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People v. Johns

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

March 4, 2016

KAPRICE JOHNS, Petitioner-Appellant.

          Posted Date: January 8, 2018.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 14 CR 0685301 Honorable Diane G. Cannon, Judge Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE MASON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Lavin and Justice Pucinski concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 This matter is before the court on the emergency motion of petitioner Kaprice Johns to review a no bail order entered by the circuit court after it determined that Johns was a material witness in an upcoming murder trial. The motion was filed on February 26, 2016, the State responded on February 29, 2016, and the court heard argument on March 3, 2016. Upon consideration of the arguments of the parties, we have determined that the procedure followed by the circuit court was improper and contrary to the statute on material witnesses. 725 ILCS 5/109-3(d) (West 2014). We, therefore, remand with directions.

         ¶ 2 In the underlying criminal case in which trial is set to commence on March 4, 2016, defendants Clint Massey and Courtney Ealy are charged with the murder of Javan Boyd on February 22, 2014. Boyd, a cab driver, was murdered on that date around 10:00 p.m. in the vicinity of 37th and Princeton in Chicago as he waited for a fare. According to the State, Johns was a passenger in one of the cars that transported the alleged offenders to the scene of the murder and drove one of the offenders back to the scene after the murder to retrieve a cell phone he had dropped there. Johns has previously given a video recorded statement to police and testified before the grand jury.

         ¶ 3 Evidently, the State lost track of Johns and represented to the trial court on a number of occasions that it had been unable to serve her with a trial subpoena and, therefore, could not proceed with trial. Counsel representing the defendants demanded trial on December 4, 2015, and the trial court granted the State's request for an extended term under the Speedy Trial Act. 725 ILCS 5/103-5(c) (West 2014). The State represents that the extended term expires on May 17, 2016.

         ¶ 4 On February 9, 2016, Johns was taken into custody on a warrant in an unrelated Cook County traffic matter. At a hearing held on February 10, the traffic matter was disposed after a guilty plea with a sentence of time served. But Johns also had an outstanding warrant on a criminal charge pending in Lake County, Indiana, and, therefore, the court ordered her held without bail. For reasons unexplained in the record, since February 10, no one from Indiana law enforcement has retrieved Johns from Cook County jail. On February 16, 2016, while she remained in custody on the Indiana warrant, the State served Johns with a trial subpoena commanding her appearance on March 4.

         ¶ 5 On February 18, 2016, the State filed a motion to declare Johns a material witness.[1] In its motion, the State requested that Johns be required to execute a written undertaking to appear at trial and that she be required to "post a reasonable bond" to secure her appearance. But at the hearing on the State's motion, held the same day it was filed, the State instead asked that "a surety bond be recommended for this defendant [sic] in the form of no bail because of the nature of the offense and how long she had hidden from her duties and responsibilities in this particular case."

         ¶ 6 Treating the matter as a bond hearing, counsel from the Office of the Cook County Public Defender, appearing on Johns' behalf, objected both to the lack of notice of the State's motion as well as to the State's request to hold Johns without bond. Counsel pointed out that Johns had never failed to appear on any court date in the murder prosecution[2] and that, as a result, she should be released without bond.

         ¶ 7 Without inquiring whether Johns was willing to execute the written agreement to appear at trial, which was tendered by the State with its motion, the trial court declared that Johns was a material witness and informed Johns: "I'm going to hold you no bail, not because I don't think you're going to show up. I believe you would show up. But I don't want Indiana to take you and we might not see you until after the court date." Thus, for reasons wholly unrelated to Johns' conduct, the court determined that she should remain in custody. No evidence or argument was presented at the hearing regarding any lack of cooperation between Indiana and Illinois law enforcement officials.

         ¶ 8 After the court determined to hold Johns without bond, the State called the court's attention to the written agreement appended to its motion and the court asked Johns to sign it, indicating "I'm not going to set [ ] bail either way." On the advice of her counsel, Johns did not sign the agreement.

         ¶ 9 On February 22, 2016, counsel for Johns filed motions to reconsider the certification of Johns as a material witness and to reconsider bond. At a hearing held on February 25, Johns' counsel argued that as far as the record showed, Johns had cooperated with law enforcement and had not been hiding from her responsibilities as represented by the State. Counsel also represented that Johns was homeless and did not have a fixed place of residence. Counsel asked that she be released upon her execution of the written agreement to appear at the scheduled trial.

         ¶ 10 In denying both motions, the court reiterated that its main concern was that Johns would be taken to Indiana on the outstanding warrant and that she would not be returned for trial. The matter was continued for March 1 before the assigned trial judge. Johns' verified motion for review of bail was filed in this court on February 26. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(c) (eff. Dec. 11, 2014) (providing for appellate review of an order setting, modifying, revoking, denying, or refusing to modify bail or the conditions thereof). On March 1, due to the ...

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