On appeal from defendant’s convictions under an accountability theory for first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder arising from a gang-related shooting, the appellate court rejected defendant’s contentions that the evidence was insufficient to establish his guilt of attempted murder beyond a reasonable doubt and that his counsel was ineffective in failing to object to gang evidence, since the jury reasonably could have believed defendant, through the shooter, took a step toward killing the victim of the attempted murder, and defendant failed to establish that he was prejudiced by his counsel’s failure to object to the gang evidence; however, the cause was remanded for a new hearing on defendant’s pro se posttrial motion alleging ineffective assistance of counsel.
Appeal From the Circuit Court of Kane County, No. 07-CF-1241; the Review Hon. Grant S. Wegner, the Hon. Karen Simpson, and the Hon. James C. Hallock, Judges, presiding. Judgment Affirmed in part and reversed in part; cause remanded with directions.
Thomas A. Lilien and Bruce Kirkham, both of State Appellate Defender's Appeal Office, of Elgin, for appellant.
Joseph H. McMahon, State's Attorney, of St. Charles (Lawrence M. Bauer and Victoria E. Jozef, both of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE JORGENSEN, 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 ...