Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 09 CR 1581501 The
Honorable Angela M. Petrone, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Ellis and Justice McBride
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 A jury convicted defendant, Henry Sandifer, of the murder
of the victim, L.M, but acquitted him of the charges of
sexual assault of the victim. Following a sentencing hearing,
the trial court sentenced defendant to 60 years in the
Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant contends on
appeal that the trial court erred by (1) interpreting the
Illinois rape shield statute to bar testimony regarding the
victim's past sexual conduct, (2) admitting the testimony
of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) match probabilities, (3)
allowing the State to present an argument which inflamed the
passions of the jury, (4) allowing evidence which referenced
defendant's profile being in the state DNA database, and
(5) allowing cumulative errors which denied defendant due
process. For the following reasons, we affirm.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation worker Sandra
Jones testified that on October 14, 2008, as she unloaded a
garbage cart in an alley in the area of 11026 South Normal,
she saw a body come out of the garbage cart. The naked body
was wrapped in a blanket secured with suspenders around the
waist and knees. Darlene Page, the victim's sister, later
identified the body at the Cook County Medical Examiner's
Office. Page testified that she last saw her sister on the
evening of October 10, 2008.
4 On the evening of October 11, 2008, Maria Cintron,
defendant's former girlfriend, was with the victim at the
home of Larry Mays at 10813 South Wallace. Cintron and the
victim smoked crack cocaine with Larry and his brother,
Michael Mays. Cintron testified that the victim ran out of
money, wanted more drugs, and begged Larry for more drugs.
Cintron had previously told detectives that after Larry gave
the victim four or five bags of crack, Larry and the victim
went into Larry's mother's bedroom and closed the
door. When the victim came out of the bedroom, the victim
begged for more crack. Larry and Michael refused to give the
victim any more drugs. When the victim began making a scene,
Michael punched her in the face. The victim fell to the
ground. Michael then picked her up by the neck, dragged her
outside and pushed her down the stairs. Cintron helped her up
from the ground. The victim stood up and was able to walk.
Both Cintron and the victim left, walking in opposite
5 Five years prior, in 2003, Cintron lived with the defendant
at 11036 South Normal, a few doors down from where the
streets and sanitation worker found the victim's body. In
2008, she and defendant were still involved in a sexual
relationship. The house on Normal where they used to live was
vacant and under repair. They would climb in a back window to
access the house to sleep and have sex there.
6 Detective Tim Murphy interviewed Cintron and learned about
what transpired on the evening of October 11, 2008. He then
interviewed Larry and another frequent guest of Mays, Jeffery
Miles. Both gave a DNA sample to Detective Murphy.
7 Dr. Valerie Arangelovich from the Cook County Medical
Examiner's Office performed the autopsy of the
victim's body. Dr. Arangelovich believed that the victim
had been dead for at least 36 hours at the time the body was
found, putting the date of her death on approximately October
12, 2008. The X-rays revealed no fractures. She determined
the cause of death to be strangulation, most likely by hand.
The toxicology report revealed that the victim had a blood
alcohol level of .184, well above the legal limit of .08.
Tests showed the presence of cocaine. Dr. Arangelovich
estimated that her death occurred 30 to 60 minutes after she
ingested the cocaine. She did not see evidence in the body
which would indicate chronic cocaine use.
8 Meredith Misker, a forensic scientist for the Illinois
State Police Crime Lab, testified that a male DNA sample was
found in the victim's vagina, anus, and under her right
hand fingernail clippings. All three of these male DNA
evidentiary samples came from the same individual. The
Defendant could not be eliminated as the source. Based on her
DNA analysis, Misker found that the defendant's DNA was
present on the suspenders found with the victim's body.
Defendant's DNA profile matched the profile from the
victim's vaginal swab. The frequency of a random person
matching the profile was 1 in 340 trillion black, 1 in 15
quadrillion white, or 1 in 9.2 quadrillion
"Hispanic" unrelated individuals.
9 On April 22, 2009, Detective Murphy learned from the
Illinois State Police that defendant's DNA was in the
state's database. He interviewed defendant on July 20,
2009. The jury watched a redacted video of the interview.
Defendant denied repeatedly that he knew the victim, and he
denied that he had ever met her or that he recognized her
photo. He repeatedly denied that he had sex with the victim.
He could not explain the presence of his DNA on her body.
10 Detective Murphy learned during the course of the
investigation that defendant lived at 11036 South Normal and
that the victim's body was recovered in the alley at
11026 South Normal. The parties stipulated that in October
2008, around the time of the murder, defendant gave a police
officer his address as 11036 South Normal.
11 The jury convicted defendant of first degree murder but
acquitted him of criminal sexual assault. This appeal
12 II. ANALYSIS
13 On appeal, defendant argues the trial court erred by (1)
interpreting the rape shield statute to bar testimony
regarding the victim's past sexual conduct, (2) admitting
the testimony of DNA match probabilities, (3) allowing the
State to present an argument which inflamed the passions of
the jury, (4) allowing evidence which referenced
defendant's profile being in the state DNA database, and
(5) allowing cumulative errors which denied defendant due
process. We address defendant's arguments in turn.
14 A. Rape Shield Statute Evidence
15 In his first claim on appeal, defendant challenges the
trial court's rulings with respect to two pieces of
evidence relating to the victim's prior sexual activity
under the Illinois rape shield statute, section 115-7 of the
Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/115-7 (West
16 Initially, defendant contends that the rape shield statute
is inapplicable here because it does not apply when the
victim is deceased. Without citation to any authority, he
argues that the statute is ambiguous in that it does not
state that it applies equally to both living and deceased
victims and should therefore not apply where the victim of a
sexual assault has also been murdered. He argues that barring
evidence of a deceased victim's sexual conduct is
inconsistent with the legislature purpose of the statute,
i.e., prevention of harassment and victimization of
a rape victim.
17 However, defendant did not raise this basis for
admissibility in the trial court. Accordingly, he has
forfeited this argument on appeal. People v. Enoch,
122 Ill.2d 176, 186 (1988) (to preserve an issue for review,
defendant must raise the issue in the trial court and include
it in a posttrial motion). Nevertheless, "forfeiture is
not an absolute bar to our review. Instead, forfeiture
presents limitations on the parties, not reviewing
courts." People v. Scott, 401 Ill.App.3d 585,
599 (2010). "Furthermore, Supreme Court Rule 615(a),
which codifies the plain-error doctrine, provides an
exception affording review for those issues otherwise subject
to procedural default." Id. As our supreme
court explained in People v. Piatkowski, 225 Ill.2d
551, 565 (2007), plain-error review allows consideration of
unpreserved error when (1) a clear, obvious error occurred
and the evidence was closely balanced, or (2) regardless of
the closeness of the evidence, a clear, obvious error
occurred which was so serious that it affected the fairness
of the trial and challenged the integrity of the judicial
process. The defendant bears the burden of establishing plain
error. Scott, 401 Ill.App.3d at 599-600. We must
necessarily first determine whether an error occurred, and we
"therefore, consider the substance of each claim of
error." Id. at 600.
18 Defendant's argument requires us to first address the
statutory construction of the rape shield law. We review
questions of statutory construction de novo. In
re Detention of Stanbridge, 2012 IL 112337, ¶ 70.
"The primary goal of statutory construction is to
ascertain and give effect to the intent of the
legislature." Id. We construe the statute as a
whole and give words their plain and ordinary meaning, and
avoid rendering any language meaningless or superfluous.
Id. We consider portions of the statute in light of
other relevant provisions, and we presume "the
legislature did not intend the statute to have absurd,
inconvenient, or unjust consequences." Id. We
may also consider "the reason and necessity for the law,
the evils sought to be remedied and the purpose to be
19 The Illinois' rape shield statute provides in
"§ 115.7. a. In prosecutions for *** aggravated
criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, aggravated
criminal sexual abuse, criminal sexual abuse, or criminal
transmission of HIV *** the prior sexual activity or the
reputation of the alleged victim *** is inadmissible except
(1) as evidence concerning the past sexual conduct of the
alleged victim *** with the accused when this evidence is
offered by the accused upon the issue of whether the alleged
victim *** consented to the sexual conduct with respect to
which the offense is alleged; or (2) when constitutionally
required to be admitted.
b. No evidence admissible under this Section shall be
introduced unless ruled admissible by the trial judge after
an offer of proof has been made at a hearing to be held in
camera in order to determine whether the defense has evidence
to impeach the witness in the event that prior sexual
activity with the defendant is denied. Such offer of proof
shall include reasonably specific information as to the date,
time and place of the past sexual conduct between the alleged
victim *** and the defendant. Unless the court finds that
reasonably specific information as to date, time or place, or
some combination thereof, has been offered as to prior sexual
activity with the defendant, counsel for the defendant shall
be ordered to refrain from inquiring into prior sexual
activity between the alleged victim *** and the defendant.
The court shall not admit evidence under this Section unless
it determines at the hearing that the evidence is relevant
and the probative value of the evidence outweighs the danger
of unfair prejudice. The evidence shall be admissible at
trial to the extent an order made by the court specifies the
evidence that may be admitted and areas with respect to which
the alleged victim *** may be examined or cross
examined." 725 ILCS 5/115-7 (West 2012).
20 Accordingly, the Illinois rape shield law "absolutely
bars evidence of the alleged victim's prior sexual
activity or reputation, subject to two exceptions: (1)
evidence of past sexual activities with the accused, offered
as evidence of consent; and (2) where the admission of such
evidence is constitutionally required." People v.
Santos, 211 Ill.2d 395, 401-02 (2004). In the present
case, the second exception is at issue.
21 Under defendant's proposed interpretation, as long as
the victim is dead, all prior sexual conduct of the victim
would not be subject to the rape shield statute's
prohibitions. It is true that, as defendant argues, one of
the legislature's purposes in enacting the rape shield
statute was to "prevent the defendant from harassing and
humiliating the complaining witness with evidence of either
her reputation for chastity or specific acts of sexual
conduct with persons other than [the] defendant."
(Internal quotation marks omitted.) People v.
Johnson, 2014 IL App (2d) 121004, ¶ 42 (quoting
People v. Summers, 353 Ill.App.3d 367, 373 (2004)).
22 If this were the singular purpose of the statute,
defendant would be correct that if the victim is dead, the
purpose of the statute would not be furthered by applying it
to deceased victims. However, another well-recognized purpose
of the rape shield statute is to prevent the admission of
evidence which is not relevant to the issue at hand, namely,
whether or not the defendant, at the specific date ...