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The People of the State of v. Eric Tyler

August 23, 2012


Appeal from the Circuit Court ILLINOIS, of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois Circuit No. 08-CF-2194 Honorable Daniel J. Rozak,Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Carter

JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Lytton concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Holdridge dissented.


¶ 1 The defendant, Eric Tyler, was convicted of armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a) (West 2008)), and was sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant argues that:

(1) he was denied a fair trial due to the improper admission of bloodhound evidence; and (2) defense counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the admission of the bloodhound evidence. We affirm.


¶ 3 On September 25, 2008, the defendant was charged by indictment with, inter alia, armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a) (West 2008)). The indictment alleged that on September 9, 2008, the defendant, Willie Campbell, and Ira Tyler took United States currency by force from Joseph Wilson while using a handgun. The indictment also alleged that the defendant and Ira Tyler took a Leatherman tool by force from Rodney Robinson while using a handgun, and that the defendant locked Robinson in a shed while using a handgun.

¶ 4 At trial, Wilson testified that he was working as a clerk at a Clark gas station in Joliet during the early morning hours of September 9, 2008. He paid Robinson to assist him in his duties, although Robinson was not an employee of the gas station. At approximately 4:15 a.m., Wilson and Robinson went outside to the storage shed behind the gas station to get soda to restock the gas station. After they opened the shed and Robinson went inside, three individuals appeared, dressed in loose-fitting black clothes, including gloves and covered faces. Wilson described two of the individuals as short and stocky and the other one as taller with a heavier build.

¶ 5 Two of the individuals went into the shed and the other one put a gun to Wilson's head. Wilson said this individual was an African-American male (the skin around his eyes was visible) who was approximately 5'5" tall. The individual told Wilson to give up his keys, and Wilson complied. This individual told the others he was going to shut the power off to the gas station, and that once the power was off, they were to bring Wilson to the front of the building. Once there, Wilson was told to lay on the ground. One individual sat on Wilson's back and held a gun to his head while the other two individuals went into the cash register, taking what Wilson said was approximately $295 in denominations no larger than 20s.

¶ 6 Robinson testified that he saw two individuals appear with handguns in the shed. They made him lay down, searched him, kicked and punched him, and took a Leatherman tool from him. Robinson stated that the individuals "were kind of lean" and were wearing gold masks; black, loose-fitting hooded sweatshirts; dark blue pants; and black shoes. He also noticed that one of the individuals was wearing black gloves with a dark gray insignia on the back. The individuals left the shed and locked Robinson inside. Robinson then called the police from his cell phone and kicked the shed door open once he heard the police arrive.

¶ 7 Joliet police sergeant John Stefanski testified that he was one of the officers who responded to the robbery. All of the responding officers that arrived approached the gas station secretly, and Stefanski approached from the rear of the building. He observed three individuals in dark clothing begin to run eastbound from the gas station. The individuals climbed over a guardrail that divided the gas station from the Pizza Hut, but one of the individuals tripped and fell. Stefanski apprehended the individual who fell. Stefanski handcuffed and searched the individual, who said his name was Ira Tyler. Ira had a gun in his waistband, which was a Colt 45 modified to fire .22mm rounds, and he did not appear to be under the influence of drugs. Ira also gave Stefanski his address as 1103 West Marion Street.

¶ 8 Ira, who was the defendant's cousin, testified that he was currently serving a prison sentence for his role in this armed robbery, as well as for obstruction of justice. In September 2008, his mother, Sheryl Jessup, and his brother, Devon, lived at 1103 West Marion Street, where Ira stayed at times. The Clark gas station that he robbed was approximately one block away from his mother's residence at 1103 West Marion Street.

¶ 9 Ira claimed on the stand that he did not remember anything from the day that he robbed the gas station. He claimed he was on cocaine that day and remembered waking up at the police station. He also said he did not talk to either the defendant or Willie Campbell that day, and that he did not plan the robbery with the defendant or Campbell. Stefanski was later recalled and testified that Ira was lucid and gave his address immediately upon request.

¶ 10 Campbell testified that he was currently serving a prison sentence for his role in this armed robbery and for unlawful possession of a weapon. Initially, he stated that he did not want to testify against the defendant or Ira, but the court informed him that he had already been convicted of the armed robbery and the failure to testify would result in a contempt finding. Campbell then agreed to testify and stated that he was 5'5" tall and weighed 120 pounds. Ira and the defendant were his cousins. He stated that he committed the robbery with Ira only. He claimed that he lied in his statement to the police in which he said he was present during a conversation between the defendant and Ira in which they planned the robbery. He then testified that they put a gun to his head and forced him to help commit the robbery. He claimed that he gave approximately five interviews to the police that night, and that he lied in all of them because the police told him he could go home if he told them what they wanted to hear. He had been to the residence at 1103 West Marion Street "[m]aybe one time," and he stated that he was on ecstacy and alcohol on the night of the robbery. When asked if the defendant participated in the robbery, Campbell said, "[n]ot that I know of."

¶ 11 The State also introduced a video of Campbell being interviewed by the police. Joliet police detective Moises Avila testified that he conducted five interviews of Campbell. Avila denied telling Campbell he could leave if he cooperated. Avila stated that Campbell's story changed over the course of the interviews. Initially, Campbell said he had been with his girlfriend all night. Later, he said he was an innocent bystander who overheard the planning of the robbery. Later, he said he was forced to participate in the robbery, and that the defendant took his phone. Avila stated that two of the five interviews had been videotaped.

¶ 12 Joliet police officer Shawn Wascher testified that he also responded to the gas station, which was at approximately 4:40 a.m. He observed three African-American males exit the gas station quickly. They were dressed in black hooded sweatshirts with the hoods up. He saw Stefanski apprehend one of the individuals and he chased the other two individuals who ran eastbound from the gas station. However, the individuals turned down a dark gangway between the Pizza Hut and a house, so he suspended his pursuit for safety reasons and because he did not want to "ruin the track," which he explained was the scent track for a canine. The police then set up a perimeter over a few blocks.

¶ 13 Wascher stated that the police ended up at the residence at 1103 West Marion Street later that night. He said that they went there because they heard over the radio that the canine had tracked a scent there. He also said that they went there because they heard over the radio that the individual that had been apprehended gave that address as his residence.

¶ 14 Wascher stated that the police searched the residence after obtaining Jessup's permission to do so. He went into the basement and into the bedroom located to the right of a common area. At approximately 6:21 a.m., he found an individual later identified as the defendant laying in a bed. He also found a cell phone next to the defendant on the bed, which kept ringing and indicated the name "Bridgette" on the display. He also found a black hooded sweatshirt on the bed.

¶ 15 At some point later, Wascher went outside with another officer to the alley behind the residence, where they found an individual later identified as Campbell. Campbell was wearing dark clothing, including a black hooded sweatshirt, and his clothes were muddy.

¶ 16 Bridgette Cullum testified that she was Campbell's girlfriend at the time of the robbery. On the night of September 8, 2008, she watched a movie with Campbell at her house. They went to bed around 10 p.m. During the night, Campbell left to go to a gas station. At 12:18 a.m., he called her to request that she let him back into the house. She went back to sleep and woke up around 3 or 4 a.m. Campbell was still there with her. She went back to sleep and was awakened by her mother around 5 a.m. Campbell was no longer there.

ΒΆ 17 Cullum called Campbell's cell phone approximately three times to find out where he was. She indicated on cross-examination that she was not sure what time she placed the calls, but knew that it was sometime before 8 a.m. She also stated that she placed the calls sometime between 8 and 11 a.m. Cullum was ...

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