upon the impact of his car with defendant's. Defendant and his passenger sustained injuries requiring hospitalization. Taylor was uninjured.

¶ 8 Both Taylor and defendant were intoxicated at the time of the accident. Taylor had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.164 and some "over-the-counter cold medicine" was detected in his system. Based on samples taken at the hospital, defendant's BAC was determined to have been between 0.109 and 0.119 at the time of the accident. Tests also revealed the presence of the controlled substances ketamine and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in defendant's blood and urine, respectively.

¶ 9 In November 2007, the State charged defendant with 11 offenses. Seven of these charges were for aggravated DUI premised on defendant's alleged violations of various subsections of the DUI statute: count I charged defendant with driving under the influence of alcohol (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2) (West 2006)); count II, driving with a BAC of 0.08 or greater (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1) (West 2006)); count III, driving under the combined influence of drugs other than alcohol (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(4) (West 2006)); count IV, driving under the combined influence of alcohol and other drugs (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(5) (West 2006)); and counts V through VII, driving with any amount of a drug in his system resulting from unlawful consumption (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(6) (West 2006)). According to the charges, counts I through V were aggravated on the grounds that defendant, while committing a DUI offense, was involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of another person (625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(1)(F) (West 2006)); count VI, that defendant, while committing a DUI offense, drove a vehicle which he knew or should have known was not covered by liability insurance (625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(1)(H) (West 2006)); and count VII, that defendant, while committing a DUI, operated a vehicle without a driver's license (625 ILCS 5/11-501(d)(1)(G) (West 2006)). The remaining counts charged traffic offenses: count VIII, failure to yield right of way to an emergency vehicle (625 ILCS 5/11-907(a)(1) (West 2006)); count IX, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident (625 ILCS 5/11-601(a) (West 2006)); count X, operating an uninsured vehicle (625 ILCS 5/3-707(a) (West 2006)); and count XI, driving without a valid license (625 ILCS 5/6-101(a) (West 2006)). Count IX was later dismissed by motion of the State.

ΒΆ 10 In August 2009, following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of counts I, II, IV, VI through VIII, X, and XI, as charged. Additionally, defendant was convicted of DUI under count V. In October 2009, the trial court sentenced defendant to (1) 14 years' imprisonment, each, on counts I, II, and IV; (2) 365 days in jail on count V; (3) 6 years' imprisonment, each, on counts VI and VII; and (4) statutory fines on counts VIII, X, and XI. All sentences of ...


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