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People v. Daniels

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

August 4, 2016

DEANDRE D. DANIELS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Rehearing denied August 24, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of McLean County, No. 12-CF-1193; the Hon. Robert L. Freitag, Judge, presiding.

          Michael J. Pelletier, Jacqueline L. Bullard, and John M. McCarthy (argued), all of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Springfield, for appellant.

          Jason Chambers, State's Attorney, of Bloomington (Patrick Delfino, David J. Robinson, and Julia Kaye Wykoff (argued), all of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

          Panel JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Harris and Appleton concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 On November 5, 2012, Robert Jackson was shot in the leg after an altercation between members of two rival rap groups, Money Over Bitches (M.O.B.) and Blackout Mafia (B.O.M.). The State later charged defendant, Deandre D. Daniels, with attempt (murder), aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a street gang member (which the State later dropped), and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. In November 2013, a jury found defendant guilty of all four counts. The trial court later sentenced him to 47 years in prison.

         ¶ 2 Defendant appeals, raising the following issues: (1) the trial court abused its discretion by denying defendant's motion that the court question potential jurors about their gang bias, (2) the court abused its discretion by admitting specific acts of violence that occurred between the two groups, (3) the court abused its discretion by admitting evidence that defendant was visited in jail by his codefendants, (4) counsel was ineffective for failing to move to sever the charge of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon, and (5) the evidence was insufficient to prove that defendant personally discharged a firearm that caused great bodily harm or permanent disfigurement. We disagree and affirm.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 Our review of the record indicates that some people are referred to by their birth names and others by their nicknames, depending on the witness testifying. In the interest of clarity, in situations in which the evidence clearly established that a nickname belonged to a particular person, we refer to the person by his or her birth name, even if the witness testifying used a nickname. In particular, we have made the following substitutions: defendant (nicknamed "Pimp"); Marcus Winlow (nicknamed "Li'l Dude"); and Kaythiese Fitch ("K.K.").

         ¶ 5 A. The Charges Against Defendant

         ¶ 6 In November 2012, the State charged defendant with attempt (murder) (720 ILCS 5/8-4, 9-1 (West 2010)), aggravated battery with a firearm (720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(e)(1) (West 2010)), aggravated discharge of a firearm (720 ILCS 5/24-1.2(a)(2) (West 2010)), possession of a firearm by a street gang member (720 ILCS 5/24-1.8(a)(1) (West 2010)), and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 2010)). The charges alleged that on November 5, 2012, defendant used a firearm to shoot Jackson in the leg.

         ¶ 7 B. The Parties' Pretrial Motions

         ¶ 8 1. The State's Motion To Admit "Other[-]Crimes" Evidence

         ¶ 9 In October 2013, the State filed a motion in limine, asking the trial court to "permit evidence of other crimes and bad acts relating to rival groups [M.O.B.] and [B.O.M.] to be admitted at trial." Specifically, the motion sought to admit the following evidence, in relevant part: (1) that M.O.B. and B.O.M. were "rival groups that produce rap music, " (2) testimony from codefendant Jake Williams about prior acts of violence between M.O.B. and B.O.M. members, and (3) testimony from codefendant Raymond Davis about the altercations between M.O.B. and B.O.M. members that occurred on November 5, 2012. The State argued that the aforementioned evidence was necessary to establish (1) "the continuing narrative of the events giving rise to and intertwined with the offenses charged" and (2) "the relationship and familiarity of the parties."

         ¶ 10 2. The State's Motion To Introduce Evidence That Defendant's Codefendants Visited Him in Jail After His Arrest

         ¶ 11 Later that month, the State filed a second motion in limine, asking to introduce evidence that after the alleged offenses in this case, defendant's three codefendants visited him in jail. The State argued that the evidence was relevant to establish defendant's guilt on a theory of accountability.

         ¶ 12 3. Defendant's Motion To Exclude "Other[-]Crimes" Evidence

         ¶ 13 In November 2013, defendant filed three pretrial motions. The first was a response to the

         State's first motion in limine. Defendant's motion sought "to exclude all evidence of other crimes and bad acts relating to the alleged rival groups [M.O.B.] and [B.O.M.]" That motion stated further that "the probative value of gang membership evidence *** is substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice."

         ¶ 14 4. Defendant's Motion for Voir Dire Questioning About Gang Bias

         ¶ 15 Defendant's second motion was titled "Defendant's Motion Requesting the Court to Ask Specific Questions to All Potential Jurors Regarding Gang Bias." Specifically, the motion requested that the court ask the following questions of each potential juror during voir dire:

"(a) have you, any member of your family or a close friend of yours ever been involved in a gang; (b) have you ever know [sic] anyone who is in a gang; (c) do you think that someone who is in a gang is necessarily a criminal; (d) do you understand that it is not a crime just to join a gang; (e) do you understand that one member of a gang is not legally responsible for the actions of other gang members just because they are in the same gang; (f) would you find a member of a gang less believable if you learned that the witness belonged to a gang; and (g) would you be able to put aside any feelings you may have about gangs, and give the defendant a fair trial based on the evidence?"

         In the concluding paragraph of the motion, defendant requested, in the alternative, that defense counsel, instead of the court, be allowed to ask the foregoing questions during voir dire.

         ¶ 16 5. Defendant's Motion To Exclude Evidence of Jail Visits by Codefendants

         ¶ 17 Defendant's third motion responded to the State's second motion in limine and argued that the trial court should prevent the State from introducing evidence that defendant was visited in jail by his three codefendants. Defendant argued that evidence of the visits was not relevant to establish accountability and that the evidence was substantially more prejudicial than probative because it risked "guilt by association."

         ¶ 18 6. Hearing on Pretrial Motions

         ¶ 19 At a hearing later in November 2013, the trial court addressed the parties' motions. The State asserted that it intended to dismiss the charge of possession of a firearm by a street gang member. The State confirmed that it did "not intend to introduce any evidence in [its] case in chief of gangs, gang involvement, gang affiliation, or street gangs in general."

         ¶ 20 As to the State's first motion in limine-to introduce "other[-]crimes" evidence- defendant argued that he was not involved in the other incidents and that the State intended to introduce those incidents to "allude that [defendant] is some type of gang-related member." The trial court decided that the other-crimes evidence listed in the motion was admissible to show a continuing narrative and motive. The court noted that the other-crimes evidence was "relevant" and appropriately limited in scope.

         ¶ 21 The trial court then addressed the State's second motion in limine-to admit evidence that defendant was visited in jail by his three codefendants. Defendant argued that the State's motion framed this evidence as relevant on an accountability theory but that the State did not intend to pursue an accountability theory at trial. The State conceded that it was not pursuing an accountability theory but argued that the evidence was also relevant to show a common purpose. The court asked defendant, "What is the prejudicial effect of the fact that these folks visited?" Defendant reiterated that he was concerned about guilt by association. The court ruled the evidence admissible, as it was probative of the relationship between defendant and his codefendants and was not highly prejudicial.

         ¶ 22 The trial court then took up defendant's motion regarding voir dire. The court noted that "it's already been clarified that the State does not intend to present any gang references whatsoever during their case in chief." Defendant argued that his motion applied "whether we call them gangs or we call them groups, it doesn't matter to the jury" because "it's going to be portrayed that it's a gang, even if you don't call it a gang." Defendant requested to amend his motion to have the jurors questioned about their impartiality toward rap groups instead of gangs. The State argued that questioning the potential jurors about rap groups would be confusing and would create an inference that the rap groups were indeed gangs.

         ¶ 23 The trial court found that describing M.O.B. and B.O.M. as rap groups would not cause the jurors to conclude that those groups were gangs. The court found further that there was no "relevance whatsoever to questioning the jurors about whether or not they're biased against street gangs in a case where there is no intention to present evidence of street gangs." The court denied defendant's motion. The court ruled, however, that it would question prospective jurors about any knowledge they had of M.O.B. and B.O.M. because those groups had received some local media coverage. If prospective jurors stated they were familiar with the groups, the court stated it would respond by "appropriately following up on those to make sure there's no bias."

         ¶ 24 C. Voir Dire

         ¶ 25 Later in November 2013, the cause proceeded to a jury trial. Prior to trial, the State dismissed count ...

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