Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 11 CR 06744
Honorable Luciano Panici, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice Rochford
concurred in the judgment and opinion
1 The defendant appeals from his conviction for aggravated
vehicular hijacking, arguing (1) that the State failed to
prove that he had knowledge that his victim was deaf, so as
to support the aggravated form of the offense of vehicular
hijacking, and (2) that the prosecutor's conduct,
including comments during opening and closing statements,
deprived him of a fair trial. We find his contentions to be
without merit and affirm the judgment of the circuit court of
3 The defendant was charged with aggravated vehicular
hijacking, vehicular hijacking, and attempted robbery in
connection with a crime allegedly perpetrated against Carla
Sarli-Roman on March 1, 2011. The aggravated vehicular
hijacking charge was premised, in part, on the fact that
Carla is deaf.
4 During opening statements at the defendant's trial, the
prosecutor told the jurors that:
"Carla is in school. She is a young woman in her early
20's, and she is trying to get her license in
cosmetology, cutting hair. *** Carla used to drive to
cosmetology school, but she can't drive there anymore.
Her dad has to drive her, because back on March 1st, 2011,
this defendant decided to take something that wasn't
5 The State called Carla as its first witness. Carla
testified that she is deaf, but that she speaks Spanish and
English, uses American Sign Language, and is able to read
lips. Before asking her about the details of the alleged
crime, the prosecutor elicited the following testimony:
“Q. Carla, are you in school now?
Q. What are you learning to do in school?
A. To cut people's hair.
Q. All right. Do you drive to school, Carla?
Q. And why don't you drive to school?
A. I don't have a car.
A. They stole it.”
6 Carla testified that around 6:30 p.m. on March 1, 2011, she
was leaving a clothing store in Calumet Park, Illinois, when
three young men, including the defendant, approached and said
“sexual things” to her. Carla tried to ignore the
men and walked toward her car, a Ford Taurus. She entered the
driver's seat of her car and tried to close the door, but
one of the men held the door to prevent it from closing.
7 The men surrounded her and one of them asked for money.
Carla testified that the defendant had his hand inside his
coat pocket, insinuating that he was holding a gun. The
defendant told her, "You know what this is, " and
then told her: "I don't want your money. I want your
car." Carla testified that she was "terrified"
and got out of the car. The defendant and the other two men
took the vehicle and drove away. After a witness called
police, Carla told the responding officer what had happened
and described the three men as young black males. On
cross-examination, Carla acknowledged that she had been
unable to describe the suspects' hairstyles or their
clothing, other than that one of the men was wearing a skull
8 Two days later, on March 3, 2011, Carla identified the
defendant in a photographic array at the Calumet Park police
station. On March 30, 2011, Carla also identified the
defendant in a physical lineup of six individuals at the
9 Carla testified that her car was recovered by police but
that the car was damaged. She indicated that the car had no
damage before it was taken from her on March 1, 2011.
10 At the end of direct examination, the prosecutor asked
Carla: "How do you feel about not having a car
now?" Carla responded: "I don't have a car no
more. It is bad, you know. *** I want a car so bad because I
can take it to school. That's why-that's really sad
11 The State also called Chicago police officers Shelley
Heberger and Kevin Connolly. Officer Heberger testified that
on March 2, 2011, she and Officer Connolly were on patrol in
an unmarked police car when they observed a Ford Taurus
containing five or six individuals. Officer Heberger ran a
computer inquiry on the vehicle's license plates, which
revealed that it was a stolen vehicle. When the officers
activated the police car's lights and sirens, the
occupants of the Taurus, including the defendant, fled in
different directions. Officer Heberger testified that the
defendant looked in the police car's direction before he
ran and that she saw the defendant's face. Officer
Heberger secured the Taurus while Officer Connolly chased the
12 Officer Connolly also testified that he saw the defendant
flee from the back seat of the Taurus. He testified that he
saw the defendant's face and recognized the defendant
from "previous contact with him."
13 Officer Connolly transmitted a "flash message"
over police radio describing the subjects and asking for
assistance. Officer Connolly apprehended the driver of the
Taurus, a man named Temmy Dixon. Another officer in the area
apprehended the defendant and returned him to the scene,
where officers Heberger and Connolly identified him as one of
the men who had fled the stolen car.
14 The State also called Detective John Shefcik of the
Calumet Park police department. On March 2, 2011, he was
informed that Chicago police had recovered Carla's stolen
vehicle and had arrested two individuals, including the
defendant. On March 3, 2011, Detective Shefcik met with Carla
at the Calumet Park police station. He noticed that ...