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People v. Morris

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

March 28, 2017

PHAROAH MORRIS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County 10 CR 17983 Honorable Stanley J. Sacks, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE PIERCE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hyman specially concurred, with opinion, joined by Justice Neville.



         ¶ 1 Defendant, Pharoah Defendant, who was 16-years-old at the time of the offense, was convicted of first-degree murder, attempt murder, and aggravated battery with a firearm following a jury trial. He was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of 100 years in prison. Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) he received a de facto life sentence without meaningful consideration of mitigating circumstances; (2) the applicable sentencing statutes which mandate firearm enhancements are facially unconstitutional under the Federal and Illinois Constitutions, and under the Illinois Constitution as applied to him; (3) section 5-130(1) of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act (Act) (705 ILCS 405-5-130(1) (West 2016)), which automatically transfers 16-year- olds charged with murder and attempted murder to adult court therefore subjecting them to mandatory adult sentencing, violates the Federal and Illinois Constitutions and due process; and (4) he is entitled to a new sentencing hearing under the newly enacted section 5-4.5-105 of the Illinois Code of Corrections (Code) (730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-105(a), (b) (West 2016)), which requires trial courts to consider certain factors before sentencing and gives trial courts discretion to impose firearm enhancements for individuals under 18. For the reasons that follow, we remand for resentencing.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On September 8, 2010, Pharaoh Morris fatally shot DeAntonio Goss and attempted to kill Corey Thompson. Defendant was charged with first-degree murder, attempt murder, and aggravated battery with a firearm.

         ¶ 4 Prior to trial, the State filed two motions to admit proof of other crimes. According to the first motion, Marvin Floyd was shot in the back on August 21, 2010, while riding his bicycle near a gas station. Defendant was identified as the offender. Subsequent testing of the .45 caliber bullet recovered from Floyd's body and the .45 caliber bullet recovered from DeAntonio Goss's body revealed that both bullets were fired from the same gun. The motion sought admission of this evidence to show identity and absence of mistake.

         ¶ 5 The second motion stated that while at the Cook County Jail, defendant discussed his pending murder case with his cellmate, Ricky Whitehead. Defendant approached Whitehead with a list of the witnesses in his pending case, each name listed with their respective address and date of birth, and asked Whitehead if he could "take care of them." Understanding this to mean defendant wanted them killed, Whitehead gave the list to Sheriff Investigator McCoy. The investigator assigned an officer to act as a hitman and introduced both he and defendant over a taped phone call. Defendant asked that the undercover officer come to the jail. Once at the jail, the officer recorded his conversations with defendant, who gave him a list of names and asked that he "get rid of them." The State sought to admit this evidence of the solicitation to show defendant's consciousness of guilt.

         ¶ 6 The trial court held that the evidence of the shooting of Floyd and the evidence of the ballistics match admissible as proof of identity. The court also held admissible the solicitation of murder evidence to prove consciousness of guilt.

         ¶ 7 At trial, Marvin Floyd testified that on the date he was shot, August 23, 2010, he had known defendant for about three years. Floyd testified that on the afternoon of August 23, 2010, he was riding his bike to the gas station near his home when he saw defendant at the gas station. He testified that he saw a gun under defendant's pants, tried to flee on his bike, but was shot in the back. He stated he was taken to the hospital where he stayed for two months and underwent two surgeries.

         ¶ 8 Corey Thompson testified that on September 8, 2010, after attending class at Bowen High School, he was walking home with his friends, among them DeAntonio Goss. At some point Thompson and Goss reached the street corner of 86th and Saginaw and saw that defendant and his friend, Lacy Sheppard, were also there. Defendant began speaking to Thompson and Goss and said, "This is what y'all want, this is what y'all going to get, " and pulled out a gun and pointed it at Thompson. Thompson testified that he began running back towards school while noticing Goss running in a different direction. Thompson stated that as he was running he heard gunshots and then suddenly felt something hit him in his buttocks. Thompson stated he felt pain and fell down, but then got up to keep running before beginning to feel drowsy, weak, and unable to run anymore. He testified he lay down in the middle of the street, heard Goss say, "CJ, where are you, where are you, are you okay?" and then observed Defendant head towards Goss's voice. Thompson testified he then heard a few more gunshots before passing out. Thompson was taken to the hospital where he stayed for three weeks and underwent two surgeries.

         ¶ 9 Ricky Whitehead testified that he was defendant's cellmate at the Cook County Department of Corrections. He stated that while there, defendant gave him a list of the names of witnesses in defendant's pending trial and asked if he could "take care of them." Whitehead testified he understood this to mean defendant wanted them killed, and subsequently gave the list to Sheriff McCoy.

         ¶ 10 Eric Bucio testified that he is an instructor at the Cook County jail complex. He stated that on August 9, 2012, he was assigned to investigate defendant. He testified that he recovered a list of witness names from defendant's personal items.

         ¶ 11 Hilary McElligott, assistant medical examiner at Cook County testified that she examined Goss's body. The bullet that caused his death entered the back of his right arm, exited on the other side of the arm and entered his body again on the right side of his chest.

         ¶ 12 Patrick Brennan, a supervisor with the Illinois State police Forensic Science Center testified that the bullet recovered from Floyd's body, the bullet recovered from Goss and a cartridge case that was found at the scene of the shooting were fired from the same firearm.

         ¶ 13 The State rested. Defendant did not present any evidence.

         ¶ 14 After hearing all of the evidence, the jury found defendant guilty of the first degree murder of Deantonio Goss, the attempt murder of Corey Thompson and the aggravated battery of a firearm of Thompson.

         ¶ 15 At the sentencing hearing, defense argued in mitigation that defendant was a juvenile, he had a troubled background, a history of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and that he had rehabilitative potential. Defense counsel explained that defendant's father had been incarcerated for much of defendant's life. Defense counsel explained that at the age of 12, defendant began seeing a psychiatrist to address his anger management and was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder for which he received medication. Moreover, counsel pointed out that defendant attempted suicide at the age of 15, 17, and 18. Finally, defense counsel elicited the fact that defendant began drinking alcohol at the age of 11 followed shortly thereafter with marijuana use, and that by the age of 13 he was drinking 20 glasses of hard alcohol and smoking five "blunts" of marijuana every day. Defense counsel asked the trial court for the minimum sentence in consideration of these mitigating factors contained in defendant's PSI report.

         ¶ 16 In allocution, defendant told the court that he did not shoot Corey Thompson, stating that Lacy Sheppard did. The record then shows the trial court made the following statements. "I've read the PSI dated March 31st, I've considered the fact that defendant did not have the best upbringing, it doesn't justify murder, however. I'll consider it for what it was worth." The court went on to say, "The other factors in aggravation and mitigation, I've considered all of them. What's mitigating about Pharaoh Defendant? Not much. At the time of the murder, 16 years old, that's about all that's mitigating." In regards to rehabilitation, the court stated:

"Is there room for rehabilitation for Pharaoh Morris? That's up to him. If he's rehabilitated he'll be inside, however. Pharaoh Morris has shown by his conduct two weeks before the incident, the murder of DeAntonio Goss, on the day of the incident ***, which was September 8, 2010, and even thereafter in the jail, I want these people tooken [sic]care of *** I like to read the cases, I find little words in each one of them. I think I found ones that apply to Pharaoh Morris. Pharaoh Morris has a malignant heart***. It applies to Pharaoh Morris, it was written for him. A young guy out on the streets of the City of Chicago with a gun, shooting it up, hitting one guy two weeks before, two guys on the date of the murder, including the murder victim obviously and then I want these people tooken [sic] care of. Everybody in the world knows what that means, tooken [sic] care of.
There's some times, Pharaoh, you commit a crime you pretty much forfeit your right to be ever out on the street again, this is one of them. Everything I give you in a few seconds, Mr. Morris, you earned every single day, every single minute, every single second. Maybe you can live a useful life in prison, however, not back on the streets of the City of Chicago."

         ¶ 17 The trial court sentenced defendant to consecutive terms of 55 years for the first-degree murder and 45 years for the attempted ...

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