Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 03 CR 13790 Honorable Stanley J. Sacks, Judge Presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE LAMPKIN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Gordon and Reyes concurred in the judgment and opinion.
LAMPKIN, PRESIDING JUSTICE
¶ 1 Defendant Leivante Adams appeals from the denial of his motion to file a successive petition for postconviction relief. On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying him leave to file because he presented a colorable claim of actual innocence based on the exculpatory affidavits of three eyewitnesses. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
¶ 2 Following a 2004 jury trial, defendant was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to 45 years in prison. On direct appeal, defendant contended that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of a prior crime, and that the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence. People v. Adams, No. 1-05-0908 (2006) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). In the course of doing so, we set forth the underlying facts of the case. Those facts will be repeated here to some extent due to the nature of defendant's postconviction claims.
¶ 3 Prior to trial, the court granted the State's motion to present evidence of a March 20, 2003, domestic battery involving defendant and the victim, Raama Baker. Defendant had pleaded guilty to this offense, and the order of protection referenced in the indictment was issued as a result of this incident. The court specifically admitted the evidence to demonstrate defendant's animosity toward the victim, intent to harm or kill her, and motive. The court found that the probative value of the evidence outweighed its prejudicial value. At trial, the State presented the protective order to the jury.
¶ 4 Larry Lewis, the victim's boyfriend, testified with regard to the domestic battery. He testified that on March 20, 2003, he was at a lounge with the victim. About 8:30 p.m., he learned that the victim and defendant were outside fighting. When he went outside, he saw defendant punching the victim in the face and broke up the fight. He then drove the victim to his uncle's house and called the police. The victim sustained a swollen eye, which he identified in a photograph at trial.
¶ 5 Bonnie Baker McCain, the victim's mother, testified that the victim and defendant had been in a relationship a couple of years prior to her murder on May 15, 2003, and that they had a daughter together. About 11:30 p.m. on May 15, 2003, Bonnie received a phone call from Larry Lewis. Larry informed her that the victim had been attacked and was in the hospital. At the hospital, Bonnie learned that the victim's arm had been broken and that her skull had been "bashed in." She died the following day. Dr. Kendall Crowns, who performed the autopsy on the victim, testified that she died as a result of homicidal assault injuries consistent with being hit with a blunt object and from falling to the ground.
¶ 6 Terrence Whisby, defendant's brother, testified that on May 15, 2003, he, his brother Anthony Oliver, and his girlfriend, Kim Washington, were living with his mother, Barbara Oliver, in Chicago. They were all home that night watching a basketball game. Defendant and Toni Washington, the mother of defendant's child, were visiting. About 11 p.m., Whisby answered the doorbell, saw the victim walk by the house, and then returned to his bedroom. About 20 minutes later, he heard arguing and went outside where he saw defendant on the porch and the victim on the sidewalk. Defendant approached the victim and they walked down the street together, yelling all the while. Defendant and the victim then started to "tussle, " and the victim fell to the ground. After noticing that defendant had a stick in his hand, Terrence ran toward defendant, who was "constantly" hitting the victim with the stick, and pulled defendant away from her. The victim was lying on the ground motionless, and blood was on the ground and on her face. After defendant dropped the stick, Terrence retrieved it, took it home, washed it off, and gave it to Toni Washington. Defendant did not return home that night.
¶ 7 Terrence acknowledged giving three different statements to the police between 10 a.m. On May 17, 2003, and 9:40 p.m. on May 19, 2003, while he was being held at the police station. In his final statement, Terrence substantially corroborated his trial testimony, except for his statement that defendant hit the victim with a bat. When he testified before the grand jury on June 5, 2003, he stated that defendant had a bat in his hands when he left the house. He further testified that no threats or promises were made in exchange for his statement, contrary to his testimony at trial, where he stated that the police threatened that he would not be allowed to leave until he gave a signed statement. The assistant State's Attorney (ASA) who presented Terrence to the grand jury verified his grand jury testimony at trial.
¶ 8 Anthony Oliver, another brother of defendant, testified that about 11 p.m. on the night in question, defendant left the house, then returned, saying that the victim "shouldn't be walking down the block." Defendant's mother went outside and told Anthony to call the police. Anthony complied, telling them that there was a fight in the alley. Anthony did not see defendant again that night, but the following day, he spoke to defendant on the telephone, although he could not recall their conversation.
¶ 9 On May 21, 2003, however, Anthony testified before the grand jury that when defendant called, he asked if the police had been asking questions. Defendant told Anthony that he "snapped and started hitting [the victim] with the bat" because he warned her not to walk down his street anymore, and because she called him a "bitch" and said she would walk anywhere she wanted. Anthony further testified that when he looked outside, he saw the victim's body lying on the ground, then saw defendant pull away in a car. The ASA who presented Anthony to the grand jury verified his grand jury testimony at trial.
¶ 10 Kim Washington, Terrence's girlfriend, testified that she was outside and saw the victim walk down the street. Defendant, who was also outside, gave the victim "a warning, " then followed her with a bat in his hand. Kim went back into the house to get shoes for defendant's mother, heard a "thump, " then saw the victim lying on the ground. Defendant was standing next to the victim with the bat in his hands. When Terrence grabbed defendant, defendant dropped the bat. Terrence picked it up and brought it inside the house.
¶ 11 On June 6, 2003, Kim testified before the grand jury that defendant came in the house and said that the victim was not supposed to be on the block, then grabbed a bat from the doorway. She then saw the victim lying on the ground and watched defendant hit her two or three times with the bat. The ...