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People v. Douglas

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

March 18, 2014

KURTIS L. DOUGLAS, Defendant-Appellant

Page 877

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Fayette County. No. 11-CF-95. Honorable Stephen G. Sawyer, Judge, presiding.


On appeal, defendant's convictions for driving while his license was revoked and stalking were upheld over defendant's contentions that his guilt was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt and that the new stalking statute unconstitutionally fails to require a culpable mental state, since the circumstantial evidence that defendant was driving a family vehicle was sufficient to sustain his conviction for driving while his license was revoked, and despite the victim's recanted statements, the jury's verdict indicated that it found the victim's prior inconsistent statements more reliable than her in-court testimony and sufficient to support defendant's convictions for stalking; furthermore, an interpretation of the new stalking statute as being intended to punish only unlawful conduct is consistent with the legislature's purpose of protecting victims of domestic abuse.

For Appellant: Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Alan D. Goldberg, Deputy Defender, Darren E. Miller, Assistant Appellate Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, First Judicial District, Chicago, IL.

For Appellee: Hon. Joshua Morrison, State's Attorney, Fayette County Courthouse, Vandalia, IL; Patrick Delfino, Director, Stephen E. Norris, Deputy Director, Sharon Shanahan, Staff Attorney, Office of The State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, Fifth District Office, Vernon, IL.

JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Honorable Richard P. Goldenhersh, J., Honorable Thomas M. Welch, P.J., and Honorable Judy L. Cates, J., Concur.



Page 878

[¶1] After a jury trial in the circuit court of Fayette County, defendant, Kurtis L. Douglas, was convicted of driving while license revoked (625 ILCS 5/6-303(d) (West 2008)), two counts of stalking (720 ILCS 5/12-7.3(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2010)), and aggravated assault (720 ILCS 5/12-2(c)(1) (West 2010)). The trial court merged the two stalking counts, found the aggravated assault to be a lesser-included offense to stalking, and sentenced defendant to three years in the Department of Corrections for driving while license revoked and a concurrent three-year term for stalking. The issues raised on appeal are: (1) whether the State proved defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of driving while license revoked, (2) whether the State proved defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of stalking, and (3) whether a new stalking statute under which defendant was charged is constitutional. We affirm.

[¶2] FACTS

[¶3] On July 19, 2011, defendant's wife, Jayma, called 911 to report that defendant had a knife, pointed it at her, and threatened to kill her. In response, Deputy Greg Kline arrived at the residence where defendant and Jayma lived with their seven children. Defendant and Jayma had been married for five years. The parties had one biological child and the other six children were from previous relationships. At trial, Kline testified that when he arrived at the residence, Jayma told him defendant pointed a knife at her and threatened to kill her. Jayma showed Kline a knife inside a kitchen drawer and identified it as the knife with which defendant threatened her. Jayma gave Kline a

Page 879

written statement which was introduced at trial and stated as follows:

" [Defendant] and I got into a verbal argument[.] I wanted to leave, he got more angry and told me my kids were worthless pieces of shit. I got angry and said that he needed to leave my kids out of it. He came over to the drawer and pulled out a knife and held it up to me and said he would kill me. I then picked up my phone and dialed 911 at 12:11 p.m. As soon as I called police he took off and said I would pay. Held a black handled approx. 9" blade in his right hand."

[¶4] Jayma told Deputy Kline that defendant was possibly at Crystal Anderson's house located at 117 South Washington and that he had taken the van keys when he left the residence. Jayma told Kline the van was maroon in color. The family van was not at Jayma's when Kline arrived.

[¶5] Kline went to Anderson's house, which was about " a quarter mile" away from Jayma's residence. Kline saw the van parked outside Anderson's residence and defendant was inside. Kline admitted that he never saw defendant driving the van. A certified copy of defendant's driving abstract was admitted into evidence. By agreement of the parties, the judge informed the jury that defendant's driving privileges were revoked on July 19, 2011.

[¶6] Jayma testified that on July 19, 2011, she and defendant had a verbal argument during which she called 911. She admitted that she told the operator that defendant pointed a knife at her; however, Jayma recanted her previous statement and said that defendant did nothing more than verbally argue with her on the day in question. Jayma admitted that she identified the knife in People's Exhibit 5 to Kline as the knife with which defendant threatened her, but explained that she lied to the police about the knife incident because she just wanted defendant to leave, and defendant did leave after she made the phone call. Jayma testified at trial that defendant took the keys to the 1999 Ford Windstar van with him when he left. She believed the van was gone from the front of her residence after the argument.

[¶7] Jayma also admitted there was an incident on August 23, 2010, between her and defendant after which she called the police. On August 23, 2010, she told the police defendant choked her, punched her, and dug his fingernails into her eyes. Defendant was charged with domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.2(a)(1) (West 2008)) on September 8, 2010. That case went to trial on July 25, 2011, and defendant pled guilty. As defendant was leaving the courtroom on July 25, 2011, he told Jayma that she could tell his children that she killed their father. Jayma reported the incident to the police and she gave a written statement, introduced into evidence, which specifically stated, " [Defendant] was in court this morning and after judge got done saying what she had to say he walked past me and said you can tell my kids you killed their father." However, during the instant trial, Jayma recanted and said " [h]onestly nothing" happened on August 23, 2010. Both of the stalking counts with which defendant was charged alleged a " course of conduct" stemming from the alleged incidents on July 19, 2011, and August 23, 2010.

[¶8] Deputy Sherri Miller testified that on July 25, 2011, Jayma and her mother-in-law appeared at the police station and gave Miller the written statement previously set forth concerning how she should tell his kids she killed him. At the time she came to give the statement, Jayma told Miller that she was in court because her husband had been arrested for holding a knife to her throat. Jayma did not say whether the allegations were true or false.

Page 880

[¶9] A certified conviction for domestic battery was admitted into evidence stemming from the August 23, 2010, incident. Defense counsel objected on the basis that Jayma testified the incident never occurred. The trial court overruled the objection. A discussion then ensued about what aspects of the convictions should be published to the jury. The trial court was concerned that the allegations of choking, punching, and gouging of eyes were mere allegations, and the trial court could not be sure what the factual basis for the plea was. Ultimately the trial court decided to inform the jury that defendant pled guilty to the charge of domestic battery in which Jayma was the victim without going into specifics.

[¶10] The defense offered no evidence or testimony. In closing, defense counsel argued no one ever saw defendant drive the van and, therefore, the State failed to prove him guilty of driving while license revoked. Defense counsel also argued that Jayma testified that neither the alleged 2010 nor 2011 incident occurred. With regard to the July 2011 incident, defense counsel argued that it made no sense that defendant would return the knife with which he threatened Jayma to the drawer before leaving the house.

[¶11] The jury found defendant guilty on all counts. The trial court sentenced defendant to three years on driving while license revoked (count I) and a concurrent three-year term on stalking based upon fear for safety (count II). The trial court did not sentence defendant on stalking based upon emotional distress (count III), finding that count merged with count II. The trial court also did not sentence defendant on aggravated assault (count IV), finding it a lesser-included offense. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial and a motion to reconsider, both of which were denied. Defendant then filed a timely notice of appeal.

[¶12] ISSUES


[¶14] The first issue we are asked to address is whether the State proved defendant guilty of driving while license revoked. Defendant contends the State failed to prove by either direct or circumstantial evidence that he drove the Ford van he was alleged to have driven. Defendant argues no one saw him drive the van, no one saw him inside it, and the State failed to establish that the van found at the location Jayma told police they might be able to find defendant was the same vehicle that defendant allegedly drove from his home. The State responds that the jury's conclusion ...

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