[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 10-CF-1621. Honorable John R. Truitt, Judge, Presiding.
Defendant's convictions for first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder were upheld over his contentions that his guilt was not established beyond a reasonable doubt, that gang-related evidence was improperly admitted and that his counsel was ineffective, since the evidence established that defendant's vehicle was at the shooting and defendant was driving, an eyewitness had sufficient opportunity to view defendant, the jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was guilty under a theory of accountability, the handling of the murder victim's dying declaration as to who shot him did not deprive defendant of a fair trial, the admission of gang-related evidence was not an abuse of discretion, and defense counsel was not ineffective in adopting a strategy that involved presenting evidence that supported the State's case.
Amanda N. Graham, Amanda Graham Law, LLC, of Chicago, for Appellant.
Joseph P. Bruscato, State's Attorney, of Rockford (Lawrence M. Bauer, Victoria E. Jozef, State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE SCHOSTOK delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Jorgensen and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] Following a jury trial, the defendant, Ricardo Jaimes, was convicted of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1) (West 2010)) and attempted first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9-1(a)(1), (West 2010)). He was sentenced to a total of 70 years' imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant argues that: (1) he was not convicted beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court erred in admitting gang-related evidence; and (3) he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. We affirm.
[¶3] On June 23, 2010, the defendant and his brother Isaac were charged by indictment with the first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2), (a)(3) (West 2010)) of Demarkis Robinson and the attempted first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9-1(a)(1) (West 2010)) of William Patrick. The trial court granted the defendant's motion to sever the brothers' trials.
[¶4] Between September 24 and 27, 2012, the trial court conducted a jury trial. The State's evidence established that Patrick had prior convictions of mob action and possession of a firearm without a firearm owner's identification (FOID) card and that he was a member of the Insane Unknowns street gang. That gang was a rival of the Latin Kings. Robinson was his close friend and also a member of the Insane Unknowns.
[¶5] On May 27, 2010, Patrick and his aunt, Wanda Perez, were visiting his grandmother's house at 1129 6th Avenue in Rockford. Robinson was also there. Robinson spent time on the front porch with Patrick, Perez, and other family members. While on the porch, Perez noticed a gray Tahoe sport utility vehicle
(SUV) quickly approach and then stop near the 8th Street and 6th Avenue intersection. Because its approach grabbed her attention, she told Patrick and Robinson to watch the SUV. Patrick watched it drive past the house slowly, with the driver's side of the vehicle facing the house. Perez momentarily played with her phone, but when she looked up she noticed the driver make a hand gesture with two fingers pointing downward. Perez did not closely view the vehicle's occupants. Perez believed that the gesture was a gang sign. Both Robinson and Patrick were present when the gesture was made. Patrick explained that the hand gesture was an act of disrespect to the Insane Unknowns. Then, Patrick observed the driver display a gang sign for the Latin Kings. Patrick testified that the driver's hand gestures were grounds to start a fight.
[¶6] Patrick took his nieces into the house because " anything could start to happen." The Tahoe was traveling toward 7th Street, but Robinson and Patrick walked toward 9th Street. Shortly after Robinson and Patrick left, Perez heard what sounded like one close gunshot. She then called Robinson's father, Samuel, and told him that she heard a gunshot and that Robinson and Patrick were running toward his house. The call was made at 3 p.m.
[¶7] Patrick and Robinson passed through an alley and turned onto 5th Avenue. When they exited the alley 15 to 20 minutes after first seeing the Tahoe, Patrick, while speaking on his phone, saw the Tahoe, with the same driver, pass them very slowly. Patrick observed that the passenger had a bandana around his face, which signified to Patrick that the occupants of the Tahoe were going to start shooting. Patrick picked up a brick and threw it at the Tahoe so that it would keep moving. Geraldine Horton was walking by as this occurred. (Horton had previously been convicted of drug-related charges and she had other charges pending against her.) She heard glass break and saw the SUV stop a few feet before a stop sign. Lacressa Dangel was driving by as this occurred. (Dangel had previously been convicted of prostitution, theft, and drug-related charges. She also had traffic charges pending against her.) Dangel felt and saw something hit the back of her car on her northbound journey along 9th Street, between 2:45 and 3 p.m. She stopped her car north of 5th Avenue and saw a silver SUV facing west on 5th Avenue. She observed the scene unfold through her rearview mirror.
[¶8] Horton, Patrick, and Dangel watched as: (1) the Tahoe's passenger door opened; (2) a passenger exited and walked toward the back of the vehicle; and (3) the passenger used two hands to hold, point, and fire a firearm four or five times. Dangel believed that the gun looked like a skinny BB gun and that the shooter was a Hispanic male. Patrick believed that the firearm looked like a rifle, and he heard five to eight shots fired. He ducked behind a tree, and Robinson veered off into an alleyway.
[¶9] After the passenger stopped firing, he returned inside the waiting vehicle, and the vehicle sped off down 5th Avenue. Horton saw the driver as he passed; his eyes were wide open, and he gripped the steering wheel with locked and tensed arms. Horton later told the police that the driver looked scared. At trial, she testified that the driver was surprised to see her. She described both the driver and the passenger as Hispanic.
[¶10] In response to the phone call from Perez, Samuel ran toward the area where the shots were fired. About 15 to 20 minutes later, Samuel found Robinson's shirt and then saw Robinson lying naked under a faucet. Samuel picked up the
clothing from the yard and brought it to his son. Samuel saw that Robinson was in and out of consciousness and he called 911. Robinson then told Samuel, " that damn Richard shot me." From a previous discussion with his son, Samuel had learned that Richard and Robinson had been in a fight at Rockford East High School, Richard was a Latin King who attended East High School, and Robinson had encountered Richard at Perez's mother's house a month before the shooting.
[¶11] Police officers responded to the scene and discovered five spent .22-caliber shell casings in the street. The casings were run over and deformed, but they were in a small grouping. Robinson was transported to SwedishAmerican Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
[¶12] On May 28, 2010, Dr. Mark Peters performed an autopsy on Robinson. Dr. Peters opined that Robinson died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen that caused internal bleeding, hemorrhagic shock, and blood loss. Though such an injury could cause instant death, a person could walk and live with such an injury for 30 minutes before dying. Dr. Peters recovered from Robinson's body a bullet that appeared consistent with .22-caliber ammunition.
[¶13] On May 28, 2010, Patrick spoke to Rockford police officers about the incident and gave his statement. He was upset, shaking, and crying. In his statement, Patrick did not mention that he threw a brick at the silver Tahoe or that Robinson walked up to the vehicle and spoke to the occupants. Though he had not seen the driver before, Patrick knew that the driver was a Latin King, based upon the display of the Latin Kings' gang sign. From a photo array, Patrick identified the defendant as the driver of the Tahoe and Isaac as the shooter.
[¶14] Also on May 28, 2010, Rockford police officers interviewed Dangel. She identified Isaac as the shooter. She was not able to identify the driver of the vehicle.
[¶15] On May 29, 2010, the police arrested both the defendant and Isaac. The police discovered the defendant's Tahoe at the house where he was arrested. When the Tahoe was inspected, the police found a spent ...