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People v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District, Second Division

February 3, 2015

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
OMARRIAN T. JONES, Defendant-Appellant

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Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 09-CF-2703. Honorable Ronald J. White, Judge, Presiding.

SYLLABUS

On appeal from defendant's convictions for 12 counts of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, 4 counts of home invasion, and residential burglary, the appellate court rejected defendant's contentions that the trial court erred in denying his request for a six-person jury, that the State's peremptory challenge of a potential African-American juror deprived defendant of a fair trial, and that his right to proceed pro se was violated and the court affirmed his contention that the one-act, one-crime rule required the vacation of all but 2 of his first-degee murder convictions, all but 1 of his convictions for home invasion and the residential burglary conviction.

Michael J. Pelletier, Thomas A. Lilien, and Jack Hildebrand, all of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Elgin, for appellant.

Joseph P. Bruscato, State's Attorney, of Rockford (Lawrence M. Bauer and David A. Bernhard, both of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

PRESIDING JUSTICE SCHOSTOK delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hutchinson and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

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SCHOSTOK, PRESIDING JUSTICE.

[¶1] Following a jury trial, the defendant, Omarrian T. Jones, was convicted of 12 counts of first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(3) (West 2008)), attempted first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9-1(a)(1) (West 2008)), 4 counts of home invasion (720 ILCS 5/12-11(a)(1) (West 2008)), and residential burglary (720 ILCS 5/19-3 (West 2008)). He was sentenced to natural life imprisonment for the murder convictions, 30 years for the attempted murder conviction, 30 years for the home invasion convictions, and 15 years for the residential burglary conviction. On appeal, the defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred in denying his request for a six-person jury; (2) he was deprived of a fair trial where the State's reasons for peremptorily excluding an African-American potential juror were inadequate and pretextual; (3) the trial court violated his right to self-representation; and (4) under one-act, one-crime principles, this court should vacate all but two of his convictions of murder, all but one of his convictions of home invasion, and his conviction of residential burglary. We affirm in part and vacate in part.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] On August 26, 2009, the defendant was charged by indictment with 60 offenses for the first-degree murders of Reynato and Leticia Cardino (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(3) (West 2008)), the attempted first-degree murder of their son, Reyle Cardino (720 ILCS 5/8-4(a), 9-1(a)(1) (West 2008)), home invasion (720 ILCS 5/12-11(a)(1) (West 2008)), and residential burglary (720 ILCS 5/19-3 (West 2008)). The charges alleged that, on July 8, 2009, the defendant entered into the Cardinos' home with the intent to commit a burglary. While in the home, he killed Reynato and Leticia with a hammer and he attempted to kill Reyle.

[¶4] Three weeks before the trial started, the defendant requested to proceed pro se. The trial court admonished the defendant that, if he waived his right to counsel, the court was " going to proceed to trial and you won't be able to go back in the middle of trial and ask for a lawyer." The trial court then continued the proceedings for a day to allow the defendant to discuss the matter with his counsel. On the following day, the defendant decided not to waive his right to counsel.

[¶5] Shortly before jury selection, the defendant requested a six-person jury. The trial court denied the defendant's request, explaining that the supreme court rules required 12-person juries.

[¶6] During voir dire, the first African-American venireperson to be questioned, Gwendolyn Barnett, stated that her husband was the pastor of Christian Faith Community Church, an " independent" church, and that she was active in the church. Barnett stated that she did not have any moral, religious, or philosophical reasons why she could not sit as a juror and that she would not have any hesitation in signing a guilty verdict. The prosecutor then asked Barnett if her church was of " a particular religion." Defense counsel objected, and the trial court sustained the objection. The State then, in open court, exercised a peremptory challenge and excused Barnett.

[¶7] In chambers, defense counsel raised a challenge pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), and argued that the

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only difference between Barnett and the other jurors whom the State had already accepted was her race. The trial court found that the defendant (who is African-American) had established a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination. The prosecution responded that, because Barnett had stated that her church was " nondenominational," it wanted to ask her about her " faith, her affiliation with other churches." Further, because the trial court had sustained defense counsel's objection to the prosecutor's question, the prosecutor excused Barnett because she did " not know[] what her answers would be." Defense counsel responded that the State should go ahead and ask Barnett those questions. The prosecution answered that, because it had already excused Barnett in open court, Barnett would be prejudiced against the State if the prosecution withdrew its peremptory challenge and began questioning her again. The trial court determined that there had not been a Batson violation. The trial court explained that the State had brought out that Barnett was deeply rooted in her religion, and " if that's something the State wishes to exercise a challenge for that reason and not racial, that's their choice."

[¶8] Caitlin LaChance, a white person who sat on the jury, stated during voir dire that she volunteered weekly at a soup kitchen and performed charity work with her church. She worked with Habitat for Humanity, was the assistant coordinator of the after-school program at her church, and went on " mission trips."

[¶9] At trial, Reyle testified that, on the evening of July 8, 2009, he walked into his parents' kitchen. He saw the defendant, whom he had never seen before. The defendant told him, " You're dead." He then began fighting with the defendant and tumbled down the basement stairs. The defendant choked him, punched him, and threw objects at his face. While on the basement floor, he saw the defendant go up the stairs to the kitchen. The defendant then came back downstairs and pushed him over as he tried to stand up. The defendant then left the house. Reyle then went upstairs and out the front door. He had a neighbor summon the police.

[¶10] Police officers discovered the bodies of Reynato and Leticia in a bathtub. A forensic pathologist determined that each had died due to multiple blunt force traumas to the head. Their injuries were consistent with being struck by a hammer.

[¶11] The police found rubber gloves on the kitchen floor of the victims' home. A hammer was found in the sink of the bathroom where the bodies were found. A ski mask, purple shirt, and hooded sweatshirt were found in the basement. The defendant's DNA was found on the ski mask and the right-hand rubber glove. A ...


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