Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 07-CF-1241, Honorable Grant S. Wegner, Karen Simpson, and James C. Hallock, Judges, Presiding.
Presiding Justice Burke and Justice Hutchinson concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 In 2008, a jury found defendant, Tuan C. Fields, accountable for the acts of his codefendant, Darvin Henderson, and convicted him of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2006)) and attempted first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9-1(a) (West 2006)). The court sentenced defendant to consecutive terms of 25 years' and 8 years' imprisonment, respectively. Defendant appeals, arguing, as to his attempted first-degree murder conviction only, that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction. In addition, defendant argues that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance where he did not object to the State's introduction of gang-affiliation evidence. Finally, defendant argues that we should remand for a new hearing on his pro se posttrial motion alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, because the State's participation in the preliminary inquiry into his claims rendered the hearing adversarial. For the following reasons, we reject defendant's sufficiency-of-the-evidence and ineffective-assistance arguments, but we agree that he should receive a new hearing on his pro se motion alleging ineffective assistance. Accordingly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand with directions.
¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND
¶ 3 On April 30, 2007, Henderson fired a weapon, allegedly given to him by defendant, in the stairwell of an apartment building in Aurora. Rashod Waldrop died as a result of gunshot wounds and Jonathan Phillips sustained a head wound. On appeal, defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his attempted murder conviction, because the State did not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Phillips' injury was caused by a firearm, as charged, and, thus, that there was any intent to kill. As defendant does not challenge on appeal the evidence regarding his accountability for the crimes, or the sufficiency of the evidence on his murder conviction, the following factual synopsis does not focus on the trial evidence on those points. Rather, we provide general background and detail only the evidence and events relevant to defendant's appellate arguments.
¶ 4 A. Trial Evidence
¶ 5 At trial, in opening statements, the State explained to the jury that the parties involved in the incidents at issue belonged to the Gangster Disciples street gang or various factions, specifically, the "Low Ends" and the "Twelve Hundreds."
¶ 6 Robert Moore testified that he knew and was "like brothers" with defendant, who was known by the street name "Don Juan." He also knew Henderson, who was known by the street name "Bling." Phillips and Waldrop were known by the street names "J-Hood" and "Turtle, " respectively. Moore, Henderson, Phillips, and Waldrop were all members of the Gangster Disciples (defendant was a member of the Maniac Latin Disciples, a gang described as like "cousins" with the Gangster Disciples). Henderson, however, was part of the Twelve Hundreds faction of the gang, while Phillips and Waldrop were part of the Low Ends faction. Moore and defendant did not belong to factions.
¶ 7 Moore agreed that, on April 29, 2007, at a barbecue at Farnsworth Park in Aurora, a problem started "between the two groups." When Henderson arrived at the barbecue, Henderson and the Low Ends (specifically Waldrop and Phillips) got into a fight. The fight became physical and Phillips snatched a gold chain off of Henderson's neck. Defendant was not involved in the fight. The fight broke up when Michael Townes (gang affiliation, if any, unknown) fired a shot from a silver, .357-caliber revolver into the air. Everyone scattered, and Moore, Phillips, and Waldrop went to a gas station. Defendant did not go. According to Moore, Henderson eventually arrived at the gas station and walked up to Phillips and Waldrop and said, "I'm getting my chain back" or "Let me get my chain." Waldrop responded, "Get it in blood, " and Phillips ripped the chain into pieces. Henderson got into his car and drove away.
¶ 8 That evening, there was a party held in different apartments at 430 River Street in Aurora. The apartment building has a secured elevator lobby, and a door off of the lobby that leads to a stairwell. At the party, as defendant and Henderson exited a room, defendant said to Moore, "watch what me and Bling about to do." Moore saw Townes give defendant the gun that he had fired in the park. Defendant put the gun in his waistband and left. According to Moore, defendant later returned to the party and said, "Everybody get out, J-Hood and Turtle just got knocked out."
¶ 9 The evidence further reflected that defendant and Henderson were seen outside the building, with Henderson putting on white gloves and wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Defendant told a witness, "We on some bullshit." Later, inside at the party, defendant said, "follow me, " and led multiple people, including Phillips and Waldrop, out of the apartment, down a hallway, and into a stairwell. While descending the stairs, Phillips and Waldrop passed by defendant and then Henderson fired gunshots. Everybody ran. Henderson was seen running out of the building with gloves on and a gun in his right hand.
¶ 10 Officer Pete Wullbrandt responded to the scene; there was screaming and a large crowd outside. When he entered the building he saw Phillips lying in a large pool of blood on the floor, between the elevators and a door leading to a stairwell. According to Wullbrandt, Phillips was unconscious, bleeding, and had what "appeared to be a gunshot [wound]" on the top of his head. Officer Don Flowers also arrived on the scene, which he described as "chaos. A lot of people running around, yelling somebody had been shot." Flowers entered the lobby and saw Phillips lying on the floor, bleeding from his head. Bullet holes, fragments, and jackets were found in the stairwell and near the elevators outside the stairwell door. The bullet jackets reflected that they could have been fired from a .357-class of firearm. No casings were found, which was consistent with the weapon being a revolver.
¶ 11 Waldrop died in surgery at the hospital. He had sustained three gunshot wounds and blunt force trauma to the back of his head. Specifically, Waldrop had four lacerations on the top of the back of his head, ranging from one-fourth of an inch to three-fourths of an inch in length and, under the longest laceration, a skull fracture. The forensic pathologist testified that, hypothetically speaking, the lacerations could have come from Waldrop being pistol-whipped.
¶ 12 Defendant's friend, Earl James, testified in exchange for a deal with the State. James had known defendant for several years, assumed defendant was a Gangster Disciple, and he had spent time with defendant in the same jail cell. While there, defendant told James that he gave Henderson the gun while they were outside the apartment building and that he then he returned to the apartment party while Henderson went into the stairwell. Defendant told James that he had escorted Phillips and Waldrop to the stairwell, but that they proceeded downstairs in front of him. Defendant heard gunshots, went downstairs and ...