When a court in a murder trial did not abuse its discretion in admitting, as relevant to show motive, evidence that a member of the defendant’s gang had shot at a member of a rival gang in a separate incident, and the appellate court erred in applying the rules of other-crimes evidence.
Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. James B. Linn, Judge, presiding.
Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield, and Anita Alvarez, State’s Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Annette N. Collins, Michelle Katz and Veronica Calderon Malavia, Assistant State’s Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.
Suzan-Amanda Ingram, Assistant Appellate Defender, of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, of Chicago, for appellee.
Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
GARMAN, CHIEF JUSTICE.
¶ 1 Following a jury trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Keith Pikes, was convicted of one count of first degree murder and sentenced to 27 years in prison. The appellate court reversed his conviction and remanded for a new trial, concluding that the trial court erred in admitting evidence concerning a prior crime committed by defendant's codefendant, Lamont Donegan, in which defendant was not involved. 2012 IL App (1st) 102274. This court granted the State's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010).
¶ 2 BACKGROUND
¶ 3 Defendant and Donegan were tried simultaneously before separate juries. They were both charged with the murder of Lorne Mosley, who was killed in a drive-by shooting on August 21, 2006. Prior to trial, the State sought admission of evidence that defendant and Donegan were members of the Four Corner Hustlers gang, which was involved in a conflict with the Gangster Disciples. The State also sought admission of evidence of a prior incident between Donegan and members of the Gangster Disciples (referred to herein as the scooter shooting). In that incident, which occurred a day or so prior to Mosley's murder, Quentez Robinson, a member of the Gangster Disciples, rode a scooter through Four Corner Hustlers territory, followed by other Gangster Disciples in a car. Donegan began shooting at Robinson, who rode off unharmed. The driver of the car struck Donegan, who later allegedly recruited defendant to assist him in exacting revenge for the incident. Defendant and Donegan allegedly made statements indicating their intention to seek revenge for the prior incident. In moving for admission of this evidence, the State reasoned that the earlier incident involving Donegan was related to the shooting of Mosley, thus providing an explanation for it. The State also argued that the prior incident provided evidence of defendant's and Donegan's joint motive and intent. The State also sought admission of certain co-conspirator statements made by Donegan prior to and immediately following the Mosley shooting. The trial court granted the State's motions over defendant's objection. As to the motion to admit evidence of the scooter shooting, the trial court found the evidence to be relevant, more probative than prejudicial, and necessary to allow the jury to understand the context in which the Mosley shooting occurred.
¶ 4 The facts are not in dispute. Relevant to the issue in this appeal, the evidence showed that in August 2006, a feud began between the Gangster Disciples and the Four Corner Hustlers over the shooting by a Gangster Disciples member of Victor Parsons, who was a member of the Four Corner Hustlers. The feud involved the gangs shooting at each other. Robinson testified concerning the scooter shooting. On August 19, 2006, he was riding a scooter in Four Corner Hustlers territory. A car containing other Gangster Disciples was following him. Donegan ran into the street and began shooting at Robinson. The car then struck Donegan. Robinson did not report the incident to police.
¶ 5 Herbert Lemon, a member of the Gangster Disciples, testified that his gang and the Four Corner Hustlers were enemies and that they had been fighting and shooting at each other. He was in the car that was following Robinson on the scooter when Donegan shot at Robinson. The driver drove the car at Donegan, struck him, and drove away. Lemon was also present the following evening when Mosley was shot. He was in a group that included Robinson when he observed a car drive toward them. Defendant and Donegan were in the car. They began shooting at the group.
¶ 6 Brandon Merkson testified that there was an ongoing feud between the Gangster Disciples and the Four Corner Hustlers. Merkson was present at both the scooter shooting and the Mosley shooting. Regarding the scooter shooting, Merkson was in the car that struck Donegan after he shot at Robinson. At trial, Merkson denied telling the police that Donegan was the person who shot at Robinson. Merkson's statement and his grand jury testimony were entered into evidence.
¶ 7 Vernard Crowder testified, denying that he, defendant, and Donegan were members of a street gang. He acknowledged testifying before the grand jury but asserted that he had done so only because the prosecutor agreed to drop a domestic battery charge against him. He denied all of his grand jury testimony. Two assistant State's Attorneys testified concerning Crowder's grand jury testimony and a statement he made to police. Crowder stated that on the day of the Mosley shooting, he saw defendant standing near a "greyish black, " older model Toyota car. Donegan was inside the car cleaning it. Defendant asked Crowder if he wanted to "go do business" on Corliss (a street that was in Gangster Disciples territory), which Crowder knew meant harming someone in the Gangster Disciples. Crowder declined because he was on probation. Defendant did not like this answer and reminded Crowder that "these are the same people that killed Victor." Later, Crowder heard gunshots coming from Corliss. A few days after the shooting, Crowder was ...