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People v. Evans

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

June 27, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KEYWANI EVANS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 13 CR 20680 Honorable James B. Linn, Judge, presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE HYMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Neville and Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HYMAN, PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 After a bench trial, defendant Keywani Evans was convicted of one count of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 2012)) and sentenced to four years' imprisonment. Evans appeals his conviction, arguing that he was denied a fair trial when the trial court asked the State to present more evidence after it had rested both its case-in-chief and its rebuttal case. In affirming the judgment of the trial court, we hold that the trial court did not abandon its role as neutral arbiter and assume the role of prosecutor by requesting to see evidence that the State did not produce in its case-in-chief.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Evans was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 2012)) and two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6 (a)(1), (a)(2) (West Supp. 2013)). Evans waived a jury trial.

         ¶ 4 Officer Ron Bialata testified that, on September 10, 2013, he and his partner, Officer Dennis O'Brien, were patrolling the area of 82nd Street and South Coles Avenue in response to a homicide that occurred the day before. (The record reflects different spellings of "Bialata.") While driving through the area, Bialata saw a man, whom he identified as Evans, walking in the street while looking at his cell phone. The man was wearing a "white track jacket." Bialata drove past Evans but reversed so he and his partner could approach Evans. When O'Brien got out, Evans fled through a vacant lot. Bialata was able to see Evans for "a few seconds" before he ran off. O'Brien went after Evans on foot. Bialata initially tried to track Evans in the police cruiser but eventually left the cruiser and continued on foot. During the chase, Evans jumped over a fence and dropped his cell phone. He then scaled a second fence, at the top of which his white jacket got stuck. Evans jumped down to the other side, leaving his jacket snagged on the fence.

         ¶ 5 The officers were not able to catch Evans. But they recovered the jacket from the fence. When handling the jacket, Bialata felt a hard object in the right pocket. There he recovered a .32-caliber handgun, containing four live rounds of ammunition. From the left pocket, Bialata recovered a wallet. In the wallet was a state identification card bearing Evans's name and picture, a Link card, and $24. The officers issued an investigative alert for Evans. On September 16, 2013, Bialata learned that Evans had been arrested and identified him as the person he saw jump the fence. On cross-examination, Bialata testified that he was able to view Evans for a few seconds before he ran from the officers.

         ¶ 6 Officer Christopher Maraffino testified that on October 16, 2013, he was assigned to respond to the area of 7555 South Langley Avenue to follow up on an active investigative alert for Evans. Maraffino and his partner conducted surveillance of the address and eventually saw Evans walking on the east side of South Langley. When the officers approached Evans and announced themselves, he ran into the building. Officers apprehended Evans and transported him to a police station.

         ¶ 7 The State entered into evidence a certified copy of Evans's 2009 felony conviction for robbery and a self-authenticating document indicating that Evans did not have a Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) card. The State then closed its case-in-chief.

         ¶ 8 Evans moved for a directed finding, arguing that the identification of Evans was not reliable, as the officer viewed the individual only for a few seconds and the identification was not corroborated by physical evidence. The trial court denied the motion.

         ¶ 9 Evans testified that on the night of September 10, 2013, he was elsewhere than around South Coles Avenue. And on cross-examination, he stated that the white jacket, wallet, and his state identification card were not left at that location by him and the gun was not his.

         ¶ 10 After Evans rested his case, ...


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