Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 88-CF-90. Honorable Robert G. Kleeman, Judge, Presiding.
Jon Loevy, Russell R. Ainsworth, and David B. Owens, all of Loevy & Loevy, and Tara Thompson, of Exoneration Project, both of Chicago, for appellant.
Robert B. Berlin, State's Attorney, of Wheaton (Lisa A. Hoffman, Assistant State's Attorney, of counsel), for the People.
Burke and Spence,
Justices concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] This case concerns a criminal defendant's statutory right to the postconviction DNA testing of evidence as provided for in section 116-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (the Code) (725 ILCS 5/116-3 (West 2012)). The criminal defendant in this case, John E. Kines, filed a section 116-3 petition for DNA testing, which the trial court denied on two grounds. First, because Kines filed a petition for testing in 2002, the trial court found that Kines's new petition was barred under res judicata principles. Second, the trial court found that Kines's present petition failed to satisfy the statutory criteria to warrant testing. We reverse and remand.
[¶2] I. BACKGROUND
[¶3] In 1988, Kines was found guilty of several offenses in connection with the murder of 11-year-old Taneka Jones. We summarize the relevant evidence from Kines's bench trial.
[¶4] Taneka's body was discovered on the morning of January 10, 1988, in the basement of an apartment complex in Hinsdale. Witnesses testified that Kines was dropped off at the apartment complex around 1 a.m. so that he could visit his " girlfriend."
[¶5] Cornell Finley, who was 11 years old at the time of trial, testified that he and his mother lived in the apartment complex, as did Taneka and her mother. The children's mothers went out at around 6 p.m. and left the children in the living room in the Finley apartment, where Cornell and Taneka watched television together. Neighbors Clayton Jordan and Saul Berry briefly visited the Finley apartment that night and left. Cornell testified that he overheard Berry say to Jordan, " we should kidnap these two," before they left.
[¶6] Later, Kines, a friend of the Finley family, whom Cornell knew as " Uncle John," came to the apartment and watched television with Cornell and Taneka. Jordan returned to the apartment and spoke with Kines in the dining room; Cornell overheard Jordan tell Kines that he " would see him later." Kines went into Cornell's mother's room to sleep and Cornell fell asleep on the couch where he and Taneka were watching television.
[¶7] Cornell was awoken by a noise in the middle of the night; he saw Jordan put something around Taneka's face and drag her into the bedroom. Cornell approached the bedroom door and peered inside. He saw Taneka naked on the bed. Berry was holding Taneka's head while Jordan was moving up and down on top of her with his pants unzipped. Kines was standing in the room, shirtless, looking on. Cornell heard Taneka say, " Stop[,] that hurt[s]."
[¶8] Cornell briefly went back to the living room and pretended to be asleep. When he returned to the bedroom door and looked inside, he saw Taneka on a blanket on the floor. Berry was holding Taneka's head, Jordan was holding her legs, and Kines was strangling her with a " cloth" around her neck. Cornell saw Taneka's hands shaking; then she stopped moving. Berry, Jordan, and Kines wrapped Taneka in the blanket and carried her down to the building's basement.
[¶9] Cornell followed them down to the building's basement. There, he ...