Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 09 CR 11926 Honorable Rosemary Grant-Higgins, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE HYMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Neville and Justice Pierce concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 During defendant Shannon Bennett's jury trial, his defense counsel successfully moved for a mistrial based on the prosecutor's introduction of evidence of Bennett's drug dealing. Bennett was charged with 18 counts of first degree murder in the 2008 shooting deaths of three people. Having secured a mistrial, Bennett's counsel moved to dismiss the charges altogether based on double jeopardy protections. Following written submissions on the motion, the trial court refused to dismiss the charges stating, "While I find that the State made a dumb mistake, I do not believe that it was the State's intent to goad the defendant into moving for a mistrial or that it was the State's intent to seek a new trial in the hopes of getting a more favorable result." Bennett, in this interlocutory appeal, contends the trial court erred in denying the motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds. We affirm.
¶ 2 Background
¶ 3 At trial, the State asserted that Vanity Murff, Lawrence Jackson and Corey Washington were shot on June 29, 2008, in a dispute between the Lakeside Gangster Disciples and the Black P Stone gangs in retaliation for the earlier death of a friend of defendant. The State contended Bennett committed the crime accompanied by Senica Ratliff and John Williams, with Bennett as the gunman, and that Raymond Brown was friends with the victims but aided the offenders by letting them inside the victims' building.
¶ 4 Jeremi Brooks testified that in 2008 he was a Gangster Disciple and knew most of the people involved in the crime, including Bennett, whom Brooks said was a Gangster Disciple he knew "from around the neighborhood." Brooks said he also knew Brown from previously selling him crack cocaine. On the night of the shooting, Brooks observed Brown and Bennett plan the crime.
¶ 5 The State's next witness was Brown, who acknowledged he had been charged in the case and agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit first degree murder. The prosecutor asked Brown if, as part of his plea agreement, he was placed in protective custody. Defense counsel objected and, in a sidebar discussion, counsel requested a mistrial, asserting the question implied Bennett was a "dangerous person." The prosecutor responded the jury had the right to know the circumstances of Brown's plea agreement. The court sustained Bennett's counsel's objection, concluding the probative value of the fact of protective custody was outweighed by its prejudicial effect. The prosecutor withdrew the question. The court denied Bennett's motion for a mistrial. Brown testified that he would likely receive a 12-year sentence in exchange for his plea.
¶ 6 The prosecutor then asked Brown how he knew Bennett and if he knew Bennett was in a gang in 2008. Brown responded he knew Bennett was a "GD" and had previously bought drugs from Bennett. The defense objected when the prosecutor asked Brown how many times he had purchased drugs from Bennett. The court noted that the State's attempt to establish that Bennett sold drugs did not prove Bennett was involved in a gang.
¶ 7 The defense made a second request for a mistrial, arguing the questioning was prejudicial to Bennett and the State had not asked in a motion in limine to introduce evidence of Bennett's other crimes. The prosecutor responded that his motion to introduce gang evidence encompassed the introduction of Bennett's drug activity. The court sustained the defense's objection to the evidence of Bennett's drug dealing. The court denied the defense motion for a mistrial.
¶ 8 Defense counsel asked the court to reconsider its ruling, asserting the State did not disclose in discovery that it would elicit testimony from Brown about buying drugs before the murder. The court continued the case to the next day for further argument on the defense's motion for a mistrial.
¶ 9 After hearing argument the following day, the court granted the defense's request for a mistrial after concluding the State's question regarding drug transactions between Brooks and Bennett was prejudicial. The court went on to say: "However, since I find that there was no intent by the State, we can pick another jury right now, if you like." The court and counsel for both sides discussed scheduling matters, and Bennett's counsel informed the court he planned to file a motion to dismiss "based on double jeopardy."
¶ 10 In the motion, defense counsel argued Bennett's retrial on the charges was barred by the protection against double jeopardy in the United States and Illinois Constitutions. Counsel argued that by eliciting testimony from Brown regarding protective custody and Bennett's drug dealing, the prosecutor "intended to gain an unfair advantage" over Bennett and attempted "to force the defense to request a mistrial to then avoid a possible guilty verdict based on the taint of the misconduct." Defense counsel asserted the prosecutor intentionally sought to cast Bennett in a bad light and would either obtain a guilty verdict or a mistrial, which are both beneficial outcomes for the State.
¶ 11 The State filed a written response, asserting the questioning of Brown about his protective custody status did not prejudice the defense and that the evidence of Bennett's drug sales to Brown did not qualify as "other crimes" evidence but was instead intertwined with the facts of the case against Bennett. The State argued no evidence established ...