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People v. Colbert

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

November 8, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LAPOLEON COLBERT, Defendant-Appellant.

Held [*]

Defendant’s conviction for first degree felony murder predicated on mob action was upheld over his contentions that his conduct constituting mob action was inherent in the murder and was not committed with a purpose independent of the murder, that the trial court should have instructed the jury that the mob action had to have an independent felonious purpose other than the murder, and that his sentence was excessive, since the evidence showed defendant engaged in the mob action with the independent felonious purpose of intimidating students from a rival neighborhood faction, the mob action served as a predicate felony for felony murder, the trial court did not err in failing to give an instruction that the mob action had to have an independent felonious purpose other than the murder, and the sentence was a result of the court’s balancing society’s need for protection and defendant’s rehabilitative potential.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 10-CR-3600; the Hon. Nicholas J. Ford, Judge, presiding.

Michael J. Pelletier, Alan D. Goldberg, and Tomas G. Gonzalez, all of State Appellate Defender’s Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

Anita M. Alvarez, State’s Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg and Peter D. Fischer, Assistant State’s Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

Panel JUSTICE HALL delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Rochford and Justice Reyes concurred in the judgment and opinion

OPINION

HALL JUSTICE

¶ 1 Following a jury trial, defendant Lapoleon Colbert was found guilty of first degree felony murder based on the predicate felony of mob action in connection with the beating death of Derrion Albert. Defendant was sentenced to 32 years' imprisonment.[1] The trial court denied defendant's motion to reconsider sentence. He now appeals his conviction and sentence. We affirm.

¶ 2 The facts show that on the afternoon of September 24, 2009, a street brawl involving a number of individuals broke out near the front entrance and parking lot of the Agape Community Center, located on 111th Street in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The brawl stemmed from an ongoing feud between two factions of students attending nearby Fenger Academy High School. The two groups of students were from rival neighborhoods.

¶ 3 During the street brawl, Derrion Albert was fatally beaten. The incident was captured on a video surveillance camera located on the outside of the building housing the community center and on a cell phone video recording taken by a bystander. The bystander's video recording was copied into a slow motion version. The three video recordings were published to the jury. The video recordings show a number of young men strike the victim. In regard to the defendant, the video recordings show him kick the victim in his head and stomp the victim in his torso area as the victim lay motionless on the ground.

¶ 4 An autopsy revealed Albert suffered multiple abrasions and bruises to his face, lips, hands, chest, abdomen, and back. He died from cerebral hemorrhaging caused by blunt force trauma to his head. The manner of death was ruled a homicide.

¶ 5 Defendant was initially charged with three counts of murder: intentional murder, strong probability murder, and felony murder predicated on mob action. Prior to trial, the State dismissed the intentional and strong probability murder counts and elected to proceed solely on the one count of felony murder. Defense counsel objected.

¶ 6 Defense counsel argued that the State had elected to proceed only on the felony murder count to eliminate the possibility of a conviction for second degree murder based on imperfect self-defense. Over defense counsel's objections, the trial court allowed the State to proceed solely on the count of felony murder predicated on mob action.

ΒΆ 7 Defendant's theory of defense at trial was that, although he kicked the victim in the head, he did not inflict the fatal blow and did not participate in the mob action. The jury found defendant guilty of first degree felony murder ...


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