from the Circuit Court of Stephenson County. No. 14-CF-216
Honorable Michael P. Bald, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE HUTCHINSON delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Burke and Spence concurred in the judgment
1 After a jury trial, defendant, Jerome Garner, was convicted
of domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.2(a)(1) (West 2014)). He
was acquitted of aggravated domestic battery (720 ILCS
5/12-3.3(a-5) (West 2014)) and unlawfully interfering with
the reporting of domestic violence (720 ILCS 5/12-3.5(a)
(West 2014)). The trial court denied defendant's
posttrial motion and sentenced him to 30 months'
imprisonment. On appeal, he contends that the court erred in
allowing the State to impeach him with his conviction of a
felony cannabis offense. We affirm.
2 The State alleged that defendant committed (1) domestic
battery in that, on or about August 3, 2014, he knowingly
caused harm to Katie K. by choking her with his hands, and he
had previously been convicted of domestic battery; (2)
aggravated domestic battery in that, in addition to the
foregoing, in applying pressure to Katie's throat and
neck area, he impeded her normal blood circulation or
breathing; and (3) interfering with the reporting of domestic
violence in that he knowingly prevented Katie from calling
the police, by taking away her cell phone.
3 Before trial, defendant moved to bar the State from
impeaching him with evidence of his prior convictions of (1)
domestic battery; and (2) a felony involving
cannabis. At a hearing on the motion, the State
argued in part that the cannabis conviction should be
admitted because the charge was dissimilar to the ones on
which defendant was now being tried and it had impeachment
value as "a crime against society." The judge
barred the domestic battery conviction but allowed the
cannabis conviction. He stated that, under the balancing test
of People v. Montgomery, 47 Ill.2d 510 (1971), and
People v. Williams, 161 Ill.2d 1 (1994), the
cannabis conviction's probative value as impeachment
outweighed its potential for undue prejudice but the domestic
battery conviction was too prejudicial. He did not elaborate
or cite any case authority other than the general reference
to Montgomery and Williams.
4 At trial, the State's first witness was Nichole Mashaw.
On direct examination, she testified as follows. At about
2:30 a.m. on August 3, 2014, she was standing in front of her
house at 601 North Brewster in Freeport. A car pulled up down
the street. An African-American man approached the car and
went around to the driver's side. A white woman got out
of the car. The man "proceeded to take her by the
throat, or whatever, and drag her to like the house, or
whatever, and she was screaming." Mashaw entered her
house to call the police.
5 Mashaw testified on cross-examination as follows. The woman
was the only person inside the car, as far as Mashaw could
see. The encounter took place about 30 to 40 yards away on
the same side of the street. Mashaw testified inconsistently
as to which side of the car the woman exited from and on
which side the man approached her. On redirect examination,
Mashaw testified that the woman exited the vehicle by herself
and was then dragged toward the house.
6 Katie testified on direct examination as follows. On August
3, 2014, she had been dating defendant for almost a year. She
lived at Yellow Creek Court; he lived on Brewster. On August
3, 2014, she dropped him off on Brewster and went to a
convenience store. She saw defendant's cousin Ontario
McClain and McClain's friend. McClain asked her for a
ride home, so Katie let him and his friend into the car.
Defendant then called and told Katie that he had her license.
She told him that she would be back to get it, and she added
that she had McClain in the car. Defendant told her that she
"better not have nobody in [her] f'ing car."
She responded that McClain was defendant's cousin and
needed a ride home. She drove back to Brewster.
7 Katie testified that, when she pulled up, defendant got
upset again and told her that she "shouldn't have
had nobody fucking [sic] in that car."
Defendant then pulled open the driver's door and saw that
Katie was holding her cell phone and "already had the
cops [sic] number because [she] was ready to call
them." Defendant took the phone and removed the keys
from the ignition. By then, Katie had exited the car and was
asking defendant to return the phone and the keys so that she
could go. Defendant was angry. Katie started to walk backward
toward a house, where she could see that defendant's
cousin Tremana Davis had turned on the lights. (Defendant
resided next door.) As Katie tried to get to the house,
defendant reached out and placed his hands completely around
her neck. She tried to pull them away but could not. She
briefly had trouble breathing but did not gasp for air. She
was screaming, and the choking caused her pain. They ended up
inside the house.
8 Katie testified that Davis told defendant to let Katie go.
Defendant finally did, and Davis kept her and defendant
separated. Katie pleaded with defendant to give her the keys
and the phone. He made her promise not to call the police and
then gave her the keys and the phone. Katie drove away,
dropped off McClain, and called the police. Later that day,
officers came to her apartment and photographed her injuries.
Katie identified five photographs, which were published to
the jury. Katie testified that her neck was "completely
red" from the left side around the front to the right
side and that she had some marks on the right side that
"almost looked like scratches." She did not go to
9 Katie testified on cross-examination as follows. As she
pulled up, defendant came to the driver's side, opened
the door, shut the car off, and took the keys. McClain jumped
out of the car when he saw defendant come after Katie. Katie
was holding her phone; defendant took it. Katie exited the
car and asked him to return the phone and the keys so that
she could leave. Defendant had the phone and the keys in his
hand the whole time. There were no steps up to the front door
of the house. When Davis opened the door, defendant was still
10 Katie testified that defendant did not drag her toward the
house; she backpedaled toward it. Earlier that evening, she
had had "a couple drinks, " but they had not
affected her memory. On redirect, Katie testified that she
did not know what had been "going on with the phone and
the keys" (her attorney's phraseology) while
defendant had been choking her.
11 Curt Coplien, a Freeport police officer, testified that,
at around 2:30 a.m. on August 3, 2014, he spoke to Katie at
her apartment. She had red discolorations around the front
and sides of her neck near the base and some scratches on the
left side that were starting to welt over. Coplien
photographed the injuries. In the photographs, the redness
appeared lighter than it had in person. When he spoke to
Katie, she did not appear to be under the influence of
12 The State rested. Defendant testified on direct
examination as follows. On August 3, 2014, he resided next
door to Davis. Early that morning, Katie dropped defendant
off. He went to Davis's residence. Katie returned;
McClain and his friend were with her. Defendant went outside,
opened the driver's door, and told Katie that she should
not be driving, because she was drunk. He suggested that they
go inside and discuss the problem. Katie became angry and
started calling him "fuckhead" and other names. She
exited the car. Defendant took her phone off the console,
grabbed her purse, and removed the car keys. He ...