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The People of the State of Illinois v. Bennie Teague

February 15, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
BENNIE TEAGUE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 08 CR 9479 Honorable William G. Lacy, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice R. Gordon

OPINION Justice R. Gordon delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

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

¶ 1 Defendant Bennie Teague was convicted of the first-degree murder of his former employer, Marcus Hendricks, and of attempted first-degree murder of three police officers, which occurred while defendant was trying to evade capture for the murder of Hendricks earlier that same day. The jury also determined that defendant had personally discharged the firearm that caused Hendricks' death. After hearing factors in aggravation and mitigation, the trial court sentenced defendant to 85 years for the first-degree murder of Hendricks, which included a 25-year enhancement for personally discharging the firearm that caused Hendricks' death. The trial court also sentenced defendant to 50 years for each conviction for attempted murder to run concurrently with each other but consecutively to the 85-year sentence for murder. As a result, defendant was sentenced to serve a total of 135 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).

¶ 2 On this direct appeal, defendant raises two claims: (1) that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to kill the police officers; and (2) that the trial court abused its discretion by sentencing defendant to a total of 135 years.

¶ 3 On appeal, defendant does not claim that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for the murder of Hendricks. He makes a claim of insufficient evidence only with respect to his convictions for the attempted murders of the three police officers. In addition, he does not claim that the State failed to prove that he took a substantial step towards committing the attempted murders; he claims only that the State failed to prove that he had the intent to kill.

¶ 4 With respect to the attempted murders, defendant admits in his brief to this court that he shot an AK-47 semiautomatic assault rifle 5 times from a distance of 40 feet away "in the officers' presence in an effort to keep them at bay while he attempted to escape" capture for the murder of Hendricks. However, defendant claims that the State's evidence was insufficient to prove that he intended to kill the officers, since there was no evidence that his shots actually hit either the officers or their vehicle.

¶ 5 For the reasons discussed below, we affirm his conviction and sentence.

¶ 6 BACKGROUND

¶ 7 At trial, the State's evidence established that defendant, who had worked for Marcus Hendricks, entered Hendricks' plumbing business at 714 West 115th Street in Chicago on April 18, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. and shot Hendricks. When defendant entered Hendricks' business, he was wearing a cloth around his head that masked the lower part of his face and was carrying a rifle. After the shooting, Hendricks was found sitting in a chair with his feet propped up on a desk and he later died from a gunshot wound to his abdomen. No evidence was offered concerning a motive for the Hendricks murder.

¶ 8 After the murder, defendant walked to 113th Street, entered a teal-colored vehicle, and drove north on Emerald Avenue and then east onto 112th Street. Officers John McDermott, Edward Kos and Dean Korbas, who were nearby in plain clothes in an unmarked vehicle, received a radio dispatch and headed to the area. As the officers were driving south on Emerald Avenue, a vehicle passed them heading north, driven by the man whom they identified in court as defendant. After defendant passed the officers, he drove away at a high rate of speed and the officers made a u-turn to follow him and activated their emergency lights and siren. After a pursuit that lasted a number of blocks, defendant's vehicle stopped at 111th Street and Lowe Avenue, and defendant exited his vehicle carrying an assault rifle. The police officers immediately stopped their vehicle as well.

¶ 9 The attempted murder charges were based on events that occurred after defendant stopped and exited his vehicle, and the officers stopped their vehicle. Since defendant exercised his right not to testify at trial, the evidence of his intent during these events was based primarily on a description of his actions as provided by the testimony of the three officers. We provide the officers' testimony in detail as follows.

¶ 10 Officer John McDermott testified that, after defendant exited his vehicle, he immediately turned around and faced the officers, from approximately 40 feet away. McDermott observed defendant raise his rifle to his shoulder, and observed a ball of fire and heard a loud crack. Defendant began walking forward in "an arc" toward the left side of the officer's vehicle. McDermott was sitting in the driver's seat, Korbas was sitting in the front passenger seat, and Kos was sitting in the back seat. McDermott and Korbas returned fire through the front windshield of their vehicle. After firing six shots, McDermott had used up all of his ammunition and began to reload, while Korbas continued to fire. McDermott could still observe balls of fire emanating from defendant's rifle.

¶ 11 McDermott testified that, while shooting, defendant began "trotting" backward. Korbas and Kos both exited their vehicle, while McDermott was still in the process of reloading. Defendant ran approximately two house lengths and then turned around, shouldered his rifle and fired again. McDermott, who was still in the vehicle, "believed" that defendant "directed" the rifle toward the other officers at that point in time. Although McDermott admitted that he was not looking at his partners, he testified that defendant's shot was aimed "more toward" his partners. Defendant then disappeared between two houses, and McDermott drove around the block, while Kos and Korbas pursued defendant on foot. Korbas and additional officers who arrived at the scene found defendant in a gangway between two houses and were placing him under arrest when McDermott arrived.

¶ 12 Officer Kos testified that, after defendant exited his vehicle, he turned around and shouldered a rifle with the muzzle pointing at the officers' vehicle. Kos then observed a "big fire ball" coming toward the officers. Since Kos was sitting in the back seat, he drew his weapon but did not return fire because he was afraid of hitting McDermott, who was sitting in front of him. McDermott and Korbas, who were sitting in the front, returned fire through the windshield. Kos observed defendant moving closer to the police vehicle and then observed another fire ball emerge from defendant's rifle in their direction. Kos then exited the vehicle, radioed for help and chased defendant on foot. Defendant turned around and "pointed the rifle towards" Kos but then he "moved a little to the left and discharged it again." Kos explained that defendant "pointed the rifle in my direction first, *** but then he like made a 25 degree [move] to the left, and that's when he discharged the rifle." When Kos looked in the direction where the fire ball was traveling, he observed "Korbas duck down." Kos lost sight of defendant when defendant ran between two houses, and Kos ran down an alley in an attempt to pursue him. As Kos was looking for defendant, he heard Korbas yelling to defendant to lay on the ground.

ΒΆ 13 Officer Korbas testified that, after defendant stopped his vehicle by "slamm[ing] on the brake, [he] had his door open, and came out and raised an AK 47 at us." Korbas estimated that their police vehicle was only 40 feet behind defendant's vehicle. As Korbas "was going down for cover," he observed a flame emerge from the muzzle of defendant's rifle and heard a loud blast. Korbas and McDermott returned fire through the front windshield of their vehicle. Defendant approached the police vehicle toward the driver's side. While McDermott was in the process of reloading, Korbas continued to return fire. Defendant started running down Lowe Avenue, and Korbas exited the police vehicle and pursued him on foot. Defendant turned and ...

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