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In re J.J.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

August 12, 2016

In re J.J., a Minor
J.J., a Minor, Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 15-JD-2762; the Hon. Terrence V. Sharkey, Judge, presiding


          Michael J. Pelletier, Patricia Mysza, and Sarah Curry, all of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Tasha Marie Kelly, and Margaret M. Smith, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

          Panel GORDON JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justices Reyes and Justice Lampkin concurred in the judgment and opinion



         ¶ 1 Following a bench trial, defendant J.J., a minor, was adjudicated delinquent of the aggravated robbery of Chitra Gulati and adjudged a ward of the court. The trial court considered the sentencing for both this offense and an unrelated armed robbery during the same sentencing hearing. After imposing five years of probation for the unrelated offense, the trial court found it unnecessary to impose an additional sentence in the case at bar. See In re J.J., 2016 IL App (1st) 160378-U. On this direct appeal, defendant claims that the victim's identification was too unreliable to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, where the incident lasted less than a minute, where it was dark outside, and where the victim had a gun pointed at her during the encounter. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the trial court's adjudication.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On August 25, 2015, defendant was charged with the aggravated robbery of Chitra Gulati which occurred on July 25, 2015. Defendant was adjudicated delinquent on November 10, 2015, after a bench trial and was adjudged a ward of the court on February 9, 2016. This direct appeal follows.

         ¶ 4 I. Chitra Gulati's Testimony

         ¶ 5 The victim testified that she lives near Damen and Chicago Avenues in Chicago. On July 24, 2015, she was taking a walk in her neighborhood while listening to music through her headphones on her iPhone 5s. At approximately 11:10 p.m., while walking north on Winchester Street toward the intersection of Winchester and Iowa Streets, the victim noticed three boys on the sidewalk approximately 65 feet away. When she walked past them, one of the boys said something to the victim, and she removed her headphones to hear what he said. The boy standing on her left asked her for the time, so she removed her phone from her yoga pants and brought it in front of her face to read it, and then told the boy the time. Then a second boy, whom she later identified as defendant, pointed a gun toward the victim's forehead, cocked the gun, and told her to give him everything she had. The victim testified that defendant was wearing a "floppy fisherman's hat, " and was standing on her left about three feet away. The victim removed her headphones and handed the phone to defendant, but did not let go of it right away; she was pleading with defendant not to take it. However, she let go of the phone after hearing the cocking of another gun from the direction of the first boy who had asked her for the time, and she testified that as she handed the phone to defendant, she was "looking at his face all the time." Defendant then asked if the victim had anything else in her breasts, and pointed the gun toward them. Defendant stepped closer and reached out to touch them to see if anything was in the victim's shirt. The victim responded no, and defendant and the other two boys ran south, in the opposite direction from where the victim had been heading.

         ¶ 6 The victim testified that, as a reflex, she began to run after them until defendant turned around and told her not to run behind them, at which point she went home and her husband called the police. The victim testified that the lighting conditions at the time of the offense were fair, stating that "it was not very dark, it was not pitch dark, but it was nighttime, " and that there was light coming from the houses as well as from the street lights. When asked how long the interaction lasted, the victim testified that it was probably a minute or two, but that she felt like she was "frozen in time."

         ¶ 7 The victim testified that three police officers came to her house and took her statement. She met with the police again at her house a few days later on July 28, 2015, and the police brought an array of photos from which the victim identified defendant. The victim was shown three groups of photos, and she identified a photo in the third group as the person who had robbed her. She signed the photo, which she identified as a photograph of the offender and which was identified as People's exhibit No. 1. The victim also made an in-court identification of defendant.

         ¶ 8 A video recording of the victim walking on the street prior to and immediately after the incident was played in open court and identified as People's exhibit No. 2. The video was recorded by a surveillance camera belonging to a house near where the offense occurred. The victim testified that the video was taken approximately four houses away from where the robbery occurred, and it showed her on the sidewalk walking toward the intersection of ...

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